• Steve Hatter
Woman looking at cherry blossoms

If there is one thing all Alaskans can probably agree on—even in these divisive times—is that we live in a land of dramatic transitions and change. Our arctic weather is inexorable. Seasonal changes come whether we are ready or not. These changes bring pressures to feel and think and choose. As I write, August approaches, and we already sense the dip in temperatures, even as we notice the shortening days. The beautiful fireweed flowers marching toward their pointed peaks, along with observing the first “termination dusting” on the nearby mountains warn us winter is coming and we cannot ignore it. We must respond to the signs of transition. We’re pressured to prepare physically, financially, and emotionally, or we’ll suffer.

One of the many reasons I love Alaska is because experiences here often prove the perfect metaphor for understanding objective truths about our human experience. When we stop to think, all of life is about transitions and change. The existence trajectory of every person ever born consists of a progression from one chapter or phase to the next, with important transitions to navigate all along the way.

The world offers confusing messages regarding the nature of change. Temporal enticements encourage kids to grow up way too fast, and then as adults, people want to slow, or even reverse, the signs of aging. However, life proves repeatedly that as much as we may want to speed to the future or freeze a comfortable season in place, we cannot. Earthly rewards are fleeting. Temporal beauty always fades. What wisdom is there to understand in all of this?

The Bible, the sole source of all truth, tells Christians that there is a big and good God behind all change and therefore, there is incalculable purpose in our personal transitions and changes. The Old Testament Wisdom Book, Ecclesiastes, tells us in verses one through eight that change is inescapable within our sovereign God’s design:

 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace

In other words, the omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, unchanging, perfectly just, holy, righteous, and gracious living God is running His created universe on His terms, and we, as His created beings, are graced to live in it. Change defines His rule. Change is His will for us.

But what is God doing in and through us as we experience the times of planting, weeping, embracing, warring, and loving? Again, holy Scripture answers. The Apostle Paul in Romans 8:28-30 captures the idea that the very essence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is an eternally significant transition!

 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

For God’s elect, providential change enables the necessary transformation from sinner and enemy of God to becoming like Christ Himself, and as such, being welcomed into God’s royal family forever. That’s transition and change I cannot help but rejoice in with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength!

I am, at present, feeling much bittersweetness because our last child has completed college and as of this week, is off to graduate school in Idaho. This is the real “empty nest” transition for Cynthia and me because Amy won’t be coming home for summers like she did while in college. And, after her graduation in two years, she will be self-supporting. Over the past weeks, I’ve had the privilege to spend some real quality time with her as she has been pondering her own transition. For sure, her next steps—moving, new roommates, hard academics ahead—are intimidating. So, we’ve revealed feelings and discussed applying truth to our situations.

Here are a few of the things we’ve talked about:

First, the emotions that come with change. Feelings, intense as they may be, are one hundred percent normal! In fact, I would be worried if she were not feeling bittersweet and a bit frightened.

Next, we talked about the keys to rightly navigating change. I believe they are found in three places—faith, family, and individual responsibility.

Faith comes first as the primary means of facing challenges and change. We really do get to choose our responses to what God providentially throws our way. We can become paralyzed by doubt and fear, or we can dive into the great truths recorded in Scripture that are there so that believers can handle everynot just most, but every—development in our temporal circumstances. When you have saving faith in Jesus Christ, you are both secure and equipped. So, when your feet stop moving in the mires of negative internal dialogue, decide to run to Jesus and you will find both strength and wisdom.

Next, comes the gift and strength of family. It is by the Lord’s gracious design that the Hatters have one another. Blood really is thicker than water and I told her that she can count on me and her mom, as well as her siblings to defend her, support her, pray for her, and cry with her. I encouraged her to be intentional about staying connected, especially when the pressure starts to mount, and that we will always meet her there. I admonished her to choose fellowship time over study whenever she can because this is how we get recharged and encouraged!

Thirdly, I asked her to just be the Amy that she has grown to be who will always be responsible. I’m confident she will inspire her classmates and new friends by proving to be a dependable person who always owns her stuff. This has been a great witness of hers, to me personally and to many others already, and I’m certain she will continue to glorify God in this way.

Finally, I gave her one last piece of advice which was this: “Sweetheart, you got this! Really try to enjoy the ride!”

In John 15:11 we have recorded one of the many timeless truths that Jesus expressed about the Gospel truth He brought:

“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

Wow! Not only is Gospel-inspired change good for us, but it is also meant to bring joy! We serve a big and incredibly good God!