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Pointers along the way #181

Moving through life changes
- Jacob Ninan

Among all the created beings, man has the longest period of dependency on his parents. This is because man alone is created in God's image, and he needs a lot of development in body, mind and spirit before he can really 'stand on his own feet.' He needs not only physical nurturing from the parents, but also psychological and spiritual help to guide his paths towards stability. Psychologists have identified that we go through several crises in life as we transit from one phase of development to the next one. Think of an infant becoming a toddler, then going to school and college, starting work, getting married, parenting children, watching them leave home, retirement, etc. Each transition involves changes in our mental makeup, from what we have got used to in the past stage to what is required in the next. The longest transition period is the teenage years when children grow up into adulthood. Each transition brings a change in responsibilities and requires learning new techniques. We need to mentally and emotionally adapt ourselves to new circumstances and situations.

There is a crisis in each transition and adaptation is painful, because we have to give up some pattern which we have got used to and we felt safe in. Change requires effort, gives us more responsibility, and also poses a risk of making mistakes. Wise people know that these changes are inevitable, and learn quickly to adapt to them. But many problems develop when we fail to adapt ourselves mentally, even as our bodies and circumstances go ahead without waiting for us! Things become more difficult for us if we demand that others have to make the changes and not we!

God's provision for us in this matter is that He has given us His word as a manual of wisdom and knowledge, the Holy Spirit as our resident Teacher and also many around us who have gone on in life before us and who have valuable lessons to pass on to us. We can also learn much from observing others. But it is one thing to understand what changes need to be made, and another to actually make them.

No one has gone through life without making mistakes. Just as a baby learns how to walk with a few falls, we also learn many times through mistakes. The fear of making mistakes should not stop us. We can learn from them and do better next time.

Life is hardly ever 'fair' to us! We suffer not only from our mistakes but also from those of many others. But one thing that can comfort us is that there are many others also who are facing situations like us. God will also make sure that we are not tested beyond our ability, by controlling what others can do to us and also by giving us extra help when we need it (1Co.10:13). Without letting ourselves get hindered by attitudes of complaint and resentment, we need to work out our own salvation (Php.2:12). In this context this means that irrespective of what others ought to do, we should concentrate on making our own adaptations.

As we get past one transition after another, we can also help others who are finding them tough. This makes our own struggles worthwhile(2Co.1:4).