If we are fortunate, every so often we find a sweet spot in life . . . a time when our relationships and circumstances seem just right. We are thriving and feel safe and happy. And then something outside of our control happens. Life changes—even though we don’t want it to.
The first time I experienced it, I was only eight. My dad was starting a new career, and we had to relocate half-way across the country. I remember the anxiety and sadness I felt over having to leave the only home I had ever known.
Similar feelings resurfaced as my high school days came to a close. I dreaded the transition that would scatter my close friends and propel me into the unknown. Yet the hands of time dictated that a season in my life was over.
As an adult, the pattern has repeated itself several times when circumstances beyond my control changed my world. Sometimes it happened suddenly, like the day my house went up in flames. Other times it was a longer-term process, such as experiencing the stages of eldercare.
And now, I feel it happening again.
For the past six years I’ve been blessed to work with an amazing boss. He values me, encourages me to use my gifts, and graciously accommodates my health challenges. We make a perfect team, and I would gladly work with him the rest of my career.
But that’s not going to happen. He’s retiring sooner than expected, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
Change is hard – especially the kind we don’t want!
So how do we find peace in the midst of undesired transitions? Here are seven principles I am leaning on as I face my boss’s departure.
1. Control what you can. I may not be able to keep my boss from leaving, but I can control how I react to it. I alone possess the power to dictate my thoughts and actions. I may not have chosen the circumstances, but I can choose how I respond.
2. Embrace grief. Change, whether positive or negative, involves loss. Grief is usually associated with major loss, but smaller scale changes can also trigger mourning. Instead of trying to deny or stuff my sadness over my colleague’s departure, I am giving myself permission to grieve.
3. Accept what you cannot change. When I first learned about my boss’s plans, I coped by living in a state of denial. But gradually I am moving toward acceptance, realizing this is essential to make the best of the situation. This doesn’t mean I like what’s happening, but it helps me be more positive.
4. Allow for upheaval. A few months ago my house was turned upside down while wood flooring was installed. It wasn’t until the dust settled (literally) that I could appreciate the result. Likewise, there will be a time of “upheaval” and stress when my new boss comes on board. Remembering this is a normal part of the transition will help me during this phase.
5. Be open to new things. Even though change signifies loss, it also presents new opportunities. My new boss will not be a clone of my current one—and that’s actually a good thing. He will bring his unique personality, gifts, and experiences to the role and cast a new vision for the organization. It’s important that I enter the partnership with a receptive spirit to new ideas and different ways of doing things.
6. Maintain optimism. When impending change is near, it’s easy for me to default to “worst case scenarios,” and dwell on the “what ifs.” To combat this, I am striving to nip those thoughts in the bud and renew my mind daily. The best way I have found to do this is to regularly nurture my spiritual life. As I spend time reading Scripture, praying, and worshipping, my perspective always becomes higher and brighter.
7. Remember you’re not alone. Many others have shared with me their sadness over my boss’s retirement. Knowing that others are having similar feelings has been a source of encouragement. Even more so, I take comfort in knowing that God will be with me every step of the way. As Deuteronomy 31:8 beautifully describes, “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
I may not know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.
He’s already there. And I can trust Him.
What unwanted changes are you dealing with? Perhaps you’re facing a workplace transition, also. Maybe an “empty nest” is just around the corner, or you’re dealing with tough eldercare decisions. Health challenges may be disrupting your life, or you are experiencing changes in a relationship. You might even be struggling with the recent transition in our country’s leadership.
No matter the situation, you can find your “sweet spot” in the arms of Jesus.
His love for you is one thing that will never change.
Additional words of encouragement:
“Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place. I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held.” (Lyrics from “Just Be Held,” performed by Casting Crowns; songwriters: John Mark Hall, Matthew West, Bernie Herms)
“The Lord will work out his plans for my life — for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.” Psalm 138:8 (NLT)
“And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 4:19 (NLT)
“Be still, and know that I am God.” Isaiah 46:10 (NIV)
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” I Peter 5:7 (NIV)
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)
“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8 (NLT)
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NAS)
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 (NIV)