Let’s face it.
There’s nothing in life as dreadful as a transition period. Transitioning is horrifying. It’s a nightmare. Period.
You can’t plan for tomorrow. You can’t hope for tomorrow. You can’t look forward to tomorrow.
After all, you don’t know what tomorrow looks like. You don’t know when tomorrow will start. And you don’t know when, where, how, what, let alone why tomorrow could be different from from today.
No one plans for a time of transition. They just happen. And most of the times, transition periods are like a child’s illness. They only happen when you’re least prepared. Right now, I’m at a national church conference and my youngest son has stomach pains.
Who plans for such?
One morning you’re excited you have graduated with a second degree. The next morning you’re unemployed. Your front porch is covered with a hideous pile of unpaid bills. And your inbox is full of reminders from credit card companies and notifications from employers all saying you’re not good enough for them.
This is what a time of transition looks like to most college graduates. Even Christian college graduates. Not all students afford a luxurious gap year.
It’s not surprising that depression quickly kicks in. The future you hoped for doesn’t look that promising. You were told things are only going to get better after earning your prestigious degree. But three months down the line your dream is quickly turning out to be a nightmare. That commencement speech that provoked a riotous applause has turned out to be a fad.
You blame yourself for choosing the wrong field. I should have done traditional chemistry or analytical chemistry not this fancy but useless Environmental Toxicology.
You blame the world for not being welcoming. Is it because I’m black or that I’m Shona and trying to get a job at a Ndebele university?
And above all else, you feel like you’re a fraud. Why is everyone looking up to me as a role model yet I’m failing to get something as simple as a mere job?
But there’s hope.
This is not permanent. This is not the way things will be forever. This is just a transition period
What does transition period mean?
A transition period is a stage where the course of your life, that is your finances, health, education, social standing or religious beliefs, undergoes an abrupt shift or change.
Good examples of times of transition could be when you’re in between jobs, settling in a new country, recently graduated or adjusting to a recently diagnosed illness.
Here’s the shocking news. All these four examples perfectly apply to me. Yes, that’s true.
I returned to my home country and found everything changed for the worst, I graduated with a PhD and it turns out that makes me overqualified for most jobs and a laughing stock among my peers since I’m unemployed. And I’m learning to live with an untreatable blood disorder.
I can’t pull myself out of this transition. I wish I could think positive my way out of the funk. But it’s not that easy. They’re no seven steps to experiencing great success during transition period.
I wake up every morning to a regret letter from a job I really want. I spend the day frustrated by the deplorable customer service in almost every business in my home country. I’m reminded by my friends and family that I am an inspiration to them or their kids yet I’m unemployed. I have to be careful with what I do or I can end up spending the night in the hospital.
Tell me, how can I pull myself out of this transition period?
I remember Sarah Short’s recent words:
But the holy ground of suffering produces the fruit of faith, perseverance, and trust because it is watered by the tender, loving hand of God.
Despite all this gloomy and dark picture, I am encouraged by the life of a butterfly.
You watch them flying gracefully in a rose garden. But guess what they were once an ugly caterpillar. Crawling in muck and eating dirt like an unkempt pig. But one day things changed.
That beautiful butterfly went through what you’re going through – period of transition. Stuck in a cocoon of their own making. Oblivious of the exciting things around them. Trapped in a thick layer of their own excrement. Does that sound like your life?
Listen. At the right time, excruciating pain rivet in the body of the caterpillar as it breaks out of the cocoon. The transition period was not spent for no reason. Wings were formed. Beautiful wings to complement the new beautiful body. For a butterfly, a transition period is formation time.
Unemployment is my formation time. Reverse culture shock is my formation time. A PhD is my formation time. Alpha thalassemia is my formation time.
This is not just a transition period it’s a formation time.
What about you?
What does the Bible say about time of transition?
Here’s the deal.
Times of transition are times of change. They are times signaling new beginnings. They are times of transformation. But they can be times of destruction if you’re not careful.
Jesus Christ expects you to be constant in season and out of season. He expects you to be effective and productive in the knowledge of Christ even in times of transition. Your period of transition should be a period of fruitfulness even though it seems impossible.
Do you remember that incident when Jesus was walking with his disciples and saw a fig tree? The tree was green and had all the signs of fruitfulness. But it had no fruit. Jesus cursed the tree even though it wasn’t time for figs.
The fig tree was in a transition period but chose to be unfruitful. Here’s the most important question at such a time:
How can you follow Jesus Christ in times of transition?
This is a profound question. Don’t be quick to answer it. It needs a moment of personal reflection. No one can answer this question for you.
How can you follow Jesus Christ during a transition period?
This is what the Bible says, during times of uncertainty follow Christ. In the wilderness, the children of Israel were transitioning from a place of bondage to a place of freedom and abundance. But for the Israelites, moving from Egypt to Israel meant passing through a desert. It meant crossing the Red Sea. Importantly, it was a time for following God’s manifest glory and experiencing his grace and providence.
Yes, times of transition are horrifying but if you follow the Son, they can be glorifying.
What should you avoid in your transition period?
Noah heed God’s instructions. He built an ark. But after the flood, he faltered. Noah gave in to too much. Instead of life, Noah chose a poison during his transition period.
A transition period can come after perfectly fulfilling God’s instructions. But if you don’t go back to God for further directions, your transition period may end up in incest like Noah or idolatry like Solomon. Don’t let idleness define your time of transition.
Solomon and Noah fell in the trap of hedonism. During times of uncertainty, we tend to resort to pleasure, possessions and positions. You can misunderstand such a season to be a season of partying, gaining things and seeking recognition.
My wife and I almost fell for that snare. I had a small graduation party in my home town which ended up big. A friend gave us money to buy everything for the party. My young brother’s mother-in-law did the décor and hired the PA system. We had a great time singing and dancing, and listening to speaker after speaker recollecting how they saw God’s hand through my life.
The party was crafted by God. It was a miracle. But we wanted to replicate the miracle in another town where we’re living. The temptation of pleasure and recognition was knocking on our day. Thank God, a friend of ours talked us out of it.
In A Little Book for New Philosophers, Paul Copan shares an insightful quote by Keith Seddon. Although Keith Seddon was talking about life in general, I believe his words are true even for people who are navigating streams of uncertainty like me.
Most of my life was foolishly spent, and parts of it I can only recall with shame. For one thing, I was under the illusion that happiness is the reward of success and recognition, which are really opiates. Approving audiences, distinguished academic chairs, rapid advancement, even the taste of fame— these are heady things, but they are blinding. My eyes began to open when my self-centredness and disdain for basic decencies nearly led to my moral and intellectual ruin.
Solomon ended up in moral and intellectual ruin when he succumbed to pleasure, possessions and positions. Noah ruined his name during times of transition by giving in to pleasure. I’m glad God brought a mature person in our life to show my wife and I the trap of pleasure.
How can you hear God in times of transition?
It’s very hard to hear from God when you’re stressed. Your worries and fears drown your ears with frightening imaginations. Sadly, these noisy voices suffocate the still small voice of our gracious Savior.
Thank God, our God is relentless. He won’t tire speaking to us even when we’re distracted by uncertainty. He remains faithful and true even when we’re unfaithful. He nudges us by his goodness even when we’re numbed by hopelessness.
During Israel’s transition from slavery to freedom and abundance, Joshua remained in the secret place of God.
Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.
Joshua did not depart from the presence of God as the Israelites traveled in the desert. Therefore, when Israel reached Kadesh Barnea and Moses sent 12 spies, it’s not surprising Joshua was ready to exit from the transition. No, he wasn’t ready to pull out of the transition period because he was tired of it.
Joshua was prepared to get out of the place of transition because he understood and had witnessed the glory of God firsthand.
The goodness of the land God promised the Israelites was not a sufficient motivation for them to go and conquer it. Even after seeing the fruit of the land, the children of Israel dissented after hearing the bad report from the ten spies. The hope of a good job, the joy of recognition or the peace from good health is not sufficient to sustain me in times of transition. Only my knowledge of God, only my understanding of his grace and my trust in his faithfulness.
Joshua spent his transition time in the tent of the Lord. For that reason, when all Israel wept and complained against God, Joshua had the courage to stand up and say:
If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.
What are you saying at such a time as this?