Relationships, You & Your Family

Responding to “a-changin’ times”

Responding to a-changin times
Photo by Weston M/

Bob Dylan’s folk song “The Times They Are a-Changin’” was released in 1964 but still speaks to the times we are living in. In the last three years, one big change we all had to adjust to was Covid-19. The pandemic disrupted almost every aspect of our lives such as how we study, work, travel, socialise and practise our faith.

For many, these dramatic changes may have coincided with others such as marriage, moving homes, coping with ageing or care of ageing parents. Even as we try to adapt to “living with Covid”, the coronavirus keeps mutating and testing our capacity to manage it. In addition, life seems to have conspired and thrown more unexpected disruptions our way, such as the war in Ukraine, climate change, raging inflation and a slowing world economy.

Individuals experience or cope with change in different ways. Some may be bewildered and anxious. Others may find change exciting and welcome it. There may be some areas where we welcome change and others where we want greater stability. For example, after eating the same food for several days, most people would want a change while with good friends, we would rather that they not change their character too unexpectedly. There is also the matter of whether we initiate the change or others impose it on us. If we choose to change (like taking on a new job), we would be more likely to play a more active role in adjusting to it.

As believers, we ask: what does God say about change and how are we to cope with it? We must first recognise that he never promised that our circumstances will never change. He also never assured us that only changes for the better will be our lot in life. Indeed, the account of Job experiencing one calamity after another shows how Job, whom we are told was blameless and upright (Job 1:8), was not spared personal tragedy.

Job’s response to all his afflictions—losing all his riches and all his offspring—was one of quiet acceptance. In Job 1:21, he put it very succinctly: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked shall I return.” He recognised how puny mankind is in relation to the power of God. This perspective is also evident in Ecclesiastes 3:1-3 (ASV), which says “…a time for every purpose under heaven”. Every purpose includes a time to be born and a time to die, a time to heal and a time to kill, a time to weep and a time to laugh. These verses affirm the complete sovereignty of God over all things, whether we perceive them as good or bad for us.

So, are we to respond to difficult life changes by throwing our hands in the air and saying, “So be it, God wills it”? To hold the view that who are we mere mortals to question what God wants to do? I do not think that Job’s response was one of being cynically resigned to his fate. Instead, like him, we too can question why these things are happening but we need not question God’s purposes and intent. To do so is to question the very nature and character of God. Although God may allow an unexpected thing in your life, we are reminded that he “is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb 13:8). Moreover, “… his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lam 3:22-23 NIV).

To remind ourselves of the perspective to take and therefore allow it to shape our response to change, may we draw on the Apostle Paul’s words to “… fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor 4:18 NIV). In short, not to allow present changes to obscure our view of the eternal realities of our faith.

As we encounter all the changes around us that seem, in Dylan’s words, to “… shake your windows and rattle your walls”, may we not be despairing but have confidence in the unshakeable love and compassion of our Lord.

Benny Bong has been a family and marital therapist for more than 30 years, and is a certified work-life consultant. He was the first recipient of the AWARE Hero Award, received in 2011, and is a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.