Life Changes and Cliff Hangers
Within our Wisdom Notes, we want to explore how to handle any major change in our lives. With the diagnosis of leukemia in our 2 1/2 year-old granddaughter Hazel six weeks ago, we who are close to her and her situation certainly feel that we are stepping off the cliff. Today as we consider the topic of stepping or maybe even slipping off a cliff, we need to consider how we are going to handle it in advance.
Major changes in life, whether by choice or by circumstance, can be intimidating, even very scary. But life is about having the faith to move forward, even when the path ahead is not clear or solid. To grow in wisdom, we need to gain the confidence to continue as we take one more step, even when the trail before us is shrouded in fog, and we cannot see our way. During those times, it is easy to lose our footing and not know how to recover.
Visualize we are hiking up a long, winding trail on a beautiful mountainside. The flowers are wafting their summer scents through the warm air. The hummingbirds are darting to and fro, seemingly effortless in their flight. The path is not smooth, but the rocks do not hinder our progress. Occasionally, a tree limb or root causes a short detour. We navigate around these minor obstructions and get back onto the path, winding its way to the peak.
As you round a sharp corner in front of you, the trail suddenly narrows. As you place one sure foot in front of the other, there is a drop off that appears before you. There is sheer rock below you for hundreds of feet. It startles you as a few loose pebbles find thier way down into the apparently bottomless span before you. Then one of your feet slips, and you start to tumble.
Scary situation, isn’t it? It makes my heart pound just to ponder it!
Life’s trek can be similar to this. Most days we can easily navigate across small detours, and it is easy enough to get back on the path. In some seasons, though…as we traverse the trail before us on this trek we call “life,” dark shadows fall across our way. Some days we face torrential rainstorms that prevent any evident progress. Yet we must press on and on, ever upward. But what about those cliffs of life? What happens when we lose our footing or we step off the cliff?
Stepping off of a cliff is analogous to any major life change. How is the best way to deal with those changes so that you land on your feet and can walk away with little collateral damage?
1. Accept the Change
The most surefire way to make a big change more difficult for yourself is to fight it. Although having a hard time letting go is a natural reaction, a desire to live in the past will only cause more pain and prolong the adjustment period. Instead of dwelling on what you’re leaving behind on the solid path, such as a home, a job, close family, or security — focus on getting through the change right now and create a positive future. In order to do that successfully, you must first accept the reality that your life will no longer be the same. “The only constant in life is change. In order to succeed, you must embrace this fact.”
2. Find Time for Reflection
Whether it’s journaling, meditation, prayer, Bible study, taking long walks on your own, or talking to a trusted friend, periods of change are when it’s most important to stop and assess how you’re feeling about everything. Self-reflection can help you identify your main sources of challenge and worry, and to see other sides of the situation. Taking time for reflection will also help you to act mindfully and with intention as you take your next steps. Even Christ got away from the crowds and spent time reflecting. We see this in Luke 5:16, “But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.”
3. Take It One Day At A Time
When you start feeling overwhelmed by all the changes that are taking place, remember to take things one step and one day at a time. Set small, attainable goals for the future, and try not to get wrapped up in speculations or anxieties about where your future is headed. Learning to live in the now — not in your nostalgia for the past or worry about the future — will make any challenges seem more manageable. If it helps, create a timeline and write down your goals and plans, both long-term and short-term. None of us knows what tomorrow holds, so focus mostly on today. Abraham Lincoln told us, “The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time.”
4. Find a Mentor
Talking to an older friend or relative who has successfully stepped on the cliff and lived to tell about it can make a huge difference in helping you feel equipped to handle the change. Take the time to meet for coffee, lunch, or a long-distance remote time to hear their story and ask for advice on conquering your own big change. The wisdom that can be found in others is worth any price. Proverbs 1:23 encourages, “Come and listen to my counsel. I’ll share my heart with you and make you wise.”
5. Learn To Be An Optimist
Overcoming negative thought patterns and cultivating a positive outlook will shift your mindset so that you learn to see opportunities for growth where previously there were only roadblocks. The sun is always shining above the clouds of life. Every big change has something beneficial to bring to your life. ” Before you change your thinking, you have to change what goes into your mind,” Zig Ziglar.
When you do slip and stumble, and you will, if you are a Christ follower, you will be able to persevere through God’s strength and find solid ground with a new song in our hearts as is reflected in Psalms 40:1-3,
“I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
They will put their trust in the Lord.”
Let’s move forward on our trek, realizing that when you do step off the cliff, you will be able to land on your feet. No change will be so large that you cannot handle it. As your guide, friend, mentor, and fellow sojourner, let me know how I can help when you find yourself stepping off a cliff.