Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

6 Reasons We Resist Change

6 Reasons We Resist Change

When we think of a new year, change often comes to mind. While that can excite some, it will threaten others. Why does the thought of change evoke fear in the hearts of many—even in believers? If you find yourself resisting change, see if you can identify with any of these reasons.

We may resist change because:

1. Change is not familiar.

We seniors are not the only ones who struggle with change, but we probably rise to the top as the most susceptible. Everything we’ve known, from lifestyle to work ethics, to values and beliefs, worship and music styles, to savings and money management—all the things that have worked in the past—loom as fearful challenges with a church, a government, and a world that’s constantly changing. The familiar has worked well for some, so they don’t understand the need for change.

But at any age we can cling to the known when it comes to familiar habits, strong preferences, or personal relationships. Sometimes it’s just easier not to remove what feels comfortable. At least we know what to expect with familiarity. And change is related to unknown, untested territory.

2. Change may require work.

And it’s not that we’re afraid of work. But any change God brings into our lives may require us to…change with it. New Year’s resolutions, if successful, can mean uncomfortable alterations. Old habits die hard; establishing new ones can loom as downright impossible. Losing weight, studying Scripture, making new friends, saving money—all demand work: exercise, new time commitments, changing of priorities, but above all, discipline. They won’t happen on their own.

The “work” of change may not just spell physical activity. Some attitudes, even harmful ones if we let them, can settle like cement into our lives. And nothing short of God’s blasting intervention can break them up and establish new ones.

David, the Psalmist, recognized the need for changed attitudes when his life took a downward spiral of sin with adultery and murder. What attitudes forged his actions? Pride, apathy, lust, selfishness, greed? Only God knew. But David, pressed by the need for change, identified his rebellion against God as he cried out: Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me (Psalm 51:10). I love the Message translation:

Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean, scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life. Tune me in to foot-tapping songs, set these once-broken bones to dancing. Don’t look too close for blemishes, give me a clean bill of health. God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life. Don’t throw me out with the trash, or fail to breathe holiness in me. Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails! Give me a job teaching rebels your ways so the lost can find their way home. Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God, and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways. Unbutton my lips, dear God; I’ll let loose with your praise” (vs 7-15).

3. Change may mean we are not in control.

Do Christians have control issues? As long as we can see what’s coming and manage what’s in front of us, we’re good, right? But one word or one event can change our present and future and relegate us to dependence: terminal, accident, unemployment, fire, death.

Ultimately, how the unexpected challenges and crises in our lives affect us, depends on our belief system. One Christian may panic at the loss of everything in a house fire, while another steadfastly proclaims, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. At least we’re still alive.” One believer may grow bitter with revenge when a drunk driver steals the life of their only child, while another works through the loss and anger to arrive at long-held beliefs: Unforgiveness only imprisons us; God is a good, good Father who unconditionally forgives. If our belief system contradicts God’s character and interrupts our relationship with Him, then something needs to change.

What we believe—and who we believe in, makes all the difference. Dependence doesn’t spell weakness. In his book, My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers says, "What is my vision of God’s purpose for me? Whatever it may be, His purpose is for me to depend on Him and on His power now. If I can stay calm, faithful, and unconfused while in the middle of the turmoil of life, the goal of the purpose of God is being accomplished in me. God is not working toward a particular finish—His purpose is the process itself" (1992 edition, July 28 entry, "God's Purpose or Mine?"). The absence of personal control can mean a dependence on the One who is in control.

4. Change may mean we need help.

Similar to our fear of losing control, some changes will require help. And once again, that sounds like a relinquishment of our independence. An aging parent may resist giving up his home or car; defiant marriage partners may deny the need for intervention; a floundering salesmen may ignore new suggestions/methods. Even the failing college student may hold on to pride, refusing to reach out for help.

But asking or receiving help is not an admission of failure. God invites us to ask (Matthew 7:7; He wants us to come to Him as children (John 1:12). He longs to provide our needs (Philippians 4:19; and He knows what is best for us (Isaiah 48:17). Not only that, God planned for the body of Christ—all His followers—to help each other. We were not meant to carry our burdens—or changes—alone (Galatians 6:2).

5. We think change is permanent.

Actually, nothing about the word change indicates permanence. The very meaning of that concept suggests variation, adjustment, or alteration. Repentance, a turning or change of direction, will always be a pre-requisite of salvation. According to 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT), anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! Change takes place when we become a follower of Jesus. Do we still struggle with the old? Yes, only because we are still human, live in a fallen world, and will always be dealing with temptation. But as new believers, Jesus brings a new “want-to” into our lives—brought about by His grace and His Spirit that gives us the power to change. The words new life for believers indicate that change is not only good; it’s necessary. He will continue to change us throughout our lives.

God knows when we need other changes of direction in our lives. As high school sweethearts, my husband and I survived a car wreck that totaled our car. God used that circumstance along with His own impressions to call my husband into full-time ministry. And over four decades later, He has brought other mega changes into our lives. At the time some may have seemed destructive, but in God’s eyes and through His perspective, He worked out even the most painful for our good and His glory.

Jesus is the only One who never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). But we live in a changing world. My grandparents drove model T’s and survived the Great Depression. My own grandchildren were computer savvy as toddlers. It’s a different world now. But it will never stay the same. Times will change; presidents and rulers will change; technology will push us forward. Like God-appointed seasons, we will face change.

Hopelessness enters when we think unpleasant changes are permanent. While a circumstance can bring an unwelcome sense of permanence, as in a death or an accident that paralyzes, we still face a choice. We can resist or grow. We can stay the same or move forward. And God still specializes in the impossible.

6. Resistance to change may mean we don’t really trust God.

Think about your possible reactions to the various seasons and events that could affect your lifetime: new home, new baby, new job, new president, death, illness, flood, betrayal, accident, and aging. We welcome some changes; we fear others. And not every shift in society, not every change in our world is good. Worry, fear, anger—these are non-productive responses in our lives that take us backward, not forward, in our reliance on a God who has been nothing but faithful to us.

Some things don’t need to change. A solid trust in God and in the wisdom He gives will enable us to hold tightly to the things that matter, such as our core beliefs in God’s Word and His ways. Letting agape love—God’s love—dictate our relationships with all people without abandoning the inerrant truths of His unchanging Word is an permanent principle for believers. How we communicate that love and those truths to our world makes all the difference. We can’t change another person; only God can. But He has designed the power of prayer to move the hands of people, of governments, and of His world.

Neither sticking our heads in the sand nor fighting fires angrily with thimbles-full of water will open the floodgates of God’s grace and mercy into the lives of others. Only a simple, unswerving trust in a holy, loving, and sovereign God will help us live wisely, accepting change as a reality, yet clinging to the One who never changes. He is and always has been in control.

Jesus came and died so my life—and yours— could change and become more like Him, seeking to bring Him glory in all we do. To live my life any different is to put myself in the place of God. And that’s a place I never want to be.

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Publication date: January 19, 2017