Adapted from When God Says "Go" by Elizabeth Laing Thompson
Sometimes God says, “Go,” and then points us to a place we never imagined. Never wanted. How can we navigate changes in our plans with our joy, peace, and sense of humor intact?
1. Ask respectful questions.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, didn’t just silently accept the news of her pregnancy—she asked a respectful question to clarify her expectations and her role: “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” Considering the fertility technology of the day, it was a valid question! Mary’s example shows us that it’s okay to ask God, “Hey, Father, how is this going to go? I see where You are pointing me—now how do I get there?”
2. Keep talking to God.
If you are in a situation that has you running for the hills and trembling in fear, talk to God about it. Ask for His presence, His help, and His guidance. Ask to see Him through the darkness. If your eyes are too dim and the darkness too thick for you to see, ask to feel Him by your side. Ask Him to take your hand and guide you to the light.
3. Read scriptures that remind you how God feels about you.
My first reaction when life changes—particularly when it changes in an undesirable way—is to assume the worst about my relationship with God. To assume that He is angry with me or punishing me or even—please let me not get struck by lightning for confessing this awful truth—out to get me. But that's not true! Here is one of the scriptures that remind me of God’s unwavering love even through big change:
“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you. (Isaiah 54:10)
4. Remember whose opinion matters.
After Gabriel’s visit, Mary sings this prayer to God:
“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name.” (Luke 1:46–49)
I doubt many of Mary’s neighbors are calling her “blessed”—“promiscuous,” “dishonest,” and “crazy” are likelier adjectives—but Mary chooses to see the situation (and herself) through God’s eyes.
5. Seek joy in the small moments, peace in the big picture.
Mary celebrates her new role, confident that the God who has brought this change into her life will also guide her through all the change to come: “From now on all generations will call me blessed.” Mary finds the faith to look past her temporary difficulties to adopt a heavenly viewpoint. She finds the faith to look ahead (far ahead) to what her “unplanned pregnancy” will mean not just for her own life, but also what it will mean for the generations to come.
6. Don’t mistake “easy” for “godly.”
Mary’s miracle child was born so that He might serve for a time but then suffer and die. Just because something is difficult, controversial, or painful doesn’t mean it is outside the will of God. Few of us would choose suffering for ourselves, but God’s big-picture plan sometimes involves injustice and pain. His path for us is often more difficult than the one we would choose for ourselves.
7. Give your heart quickly to new places and people.
We may not get to choose when or how life changes, but we do get to choose how we respond. Practically speaking, “what might have been” is a waste of time. A waste of life. Because what might have been can never be—it is fantasy. As Solomon wisely tells us, “Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap” (Ecclesiastes 11:4). If we sit around wind-watching—dreaming about the “good old days,” wishing our lives away—we will never plant seeds in our new lives; if we never plant seeds, we can never reap joy. Let us choose to open our hearts to new situations. Find home in new places. Give our hearts to new people. When circumstances change, let us give God a chance to reveal His goodness, His wisdom, and His faithfulness no matter where we go.