4 Ways to Deal with Transition as a Couple
We’d lived in East Asia for seven years. It was home. Our apartment was our house. Our church was our family. Our neighbors were our mission field.
Then, we received some really, really bad news. In light of this news, we were told that if we ever wanted to work in the country again, we should leave immediately.
In five days, we packed up as much as we could, said a few goodbyes, and left our home, praying we’d be permitted to make it to our flight out of the country.
That was really hard. To be honest, it’s still hard. Transition always is—whether that transition is something terrible like the death of a loved one or something positive like moving into a new house.
God Knows Transition
The thing is, we worship a Savior who has been through transition as it touches his humanity (i.e. not his deity). Jesus, who made himself nothing by being born in the likeness of a human, humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even death by crucifixion (Phil. 2:6-8). That is nothing short of a drastic transition.
But God raised him from the dead. Jesus was vindicated and given all authority (Phil. 2:9-10).
If you believe in Jesus, you obey the real God. And that real God has been through transition. He can certainly bring you through it, too.
Here are a few attitudes that helped my wife and I grow closer to God and to each other during our transition:
1. Expect It
Sometimes you can plan for transition; sometimes it’s a complete surprise. But you should always expect it. Be realistic about the fact that our world isn’t what it should be. It’s in rebellion against God, and that means change often occurs because of the brokenness all around us.
God tells us to put our hope completely in “the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:13). That doesn’t mean we put ninety-nine percent of our hope in God’s foreseen grace and one percent in a nice life. No: one hundred percent of our hope belongs in God’s promised future and the gracious God of that future.
In fact, part of the evidence that we are actually God’s children is that we pray to him and obey his law in times when we suffer (Rom. 8:12-17).
2. Be Stubborn
Well, be stubborn about right things.* The fourth commandment says to remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy (Ex. 20:8-11). Do not skip Lord’s day worship—and the public assembly and fellowship—of the church.
I also encourage you to schedule daily family worship times. Husbands, it’s your responsibility to initiate and lead this (Eph. 5:25-28;). If you don’t know how, learn. Dr. Donald Whitney has a resource I’ve found helpful. Wives, do not be argumentative. It’s hard when you’re stressed, but submit to your husband in all things (Eph. 5:22-24). Submit especially as he seeks to encourage family engagement in worship.
Complain to God, that is. Not others.* As you tell God how hard the situation is, you’ll be surprised how little you’ll want to whine to family, friends, and coworkers.
As you complain to God about hardness in transition and give thanks to him in the midst of it, his peace will protect you from sin (Phil. 4:6-7) and you will be a witness in the midst of a complaining generation (Phil. 2:14-15).
4. Be Responsible
In the midst of transition, be responsible with the duties that God has given you.
- If you’re married, God has given you specific duties in marriage (Eph. 5:25-33). Do them.
- If you have children, you have specific responsibilities as you raise your children (Deut. 6:4-9). Do them.
- You are probably around people who don’t know Christ on a daily basis. Maybe it’s your coworkers. Maybe it’s your children. Make it your mission to share the gospel with them.
As you put attention on the primary duties that God has put on your plate, it’s amazing how “bigness” of the transition lessens.
These four attitudes might not make transition easy. But the goal here isn’t ease. It’s not painlessness. It’s worship and fellowship with Jesus, the Son of God. He went through hellish transition, and promises that where he is, we will one day also be.
*For a helpful discussion on complaints to God, see chapter 10 of Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy by Mark Vroegop.