Transition in Change

Transition vs. Change

Though often used as synonyms, transition and change are not the same.

  • Change is situational.
  • Transition is psychological & requires “inner reorientation.”
  • Change is inevitable; transition is not.
  • We have to go through change.
  • We do not have to transition.

In other words, to quote William Bridges, author of Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes

“Without a transition, a change is just a rearrangement of the furniture.”

To further our understanding of the difference between change and transition, let’s look at a couple of examples from Scripture.

Example 1: The Israelites changed, but they didn’t transition. They wandered around the desert for 40 years because they refused to transition. They even expressed a desire to go back to captivity, to the way things were. (See Numbers 13 & 14)

What might this resistance to transition look like today?

  • Trying to control everyone and everything
  • Struggling with depression
  • Struggling with anxiety
  • Exhibiting self-destructive behavior
  • Hurting others
  • Feeling stuck

Example 2: The Apostle Paul changed AND transitioned. He also showed us that doing so is learned; it’s a process.

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11)

Paul went from being a persecutor of Christians to a promoter of the Gospel. Within his writings throughout the New Testament, we discover a man who not only changed because of an encounter with Christ but who also continually transitioned well from that point forward.

The process involves small steps taken over time that add up to make a big difference. In other words, it’s about living a life of making progress toward perfection. Transitioning within change is a required part of that process.

Refining & Pruning

God wants to both change & transition us. He is the author of this process.

“I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.'” (Zechariah 13:9)

“These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:7)

“He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” (John 15:2)

When something is refined, it becomes a purified precious metal. When something is pruned, it produces a more plentiful crop. For us, this is a painful process but one necessary for growth, which comes only through transition.

A Transitioning Mindset

If you think you’re ready for change, you may be right. The real question is, are you ready to transition? No matter how ready I thought I was (e.g., empty nest), I was always wrong about what it would mean to transition and how ready I thought I was to do so.

What I’ve realized, though, is that if we we’re always ready and perfectly prepared for change, how would we learn trust God? We wouldn’t need the refining and pruning process where we learn contentment regardless of circumstances if we could prepare ourselves for growth on our own. In other words, the painful process of transitioning in change is the process required for growth.

We can, however, establish a transitioning mindset that at least minimizes our resistance to the work of transition God wants us to do in our lives. It leads us to a place of least resistance. We create a transitioning mindset when we take on the perspective of Job.

“But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10)

Scripture expresses this same sentiment in other ways, the most well-known being Proverbs 16:9.

“A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps and makes them sure.” (Proverbs 16:9)

Healthy Change involves learning contentment and establishing our stability on Christ and all that he has done for us. This requires that we learn to transition (progress) as we are pruned and refined through all that life brings our way.

Controlled Burn

When on vacation, my family and I enjoy studying facts about the area where we are staying. So, at the start of our Gatlinburg, TN vacation, I bought the book “Great Smoky Mountains Trivia” at the Visitor’s Center.

While our kids had no idea, my husband and I immediately understood the reference to Smokey Bear in a few of the questions. For those of you who are too young to remember, let me educate you on Smokey Bear’s wisdom.

“Only YOU Can Prevent Wildfires.”029c3232ce6c7a15355efd406fb8ecfb

Smokey Bear started telling people about fire danger in 1944. He was a cartoon bear used by the National Forest Service in a campaign to protect national forests from human-caused fires. In the campaign, Smokey Bear often pointed and declared that “Only YOU Can Prevent Wildfires.”

While still active, the campaign now features a realistic-looking bear, still pointing. However, those of us who remember Smokey Bear likely realize the significant absence of this campaign as compared to its heyday.

Great Smoky Mountains Trivia”explains that foresters now recognize fire can benefit nature. Today, park managers decide on a case-by-case basis whether or not to fight fires or allow them to clean the forest.

Additionally, the National Forest Service now educates people on the benefits of fire. They still educate about fire safety and being responsible to not carelessly cause a forest fire that could destroy homes and wildlife, but the finger-pointing pressure seems to be off of “YOU” just a bit. In fact, forest experts explain that fire can significantly benefit forests so much so that they sometimes intentionally start or “prescribe” them.

Prescribed FiresAugust 2012 (16)

Known as a “controlled burn,” a prescribed fire “refers to the controlled application of fire by a team of fire experts under specified weather conditions that help restore health to fire-adapted environments.”

Forest experts name the following as benefits of “prescribed fire”:

  1. Reduces excess brush, shrubs & trees that stifle new growth.
  2. Encourages new growth to flourish in space created by burned excess.
  3. Maintains structure for the many plants and animals that need fire to stay healthy.
  4. Reduces catastrophic damage from unplanned fires that destroy homes and other land beyond the forests.

The key with “prescribed fires” lies with their execution at the hands of experts who carefully plan the fires so they can be used in constructive ways.

The Last Days’ Fire

Forest experts understand the benefits of a “prescribed fire,” and that understanding transfers well into what Bob Sorge in “The Fire of Delayed Answers” says about “The Last Days’ Fire.”

Sorge says that “the righteous will understand what this fire is all about. They will embrace the fire, and rather than finding it destructive they will discover it to be constructive in their lives.”

The fire Sorge refers to are the “trials” named in Daniel 12:10: “Many will be purified, cleansed and refined by these trials… Only those who are wise will know what it means.”

Just like forest experts use “prescribed fire” to benefit the forest, God also uses fire to purify, cleanse and refine us. He uses it to prepare us as vessels for “honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21).

Without God’s refining fire, we become overgrown with excess. We become distracted, our lives filled to the point that new growth cannot flourish. Even our basic structures become damaged because we can no longer fit in that (fellowship & time with God) which promotes growth.

God’s refining fire, his “controlled burn” in our lives reduces excess. This process purifies and strengthens our love making us increasingly aware of what Sorge describes as the “apathy, greed, lukewarmness, materialism, and the self-indulgent spirit” of the culture in which we live.

Unlike Smokey Bear, God does not point at “YOU” to prevent fire in your life. Instead, He asks that you look to Him as the expert in refining through fire, trusting that His “controlled burn” results in healthier and stronger lives.

DISCUSSION: How do you react to the “controlled burn” of God’s expertise?

This post connects with an Internet Book Study introduced to me by my friend Rick at Planned Peasanthood. In addition to Rick’s posts on the book, be sure to also check out those by Jason, Dusty, Sarah, and Glynn. The “club” covers a chapter in the book “The Fire of Delayed Answers” by Bob Sorge every two weeks.