Preparing for Change
Life is full of changes. Things change all the time. The only thing that does not change is the reality of change itself. Change, in fact, is a part of our very existence. Even the laws of physics seem to teach that change exists in the most basic fabric of reality.
Often, changes come unexpectedly. We are going along in a routine when, suddenly, instantly, everything changes, and we are caught completely off guard.
On the other hand, sometimes we can see changes coming. We are given forewarnings, signs, and indicators that let us know things are going to be different. When this happens, it’s wise to start preparing, to whatever degree possible, for what we can see coming. Many of these changes are big: marriage, children, old age, and even death.
And yes, we do not live in isolation. Which means, then, that the changes that come to us can impact our families, and in big ways, as well. At the same time, changes in our families also can impact each family member, too.
This week, let’s look at some of the changes that sooner or later, in one way or another, most of us face and how these changes can impact family life.
* Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, April 20.
There is one thing about the Word of God: it does not gloss over the realities of human life. On the contrary, it exposes them in all their harshness and, at times, sheer pain and despair. In fact, with the exception of the first few pages of the Bible and the last few at the end, the Word of God paints a sad picture of the human race. Paul was not exaggerating when he wrote, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23, NKJV).
In many ways, many of our actions in life are simply how we react to change. We constantly face changes; the challenge for us, as Christians, is to deal with them by faith, trusting in God and revealing that faith through obedience, regardless of temptations to do otherwise.
“The greatest want of the world is the want of men—men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.”—Ellen G. White, Education, p. 57. Those words were as true for ancient Israel as they were in Ellen G. White’s time, and as they are for us now.
Gen. 16:1, 2, 5, 6
Changes come, and they often bring temptations, challenges, and even, at times, fear. Thus, how crucial it is that we have the spiritual armor on to deal with them in the right manner. Again, regardless of whether the changes are unexpected or whether they are just the typical part of life, we need to be prepared for what’s coming, both the seen and the unseen.
One of the greatest changes a person faces is when he or she gets married.
Of course, not everyone gets married. After all, Jesus, our greatest example, never did, nor did many other Bible characters.
Nevertheless, many people do marry, and thus, the Bible is not silent about marriage, which is surely one of the greatest life changers. The first social arrangement mentioned in the Bible is marriage. For God, marriage is so important that the same words He told Adam and Eve in Eden about marriage appear in three other places in Scripture.
“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:24; see also Matt. 19:5, Mark 10:7, Eph. 5:31). These texts tell us that once a person gets married, the most important relationship in their lives should be between them and their spouse, even more than between them and their parents. Among the reasons marriage between a man and a woman is so important to God is that it typifies the relationship that exists between His Son, Jesus, and the church, His bride (Eph. 5:32).
In constructing a house, one needs to stop and consider the cost (Luke 14:28–30); how much more so when establishing a home? A house is built with brick and mortar, wood and iron, wires and glass. But a home is built with things that are not necessarily material.
Preparation for marriage must begin with us personally and individually. At the same time, we need to look carefully at our future spouse to see if he or she would be a good complement for us. Is he or she a hard worker (Prov. 24:30–34)? Does he or she have a bad temper (Prov. 22:24)? Do we share common beliefs (2 Cor. 6:14, 15)? How do my family and friends feel about my future spouse (Prov. 11:14)? Am I relying on faith or on feelings alone (Prov. 3:5, 6)? The answers to these questions can mean a future of happiness or a lifetime of sorrow.
Few things can change our lives more than the birth of a child. Nothing in the family can or will ever be the same again.
“Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them” (Ps. 127:4, 5, NKJV).
At the same time, children do not arrive with an owner’s manual that tells their parents all they need to do to care for them and how to troubleshoot any problems that may arise. Even experienced parents are sometimes stumped by the actions, words, or attitudes of their children.
As important as it is to prepare for marriage, it is important also that those who hope to become parents be prepared for that awesome responsibility.
What an awesome responsibility and opportunity these parents had. Three would be the parents of prophets and leaders in Israel, one of their children would be the forerunner of the promised Messiah, and one of the children would be the Christ.
Yet, even if our children are not destined to be biblical prophets, parents should still be preparing for this radical change in their lives. “Even before the birth of the child, the preparation should begin that will enable it to fight successfully the battle against evil.
“If before the birth of her child she is self-indulgent, if she is selfish, impatient, and exacting, these traits will be reflected in the disposition of the child. Thus many children have received as a birthright almost unconquerable tendencies to evil.”—Ellen G. White, The Adventist Home, p. 256.
“The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away” (Ps. 90:10, NKJV). These words from Moses remind us of the inexorable march of time. As the years come and go, we begin to see and feel changes in our bodies. Our hair turns gray or falls out, we begin to slow down, and aches and pains become our daily companions. If we are married and have children, our children might bear their own children, and we could then enjoy our grandchildren. The previous seasons of life have helped us get ready for the last one.
Psalm 71 is the psalm of an older person who experiences the challenges that come with life but who is happy because all along he or she has put their trust in God. The best way to grow old is to put our trust in Him while still young. In general terms, the author of this psalm shares three important lessons he learned as he moved toward this season of his life.
Unless we are alive at the Second Coming, one change that we can all expect is the biggest change of all: the change from life to death. Along with marriage and birth, what change has a greater impact on family than the death of an immediate family member?
Many times, of course, death comes unexpectedly and tragically. How many men, women, and even children woke up one morning only, before the sun set, to close their eyes not in sleep but in death? Or woke up one morning and before the sun set had lost a family member?
Other than making sure you are connected by faith with the Lord and covered in His righteousness moment by moment (see Rom. 3:22), you can’t prepare for a death that you don’t see coming, either for yourself or your loved one.
On the other hand, what would you do if you knew you had only a few months to live? We may not know for certain when death will overcome us, but we certainly may know when we are nearing the end of our life. Thus, how crucial it is to prepare ourselves and our family for the inevitable.
At first glance, one could argue, That’s rich! David, who murdered Uriah after impregnating his wife (see 2 Samuel 11), tells his son to walk in the way of the Lord. On the other hand, it was perhaps precisely because of this sin and the horrible consequences that followed that David’s words were so powerful. He was, no doubt, in his own way trying to warn his son away from the folly that caused him so much grief. David learned, the hard way, some difficult lessons about the cost of sin, and no doubt he had hoped to spare his son some of the grief that he himself had experienced.
Further Thought: If we read through the story of ancient Israel in the wilderness, we can see a litany of mistake after mistake in the face of great changes, even despite the amazing revelation of God’s love and power. In fact, before Israel was to, finally, enter the Promised Land—and thus face another great change—Moses said the following to ancient Israel: “ ‘Your eyes have seen what the Lord did at Baal Peor; for the Lord your God has destroyed from among you all the men who followed Baal of Peor. But you who held fast to the Lord your God are alive today every one of you. Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the Lord our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him? And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day? Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren’ ” (Deut. 4:3–9, NKJV). How crucial that we not forget what the Lord has done for us. And what better way not to forget than to teach it to others and to those who come after us. Notice, too, how central the family was in all this, in that they were to teach these things to their children. And the sin at Peor was something that only could be destructive to family life. “The crime that brought the judgments of God upon Israel was that of licentiousness. The forwardness of women to entrap souls did not end at Baal-peor.”—Ellen G. White, The Adventist Home, p. 326.