The pastor was reading from Isaiah 43. “God says, ‘Behold, I will do a new thing…’ (vs. 19). A new thing… God often plans change–major life changes. Some changes happen because we choose to make them happen. Other changes are forced upon us.”
Looking out over the congregation, the pastor paused for a moment before asking, “Does change ever ‘just happen’?… Is there such a thing as change that ‘just happens’?”
“Yes!” A voice called from my behind me, while at the same time, other voices answered, “No.” A murmur rippled through the crowd. “Well…” some faltered. My brow furrowed and I looked down at my Bible. Could random events bring about major life changes that were neither a result of personal choice or divine intervention?
I held back a sigh. Leaving my church family at the congregation our family had been attending for almost 16 years (since I was just 4 years old) was certainly no personal choice of my own! We just couldn’t afford to drive that far every week anymore. But, oh, how I missed all my friends and the family atmosphere at that church! God wouldn’t have brought about such a change… would He?…. It had to be one of those things that “just happens.”
The pastor was continuing, “There is no such thing as change that ‘just happens.’ It’s brought about either by choice or by Providence. Choice, because God has given us all freedom to choose our own way–even if that sometimes means that we take matters into our own hands. And providence because when we are fully surrendered to God, He will lead us according to His divine plans.”
I shifted in my seat. Was this major change that was bringing me so much heartache really part of God’s plan? My eyes glued on the pastor’s face, willing him to say it was not so. He spoke with conviction, “This doesn’t mean that the change is always comfortable. If the change is providential, even if it brings pain, it’s good. Maybe God has taken us through a change to put us a place to reach others…. Or to help us grown and refine character….”
Lord, why have you brought me here? Away from the church and friends I have always known, to a congregation with whom I have nothing in common? my heart cried. It was a congregation of older people–no one my age. I had noticed that some of them were stooped under the cares and hardships of life. Perhaps the Lord led me here to touch someone. To bring a ray of sunshine and youth into the life of some tired, careworn Christian. But, what about me? Who would meet my desires for friendship and interaction? Wasn’t a church a place for mutual fellowship, a place for receiving as well as giving?
“Look back at verse 18 of chapter 43,” the pastor’s voice cut through my thoughts. The verse read, “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old….” The pastor looked up. “Is this saying that when the Lord ‘does a new thing,’ we are to forget all the former things?
Yeah, Lord! It was hard to keep to keep the bitter tone out of the inaudible prayer. Am I supposed to forget my friends from the church that I love now that we’ve left?
“When we read verses 16 and 17, though, it helps us to see that God’s not saying to forget how He’s worked in the past. Right there is recounts how He led Israel through the Red Sea and delivered them from the Egyptians. Verses 10 through the first part of 14 also add context. We begin to see a theme: God our savior and redeemer. Our salvation. If it weren’t for our sins in the past, we wouldn’t need a savior.”
“Let’s look at verse 25” he went on. “It says, ‘”I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.”‘ Pastor put decided emphasis on the last two words.
Looking up, the pastor gazed intently at us, taking a minute to formulate his thoughts into words. “When God says he will do a new thing, He wants you to forget the sins of the past. He wants to do a new thing with you spiritually.” His clarification helped to ease my inner turmoil slightly. “When God brings about change in your life, trust Him. If you can, you’ll experience the most powerful change. If you’re frustrated by the pain that change brings, you will miss out on God’s plan. It is not God’s desire for us to suffer. But when suffering comes it is God’s desire to grow us, be with us, and change us for the better.”
I fought back sudden tears. Lord, it IS painful! Especially for me, since I have a hard time interacting with people I don’t know very well…. It hurts so much to leave the congregation where I felt so at home! But, Lord, I know that this change is not the result of me stepping stubbornly outside of your will, and if there’s no such thing as change that “just happens,” then this change in my life must be part of your divine plan. It’s just so hard….
I blinked back the tears and tried to focus my attention back on the pastor’s words. “Sometimes we don’t want a new thing,” he was saying. I sniffed knowingly. Yeah, I could resonate with that one! “We like our circumstances and the place we’re at and the events we’ve been enjoying. We don’t want to risk having our friendships changed…. Do we want a new thing? To see where God will lead next? Can we willingly ask God to lead?”
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I wouldn’t have chosen to leave my home church. Not for a moment! Could it be that this change in my life was indeed from God–part of His plan–and designed to bring me out of my comfort zone to a place where I would not have otherwise gone? For a purpose that He was yet to reveal to me?
The pastor shifted to the last page of his notes and looked up with a penetrating gaze and equally penetrating question. “Do you trust God? If you do, then claim the promise of Isaiah 43:19: ‘Behold, I will do a new thing….’ And believe that it will be incredible!”
Yes, Lord, I trust You!