The following is written particularly for my United Methodist friends and family members who are entering into the pastor reassignment season. However, there is encouragement here for anyone facing a difficult transition; and let’s face it: most transitions are difficult.

For those of you that don’t know, the United Methodist Church (UMC) has a practice of moving its pastors on a regular basis. While the local church fellowship has some say in the process, the denominational hierarchy – as the ordained authority – ultimately decides where pastors will serve. Growing up in the UMC, and serving in various local leadership roles, I have experienced the confusion and heartache that comes with losing a pastor to the reassignment process. My heart goes out to those that are experiencing it now.

When I was younger, transitions of this sort were difficult – perhaps mostly because I did not have a say in the decision that was so negatively affecting me, my family, and my fellowship. Of course, this was not unlike other transitions I have been forced to navigate; the loss of a job and my daughter moving away from home come quickly to mind.

Others have suffered the loss of parents, spouses, and children. They have had to learn to move on to a life that is significantly different. Transitions are difficult… but they do not have to be defeating. God has a way for us to navigate the most difficult transitions of life, and help others do the same.

First: Encouragement

When we go through a difficult transition, we must force our minds to acknowledge that God is a careful and purposeful orchestrator. He works all things to the good of those that love Him, that are called to His purpose (Romans 8:28). As much as I disagree with the UMC reassignment process, I know that God has grace for it – to use it to His purposes, and that includes His purposes for everyone involved.

God is not surprised that the UMC hierarchy has decided to move the pastor my mom and dad (and their church fellowship) have grown to love. In fact, it is on His mind. As the sovereign and omniscient orchestrator, He has worked it into His plan. I honestly don’t know of a greater encouragement than that.

Second: Responsibility

As much as we would like to think we are neutral observers in this life, that kind of thinking is simply deception. We are either for God, or against Him. We may, in the natural, take a “whatever” laisse-faire attitude toward a difficult transition. However, if God is carefully and purposefully orchestrating something – and has positioned us in the middle of it – then our unwillingness to participate is a resistance to the will of God. It is truly that simple.

Again, when we are faced with a difficult transition, we must force our minds to think in line with God’s will. We have been given the mind of Christ (1Corinthians 2:16); it is not as hard to think like God as our carnal mind would have us accept.

So, how do we discover and align ourselves with God’s will in a difficult transition? How do we understand and realize our assignment, and find the motivation for it? The answer can be found in Psalm 37, verses three through six (as a side note, I encourage you to read the entire chapter; it is one of my favorites).

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.

Verse three of Psalm 37 establishes God’s conditions for the process and promises that follow. The promises of God are for those that enjoy a healthy relationship with Him. It is particularly important to note that “the land” of the Old Covenant is the kingdom of God in the New. Jesus began His ministry preaching, “the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:14), and He explained the nature of that kingdom in His parables. Dwelling in the kingdom of God is a prerequisite condition for our participation in His work.

Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

Verse four contains an incredible promise, preceded by a surprising condition. God has promised to give us the desires of our heart. Think about that for a minute. No matter how big the desire God has placed in your heart, He – the creator and orchestrator of all life – has promised to give it to you! There is no need to doubt, or to fear failure; for God has taken responsibility to give it.

There is, however, a condition for God giving us the desires of our heart: we must delight in Him. Here we find a bit of hidden mystery. The Hebrew word that is translated as “delight” is not what you might expect. It doesn’t mean to be happy with, joyful about, etc. That is the meaning of the Hebrew word chalets (found many times in the Psalms). David, led by the Spirit of God, chose here to use the Hebrew word anag. Anag simply means “to be soft”; soft like clay in the Potter’s hands. The condition for receiving the desires of our heart is our surrender to God and the desires He has carefully placed in us.

Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.

Moving on to verse five, we find another conditional promise. God will bring our desires to pass (i.e., He will work it out) if we commit our way to Him and trust Him with it. This does not mean to make a plan and ask Him to bless it. “Commit” literally means to “roll off onto” (i.e., to give it up). This actually makes a lot of sense. If God has the purpose, wouldn’t He also have the plan? Would He trust one of us to make one up? Whose plan would you rather follow?

Lastly, we come to two of the most exciting promises in all of Scripture. No matter how difficult the transition may be, if we will walk in right relationship with God, surrender to the desires He has placed in our heart, and give up our plans for His…

He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light,
And your justice as the noonday

Recognizing that Jesus Christ is our righteousness (1Corinthians 1:30) and our light (John 1:4), we understand that God intends to accomplish a work through us that will glorify Himself. In doing so, we become the vessels and instruments of His glory. This first promise explains and fulfills Jesus’ command in Matthew 5:16: Let your light so shine before men, that when they see your good work, they glorify your Father in heaven.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we were made to walk in the good work of God, work that He achieves through us during difficult transitions. As a writer, there is no greater pleasure than to be God’s pen. Here, through this article, He is blessing me to be a part of the manifestation of His glory in the UMC reassignment process.

God’s second promise in Psalm 37:6 is, “He shall bring forth… your justice as the noonday.” Not only will the difficult transition work to your good (Romans 8:28), but through it all will be able to see the love and care God pours out on His surrendered and trusting children.

Third: Opportunity

God’s encouragement and promises are sure; our responsibilities to Him are obvious. Still, we must, of necessity, force our minds to weigh the required investment – to count the cost. It is critical that we consider Psalm 37:3-6 as an invitation to a conversation with God.

What are the desires He has placed in our hearts?

What are His plans?

What is our assignment, and who would He have us work with?

Our Father in heaven is waiting for our questions; He loves talking with His children. Will we invest the time to talk with Him?

God is more interested in our being with Him than our doing things for Him. We simply must carve out time to spend with Him if we hope to navigate successfully through difficult transitions. Short-cutting this step will cost us dearly; the transition will be harder than necessary and we will likely miss God’s good work in it. We must force our minds to ask our heart the question, “Is it worth it?”

God bless you with grace for the adventure.

Humbly yours and forever His,