A couple of weeks back we hosted a What Matters Most conversation on the topic of Life Transitions. This was the fifth in a series we have been hosting since last summer, centered around the craft of helping adults grow up into Christ in every way.
We are so thankful for our special guests Scott and Beth Shaum with Barnabas International and the way they shared so wisely and so vulnerably around the work of navigating times of transition. Such a timely conversation.
Since that Wednesday I have found myself revisiting some words shared near the end of our time. Pam Edwards had asked Scott to talk more about the heart of the Father in light of navigating these unsettling seasons of change, hardship, and transition. I have included the whole of Scott’s response here because I think it is so important.
The danger in having this transitions conversation is we come up with tips and tricks to navigate the messiness of our lives and miss the opportunity to know the Father’s heart toward us. God doesn’t give us these hardships. He doesn’t allow hardships to happen in our lives purely for utilitarian purposes, like, “Scott’s got to grow up so here comes another tough time.” God’s greatest desire, his relentless desire is for us to know his love for us; that each one of us is in Christ a son and a daughter. That’s ultimately what he’s up to.
I really don’t want to go through the stuff I’ve gone through in the past. I don’t know if there is any way I would have come to know his love other than through that stuff. I just don’t know. He is a Father that is relentlessly after us.
Everybody in the world goes through change and transition. Everybody in the world goes through grief and loss. It is the opportunity for the church of Christ to embody the love of the Father, the person of Christ, to a world that’s really struggling, to brothers and sisters who are really struggling.
So I am just struck again and again and again by God’s kindness, his patience, his gentleness, his goodness. He’s not punishing you. When the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit talk about us by name—and they do—Romans 8 tells us that. The Holy Spirit’s talking to the Father on our behalf with words that are too deep to understand; Jesus is at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit talk amongst themselves about us and they’re not sitting there saying, “Geez, when is the guy ever going to learn?” That is not the tone of the conversation. No, there’s nothing that can separate us from the love of the Father in Christ.
And so, wherever you’re at, whatever has just come at you recently, I just want to encourage you to keep turning your face back toward the Father. His face is always turned toward you; it always is. Immerse yourself in the reality of the Gospel. He’s always acting in love and kindness toward you. He’s always inviting you to respond and to receive from him. The Christian life is one of receptivity. God is always initiating. He’s always up to good and he’s inviting us as his children, all people, to receive his goodness no matter where we find ourselves.
Now, Jesus doesn’t pull any punches. In this world, you will have troubles. He told us that. Guaranteed. Take heart. Have courage. I’ve overcome the world. Follow me. One of the guys in our discussion group made a very wise comment. He said, until we’re willing to go through the hard work of grieving our own losses, we’ll never go deep. We’ll still be that thousand miles wide, ½ inch deep. And I would add, that we will not be able to shepherd other people in their grief and loss well, and so too, in their changes and transitions. So that’s our opportunity.
The last 18 months have been so disruptive, and I suspect the disruptive-ness is going to continue for a while. How do we, the people of God, navigate this time faithfully and honestly? What might the Spirit of God be up to? Where is our trust?
Responding to these times of change and transition is not a fill-in-the-blank exercise, but it is an exercise in paying attention and walking alongside others. And at the heart of this exercise is discovering and coming to trust the Triune God’s unimaginably creative and developmental companionship in our lives.
Let us not miss this opportunity to turn our faces back toward the Father, whose face is already turned toward us. And let us be the people of God in this critical hinge moment for the Church. May we embody the love of the Father, the person of Christ, to a world that’s really struggling, to brothers and sisters who are really struggling…
Spirit of God, be generous to us and among us, in Jesus’ name.