What Exodus Teaches Us About Navigating Change

Written by: Amy Hemseri-Sabala
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Change is often difficult; it can be exciting and stressful at the same time. In Isaiah 43, the prophet addressed the changing circumstances facing the exiled Israelites: their army had been scattered, their nation destroyed and the situation around them seemed hopeless. In this frightening time of change, God reminded them through the prophet Isaiah: “fear not, for I have redeemed you”, “do not be afraid, for I am with you”. God was with them, and promised to provide for his people.

God didn’t just reassure his people, he also declared a new thing in Isaiah 43.

A new thing is needed because things have changed – Israel is in exile, their old city is gone and a new city must be built. When God is doing a new thing, we must not get in the way by staying invested in how things used to be. God calls us to constantly adapt to the changes we face, and in doing so, we keep his message of hope fresh and our trust in him secure.

The Bible is one story after another about navigating change. When God brought Israel out of Egypt, (beginning in Exodus 12) it was a big change for the people.

When enslaved, they at least had a roof over their heads and food to eat in Egypt. After they crossed the Red Sea, they were nomads, with no defined sleeping place or food source. It was frightening and unnerving, and the change was almost too much to bear. They grumbled at God, and as a result they wandered the dessert for 40 years and and entire generation was kept from entering the Promised Land.
We see from the Israelites’ experience that in order for something new to begin, something old has to end. It’s hard to imagine grumbling against God when he brought us out of slavery, but give it a little thought: we’ve all grumbled at change, even good, healthy change. Even when changes are good, like a move, a marriage, a promotion at work, or a baby, we still lose what we leave behind and we should remember those things and give thanks for God’s goodness in the change. Israel didn’t take time to think about leaving Egypt and what they would lose as they followed God. They just left, and once they had safely crossed the Red Sea, they couldn’t let go of the past or see God’s faithfulness. They compared everything to their old way of life; they were stuck in their minds, not trusting God for their future and to see them through this scary change.

Change is inevitable. Change will come even when we do our very best to hold things stable.

We can’t control what life throws at us. Often, we have no power over the changes or disasters in our lives, and we must lean on God to direct and guide us. Times of change are uncomfortable and many of us are likely to try to rush through it and start something new. Instead, let’s ask God what he has to teach us in the changes of life. What can we learn and how can we grow? Once we’ve learned those lessons, we’re ready for a new beginning.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19)

Read an earlier post by Amy here.

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