Processing Transition (aka Learning to Trust)

Aug 30, 2022 | 0 comments

When someone comes to me for coaching, we start with an initial conversation. As their story unfolds, I may come to realize they are searching for something I can’t give them. They want someone to coach them out of a hard transition. 

Out of…

That kind of language sends up some red flags for me. Naturally, nobody likes the pain and uncertainty that transition brings up. So I listen to their story, acknowledge the loss, and challenge them to rethink their approach. Here’s some questions I might ask them to consider:

—What if I were to honor God’s ways instead of demanding my own?

—What if I made intentional choices to live according to my desires rather than my default behaviors?

—What if I trusted Him to provide everything I needed for life and godliness in this exhausting process of getting from shore to shore?

—What if I decided what I want to be true about me when I emerge on the other side and cooperated with God as He makes me into that person?

—Do I see transition as chaos or opportunity for transformation? Which one has been my go-to paradigm?

—Lord, how do you want to meet me here?

Solution to Process Focused

These are process-focused questions which get to the heart of God’s growth agenda for us in transition. They create space, allowing time for reflection and discernment. But the temptation is to grab for the first thing in our arsenal to combat a hard transition; we go to solution-focused questions in hopes to solve the problem, get past the hard, and leap to the next thing. Solution-focused questions might look like this:

—How can I get them to see my side of things?

—How can I create more stability for my family?

—Do I really want this responsibility?

—Should I start exploring new ministry opportunities?

—Why should I put up with all this uncertainty when I could be…

Who doesn’t like a good shortcut, right? This approach may create movement, but it lacks direction and depth, short-circuiting the process and keeping us on the surface.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a time and place for solution-based questions, for taking a more active role in initiating movement and change. But we should be careful not to prioritize our own solutions over the Father’s process.

Trust is everything. 

Every difficult transition comes with the looming question, Can I trust the process? Which reminds me of one of my favorite Oswald Chambers quotes…

“What is my dream of God’s purpose? His purpose is that I depend on Him and on His power now. If I can stay in the middle of the turmoil calm and unperplexed, that is the end of the purpose of God. God is not working towards a particular finish; His end is the process — that I see Him walking on the waves, no shore in sight, no success, no goal, just the absolute certainty that it is all right because I see Him walking on the sea. It is the process, not the end, which is glorifying to God.” – My Utmost for His Highest, July 28

Trust the process. Alright Chambers, I see your point. But this trust you’re talking about seems to be the first thing that gets sabotaged in transition. We mistake transition as a problem to solve rather than an opportunity to engage a process of growth. And there goes trust out the window. 

Merely processing as a problem-solving approach does not produce the growth God desires in transition seasons. Both sides of the coin are necessary and good given the proper time and place. But as transition relates to the deeper work God desires to do in us, what might need to shift in terms of how you engage the process?

Alicia Britt Chole challenges us in this regard:

“Process can be a troublesome thing. It disrupts us and disorients us and we would much rather skip to the end. But to live true, we must allow process to run its course. Question it, weep through it, agonize over it . . . but, for the sake of our souls, we dare not truncate process because time alone makes its work soul-deep.”

Because Alicia writes from a lent devotional perspective, she is challenging the reader to “fast” something. She continues…

“Today, fast premature resolution. Resist tidying up when you are in the muddy middle of the process of obedience-in-the-making. Befriend undone. Name the trouble. Like Jesus, talk to yourself and your Father God. Ask Him if alternative routes exist again and again and again . . . until you push through resistance, pass around resentment, press past resignation, and emerge into willful (even if tearful) partnership with God.”- Alicia Britt Chole, 40 Days of Decrease

We are constantly in process from a growth and development perspective. And, we are perpetually processing from a problem solving perspective. These are the two sides of the processing coin.

Take another look at the two sets of processing questions above. Which ones most resonate with you, and why? Might you need to “fast” the solution-focused questions for a season in order to get to the deeper questions? To help you go further in the process I’ve put together a transitions resource packet with some tools and exercises you may find helpful. Get it (free) here.

Photo by Riccardo Annandale on Unsplash

Tim Austin

Husband of one. Father of three. Coach. Podcaster. Cross-cultural worker.

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