January 5, 2024

A New Chapter: Seeking God in Times of Major Life Changes

Today’s blog will be exploring the mixed emotions we face in light of new beginnings or major life changes, and how pastor’s can gratify their congregation on overcoming these challenges.

Noah Cecil

The beginning of a new year often comes with a dichotomy of hope and anxiety for me. 

When it comes to the beginning of something new, I find that there’s one equal part of excitement for opportunities that give me the chance to start fresh. I also find there to be another equal part of uncertainty –– a fear of the unknown.

With the arrival of a new year, I often wonder what things will be out of my control, what big life changes will come my way, and most importantly –– how am I going to make the most of the new year?

The concept of new beginnings can be equally exciting and equally worrying for anyone, at any point of their life. Whether it’s starting a new year, a new career, or a new chapter of life, we can never be sure in what ways the start of something new just might take us out of our comfort zone. 

In times of new beginnings, and the uncertainty that comes with them, it’s important to take our hopes and anxieties to God and seek His guidance. 

Today’s blog will be exploring the mixed emotions we face in light of new beginnings or major life changes, and how pastor’s can gratify their congregation on overcoming these challenges.

New Beginnings and Life Changes

When it comes to major life changes, they can come anywhere from intrinsic factors (our own internal thoughts and decisions) or extrinsic factors (anything outside of ourselves that might force us into change).

Some intrinsic factors that may lead us to a fresh start or life change:

  • Feeling unfulfilled in a career 
  • Poor financial decisions
  • Burnout or stress
  • Having unhealthy relationship habits
  • Committing to a relationship with God
  • Wanting to grow closer in an existing relationship with God
  • Wanting to change unhealthy habits for better mental and/or physical health
  • Seeking personal growth or achievement 

Some extrinsic factors that may lead us to a fresh start or life change:

  • The loss of a job or loved one
  • Financial stressors
  • Divorce
  • Injuries or illness
  • Moving to a new city or country
  • A new job opportunity
  • Getting married or becoming a parent
  • Experiencing empty nest syndrome
  • Retirement 
  • Joining a new church

Whether parts of our life are planned or unexpected, life has a way of throwing us in for a loop. We may have a plan for our new year, career, or life in general, that doesn’t always pan out the way we expected it to. We also often find ourselves stumbling into wonderful years of personal growth, fulfilling career paths, or unique life journeys that come to us unintentionally –– catching us by surprise. Either way, the big changes we face (good or bad) can leave us processing a feeling of nervousness. 

The Challenge of Big Life Changes

According to the psychiatric care clinic, Best Day Psychiatry and Counseling: due to the neural pathways that our brain creates through our learning experiences, the brain develops “mental shortcuts” for those experiences that are familiar (the things we tend to experience on a regular basis). 

When it comes to those experiences that the brain is less familiar with, or has yet to experience at all, the brain “doesn’t know if the change is good or not, and our uncertainty can create a negative bias.”

Best Day further asserts that changes in our life can “put us on our guard, causing anxiety and stress.” Big enough life changes can even “trigger onset or relapse of depression and anxiety.”

Of course it’s important to understand that simply having negative feelings of worry or uncertainty, that come with the challenge of new beginnings and life changes, are overall normal.

Behavioral scientist of Ampersand Health, Rachel Moran says: “Even positive change can make us feel uneasy. It’s okay to feel like this!” 

How Can Pastors Address New Beginnings and Life Changes?

Whether it’s dealing with the excitement and uncertainty of new beginnings, or the turmoil and stress of unexpected life changes, pastors have the opportunity to show the congregation how they can put their trust in God during these circumstances. 

Fortunately we serve a God of new beginnings. We’re given a new start at life through accepting Christ, as stated in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 

We’re not only given the opportunity for a new life through Jesus, but are also forgiven for our missteps and mistakes in life through Jesus’s sacrifice: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

This is just the starting point. The Bible is full of characters whose lives are turned upside down in ways they never expected them to be, as well as receiving blessings they couldn’t have imagined. 

David, a shepherd boy who was the youngest of his brothers, finds his life turned around after slaying Goliath and becoming king. Because of this, David steps into an unexpected, major life change and must learn how to fill this role. 

Saul the Pharisee had been persecuting followers of Jesus, notably having the apostle Stephen killed, before coming to Jesus himself. Saul would become the apostle Paul; one of the most influential leaders of the Church who faced imprisonment because of his faith in Christ.

By God’s calling and guidance, Moses is sent to free his people from the enslavement of Egypt. With their newfound freedom, the Jewish people are called to start a completely new life for themselves.

Not only does the Bible have characters that can relate to new beginnings or major life changes, but it’s rich with verses on God’s love, overcoming fear and anxiety, and putting our faith in God no matter what circumstances we’re going through. 

Verses to Reflect On

We can find verses on perseverance such as James 5:11, where it states:

“Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.”

For those of us who fear the unknown of new beginnings based on old experiences, we can remember what Isaiah 43:18-19 tells us:

“Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

We can put our trust in God in every new start in life or life change, as Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds us:

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight."

Recently, as we entered the new year, I found myself worrying about so many things from worldwide troubles to personal problems. Upon asking my close friends which verses they reflect on to bring them peace in times of uncertainty, one of my friends referred me to Psalm 91. I found this verse to be a powerful reminder of God’s love in the hardest of times, from the first verse down to it’s last three verses (14-16):

"Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation."

These stories and verses of the Bible are just some of many examples for ways we can seek God and put our trust in Him during major life changes.

A Helpful Tool for Pastors

When preparing sermons on finding hope in times of change and uncertainty, pastors now have access to sermon writing tools. These tools not only assist in the research process, but also in easing the sermon preparation process through generating sermon outlines, character studies and modern day examples of biblical topics. 

Seeking God in the Unknown

In finding ourselves in seasons of new beginnings or major life changes, we may be tasked with feelings of uncertainty of what’s to come. While facing change can be a cause for worry, it’s something most of us go through.

Because of this common experience, pastors have the opportunity to speak a message of hope to the congregation and show how we can lean on God in times of uncertainty.

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