Change can be one of the most stressful things in life, even when the change is desired. Resistance to change is natural to human nature. In fact, there is a saying in neuroscience that “neurons that fire together, wire together.” This means that the more we do something, the more it becomes not only habit, but biologically ingrained. It helps to explain why change takes so much effort, and why we naturally have a resistance to change.
Of course, we know that change is inevitable. We face change as we mature, as our bodies age, and as we interact with the world. We also know that change, in the Christian life, is desirable. In fact, it is God’s plan for us. He makes all things new (Revelation 21:5), and the old is dispensed with. We want to become more like Christ; we want to change. Second Corinthians 4:16 says, “Inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” When we submit to God, good change happens. So how do we overcome our resistance to change?
Resistance to change—perspective is key.
We can lessen our resistance to change by keeping a divine perspective on life. God’s work of renewal in us is compared to that of a refiner’s fire (Zechariah 13:9; Malachi 3:2; Isaiah 48:10; 1 Peter 1:7) and to a gardener’s pruning shears (John 15:2). The process of refining or pruning tends to be unpleasant, so we resist. But the outcome of a refiner’s fire is purified precious metal. The result of pruning is a more plentiful crop. If we trust that God is at work through changes and that His desire is to sanctify us, then we may more willingly submit. This perspective is what brought Job peace in Job 23:10.
We recognize the work of the refiner’s fire or the gardener’s shears. We can usually identify the character traits God is building in us or winnowing out of us—it’s easy to know when He’s building our patience, for example. And there are times when we feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit and work with God to make changes in ourselves. As we yield to the Spirit, we will begin to overcome our natural resistance to change.
But what about the undesirable changes? We have no control over them, we don’t want them, but they happen anyway. We lose a job or become chronically ill. A friend moves away. A church leader steps down. Our resistance to these types of changes is even more entrenched. The end result of these changes may not be obvious. It is in these times that Romans 8:28 becomes a firm foundation. We know that God is working all things according to His purpose, and we know that His purpose is always good. So we can trust that He is using even undesirable changes for our benefit. It may be that an illness will draw us closer to God or draw our family closer together. It may be that God has a new calling for a new season of life.
It is tempting to borrow from Star Trek and conclude that “resistance is futile,” because change is going to happen, regardless. Adjusting to the change seems to be less painful than resisting the change. But there are ways that we can overcome our resistance to change and welcome it instead of just slogging through. Talking to God about our struggle is basic to a healthy perspective. The Psalms are a beautiful example of just how honest we can be with God. We can let Him know of our trouble and share with Him our distaste for change. Expressing thankfulness is another good strategy in conquering our resistance to change. Once again, the book of Psalms provides excellent examples of what it means to be grateful in the midst of strife and discontent. When we praise God, we readjust our focus and remember that He is in control. He does not change, but He is there in the midst of our changes.
Growth requires change; our resistance to change could actually be a resistance to growth. So, when change occurs, just consider it to be a season of growth. When our human nature protests the change and begs to resist, remember that God has not changed. He is up to something good.