We just moved to Oklahoma City from Atlanta, and things went so smoothly… at first. We received a contract on our house three days after it went on the market. The new home that we purchased was the second one we viewed, and within forty-eight hours, we had a contract on that house. We signed the contract on it less than 25 days later. Everything was falling into place.
Then came the disruption. The day we closed on the house in Oklahoma, we prepared for the moving truck to arrive. Well, it’s been twenty-three days since the company packed our belongings, and they have yet to deliver them. Suddenly, we are dealing with an unplanned change.
How do you handle unplanned change? How’s your heart four months into our world’s pandemic? Are you at peace, or do you find yourself angry, fearful, and depressed? It’s natural to want to be in charge of our lives, and most of us can maintain a considerable level of control normally. We schedule our hours, our days, our months, and even our years. We move through rhythms and routines and barely notice the comfort they bring until something happens. So, let me ask that question again: How are you handling the unplanned changes brought on by COVID-19?
Instead of seeing an unplanned change as a disruption to God’s will, what if we saw it as a chance to prioritize and rely on the Holy Spirit for wisdom and direction? In his book, Gospel-Centered Discipleship, Jonathan K. Dodson notes that unlike us, Jesus’ Twelve lived ready for the unexpected: “The disciples in the New Testament often followed their Lord expecting unplanned change. We on the other hand like to manage our lives in order to eliminate unplanned change… When our planned course of action is disrupted, we frequently respond impatiently or angrily. What if you begin to expect unplanned change and interpreted it as an opportunity to rely on the Spirit? Obstacles, challenges and trials would take a very different meaning. Instead of becoming inconveniences and injustices, unplanned change could be an opportunity to rely on the Spirit to discern God’s will and purpose in our circumstances.”
What then do we do when our plans derail? How do we run a home, a ministry, or a business when we don’t know what the following week will bring? First, we must prioritize what matters. When we get into emergency mode, it’s easy to divert to things that seem urgent but are, in reality, insignificant. Instead, we need to continue in our calling. Whether that’s in our home or ministry, unplanned changes can be markers where we stop to differentiate between essentials and non-essentials. For example, as disciple-makers, we should always be encouraging and supporting our people to be in God’s Word. There is never a time when that is unimportant. However, what we do need to reimagine is how we get people into the Bible.
What are those essentials for you and your ministry? In my role as the National Kids’ Director, I must always focus on teaching children to pray, worship, and learn from God’s Word. I also pour into parents as the primary disciplers. Finally, I support and equip children’s ministries leaders. These things are my mainstays. However, an unplanned change, like Covid-19, challenges me to ask the Holy Spirit to help me in re-imagining how to do that most effectively. It pushes me to learn new methods of ministry, connect with local ministry leaders, and, most importantly, rely on God and not myself. Unplanned changes take the emphasis off of our experience and expertise. They humble us. They help us recognize our idols of self-sufficiency. They remind us who is really in control and call us to lean on Christ.
While Covid-19 has challenged me, so has not having my furniture. To be honest, there are moments when I’m incredibly frustrated. It feels like an unjust situation, and I’m tired of being inconvenienced. However, as I pray, God reminds me that He is in control and that my belongings on that truck are only things. He’s also reminded me that although I am ready to be settled and make this new place “ours,” that house is not my home. I’m an alien in this land and on my way to my forever home with Him. So if it takes some unplanned changes (major or minor) to refocus our eyes on Jesus and be about His business, let’s fight to see this time as a gift, even as we pray for an ending to this unwelcome change.
Kristi Cain currently serves as the National Director of Children's Ministries. She has served in a broad range of discipleship capacities since she graduated from Emmanuel College in 1997. She was formerly the Executive Editor of Curriculum for the IPHC and has also enjoyed being on the staff of two churches where she directed student and children’s ministry programs. Through the years she has taught and worked on the campuses of Emmanuel College and Wheaton College
She is married to her best friend, Jamie, and together they have three children: Cullen, Owen, and Annabeth. Kristi loves exploring new places with her family, conversing over morning coffee with her husband, reading, and teaching at her church.