Transitions: 4 Things to do in the 'Now What?' Times of Life

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”—-John Lennon.

Spend any time at all on this earth and you’ll quickly come to the realization that life is comprised of a series of consequential events and seasons connected by a series of transitions.

When we are preparing to graduate from high school or college after spending years studying for tests, writing papers, and completing assignments, we wonder, “Now what?”. The whole world is open to us, and there are more possibilities and opportunities available than we’ve ever had to consider. Similarly, if we get married or move to a new area of the country, where we have few connections, if any, we ponder, “Now what?”. Once we decide to start a family, we have an average of nine months to read books on childbirth, prepare the nursery, choose a pediatrician, and mentally plan for that baby, just enough time to obsess over “Now what?”. Perhaps in the rearing of children there’s a transition between working full-time and becoming a homemaker. That gives us pause to consider, “Now what?”. There’s a time when children grow and prepare to leave the nest that has parents thinking, “Now what?”. Working years may come to an end, and with the retirement years looming ahead, our identity may be in a sort of crisis as we try to figure out, “Now what?”. We may receive crushing news of a death or other great loss, receive a devastating health diagnosis, experience a layoff or other financial ruin, or suffer the indescribable betrayal of infidelity, or any number of other life-altering events. Any and all of these scenarios may have us questioning, “Now what?”.

What do we do in the transitions of life? How can we navigate the in-betweens when we have a big “Now what?” staring us in the face? Because I’m still walking out this life in real time, this idea is a work in progress, but so far, it seems to me there are four actions we can take. Actions which, at first glance, may seem ironically passive: be still, seek, reflect, and submit. I say ironically because these four “actions” don’t seem active at all. In fact, it may be difficult to imagine how to ‘do’ them at all. Something I’ve come to understand, however, is that active passivity on our part creates massive action in the heavenly realm.

Be Still: We struggle, especially in the West, with being still. From the time we are old enough to hold the bat in T-ball or slip into our first pair of dance shoes, our culture emphasizes non-stop activity. Scouts, sports, drama, music lessons, dance lessons, and after school clubs all compete for our time as children. Extracurriculars don’t end when we graduate from school, either. We serve on committees, work our careers (and even side hustles), volunteer, and drive carpools. Even when we’re not on the go, our minds are spinning. Think of how often we pick up our phones to check social media or emails. I’ve even found myself working on the computer while responding to a text. We have gotten so accustomed to filling every second of our lives with activity, that the mere idea of being still nearly makes our skin crawl.

Friends, that’s not how God designed our lives to be! Rest was intended to be a significant part of our lives. In the Garden of Eden, God established a day of rest when He spoke all creation into being in six days and rested on the seventh. Later, God decreed that taking a day of rest one day a week, the Sabbath, was so important that He included the command to rest in the Ten Commandments. In scripture, we see the LORD working while the people were instructed to be still.

"Be still and know that I am God." (Ps. 46:10a).

“The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Ex. 14:14).

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mt. 11:28-30).

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,

“In returning and rest you shall be saved;

in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” (Is.30:15).

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! (Lk 12:25-28).

In each of these scriptures we are able to perceive that God is working behind the scenes as the people were still: in their waiting, they came to understand that God is God (and we are not), that God defends us, that Jesus bears our burdens and eases our striving, that we are saved and strengthened as we wait and trust Him, and that God provides for us above and beyond what we are able to gain for ourselves.

In addition to trusting in the Lord by ceasing from striving and learning to be still, we must seek Him while we are still and waiting. It requires us to become comfortable with the discomfort of aloneness and quiet. We have to get into the Word and dig in. Seeking the Lord can involve not only reading and meditating on His word, but also praying and asking for a fresh revelation of His will, His character, His love for us, or His ability to save, protect, or renew us as we wait. Not only that, but truly being still and seeking God may even involve sitting quietly and listening, not speaking while we pray, often without ‘hearing’ anything. We have to realize that God’s silence doesn’t equal His abandonment. Seeking God, even when it seems He is silent, is a posture of reverence, of being quiet, and giving the Holy Spirit time and space to speak. Scripture is chock-full of examples of His faithful people waiting and seeking Him in their “now what” situations.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope (Ps.130:5).

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him (Is.30:18).

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord… (Jer. 29:13-14a).

…but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint (Is. 40:31).

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Mt. 6: 31-33).

But for you, O Lord, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer (Ps. 38:15).

Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long (Ps.25:5).

From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him (Is. 64:4).

But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me (Micah 7:7).

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! (Ps. 37:7).

The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;

he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.

The Lord helps them and delivers them;

he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,

because they take refuge in him (Ps. 37:39-40).

In the process of seeking the Lord, the writers of the above scriptures increased in faith, in hope, and in receiving mercy and justice; their material needs were met, they gained strength, they received answers and wisdom, instruction and guidance. Don’t we all need those very things in our lives? Receiving any of those benefits from God won’t happen until we decide to wait and seek Him.

As we are still, waiting, and seeking, we also should take time to reflect. Look back over your life and think about all the times (even before you were a follower of Jesus) that God was gracious to you. How often have you received mercy instead of getting what you really had coming to you? How many times have you received countless blessings and undeserved favor from God? How many times has your life been spared or your needs been miraculously met? Sometimes it’s difficult to remember the truth when we’re in the middle of struggling with something. If so, ask the Holy Spirit to bring things to your remembrance. If we take time to earnestly reflect on the questions above, we would be astounded and extremely grateful.

There was a time when I would jot down prayer requests in a small spiral notebook. These requests spanned the gamut of the mundane to life-altering, big decisions. Once God had answered the prayers, I would go back and highlight the requests with a yellow highlighter. I didn’t advertise this practice; it was just a personal reminder of God’s goodness, grace, and provision in my life and the life of my family. One day, my husband Clint came across the journal open on the table. He asked about it, about what the highlighted parts meant. I explained the journal and the purpose of the yellow marks. He was blown away: “This whole thing is practically yellow! That’s amazing!” Scripture assures us that we overcome by the blood of the Lamb and our testimony (Rev. 12:11). Therefore, I encourage you to tangibly document God’s goodness so that you can reflect on this in your own life as well.

Psalm 103 is a favorite passage of reflection. It can remind us of all of God’s blessings and benefits to every believer. Take a moment now to reflect on these words written by David:

Bless the Lord, O my soul,

and all that is within me,

bless his holy name!

Bless the Lord, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits,

who forgives all your iniquity,

who heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit,

who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

who satisfies you with good

so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness

and justice for all who are oppressed.

He made known his ways to Moses,

his acts to the people of Israel.

The Lord is merciful and gracious,

slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

He will not always chide,

nor will he keep his anger forever.

He does not deal with us according to our sins,

nor repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;

as far as the east is from the west,

so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

As a father shows compassion to his children,

so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.

For he knows our frame;

he remembers that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass;

he flourishes like a flower of the field;

for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,

and its place knows it no more.

But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,

and his righteousness to children’s children,

to those who keep his covenant

and remember to do his commandments.

The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,

and his kingdom rules over all.

Bless the Lord, O you his angels,

you mighty ones who do his word,

obeying the voice of his word!

Bless the Lord, all his hosts,

his ministers, who do his will!

Bless the Lord, all his works,

in all places of his dominion.

Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Wow— I counted at least 16 benefits of having God as our Lord in that passage! Reflecting on the goodness of God during times of uncertainty reminds us that we are not alone. It helps us to remember that, just as God has been with us and taken care of us in the past, we can count on Him to continue to do so in our futures, however uncertain they may seem. God is our anchor, our rock, our shelter, our stronghold. Reflecting helps bring us back to that truth and enables us to have hope, because we are reminded that our hope is not in our situation being made easier; rather, our hope is in the person of Jesus Christ.

The final, and perhaps most difficult, phase of determining the next step in a “now what” situation after being still, seeking God, and reflecting on His blessings, benefits, and provision is submission. Independently, willful, stubborn beings that we are, we don’t like that word. defines submit as “to give over or yield to the power or authority of another.”1 Humans do not readily give power over to others. From the time a toddler possesses the first inkling of self-awareness and experiences her first taste of autonomy, she’s hooked. We all rail against giving up our power to another in any sense of the word.

Submission to God requires humility, another facet of the Christian life that we don’t take on all too willingly or readily. Scripture, however, shows in passage after passage how humbling ourselves before God allows Him to raise us up for His purposes and our benefits! Here are a few examples:

Toward the scorners he is scornful,

but to the humble he gives favor (Prov. 3:34).

…he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God (James 4:6-7a).

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you (James 4:10).

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you (1 Pet. 5:5-7).

In the case of moving forward during the “now what” moments of our lives, submitting to God’s will for your life can put you on a clear path, girded in wisdom. Proverbs 3:5-6 instructs us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.” Similarly, Galations 5:25 says “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

Think about this logically. If you have gotten still before the Lord, taken time to seek His will for your life, reflected on how He has guided you and taken care of you in the past, it is easier to trust Him in the present and for the future. Therefore, it is easier to trust Him enough to submit to His will for your life and obey Him. It is easier to follow the instructions of Someone, the Good Shepherd, knowing that He loves you and has plans to give you a hope and a future (Jer. 29:11).