In an article in Guidepost magazine, author Elizabeth Sherrill told of the difficulty of moving out of the home she had loved for fifty years. Sorting through and wanting to hang onto the accumulation of a lifetime, she contemplated the myriad changes she and her husband had experienced and the big one they were about to make. This sentence from her article is my theme today: “One prayer God never answers is for things to stay the same.”
Things change! And so often for the better. I like to remind myself that the scriptures always say, “It came to pass.” Never, “it came to stay.” And, for everything we wish would stay the same, there are probably ten things we want to change. The most common claim of self-help books is that they will change your life. Still, there are times we hang on to the status quo.
Repentance Requires Change
Maybe one reason God never answers the prayer for things to stay the same is that we can’t repent without changing. Repentance is a change of mind, a change of heart, a change of behavior, a change of motivation.
Change isn’t usually easy, but ruts are not paths of progress. We need to pull ourselves up and out of ruts and habits that aren’t moving us ahead—to seek the Lord’s help and pay our part of the price of change in order to keep moving in a positive direction.
How the Adversary Intrudes in Both Change and Sameness
When I think of my own life, the underlying theme is probably a yearning for change. I’ve always wanted to do better, to learn more, to live on a higher spiritual plain. While the adversary uses bad patterns and ruts as ways to keep us stuck in “sameness” he also uses our desires for improvement to move us past “divine discontent” to discontent in general. When I focus on weakness and shortcomings, I spend my energy apologizing to the Lord for inadequacies instead of leaning on Him for strength. (See M. Catherine Thomas’s Meridian article “Shifting Our Thinking”).
That focus can also move one into the Korihor philosophy that the answers lie in better “management of the creature.” Satan wants us wear ourselves out believing that if we just try harder and do better, all the good changes we desire will be forthcoming. He wants us to forget that only Christ can change our hearts in any lasting way and only His Atonement gives us changes of eternal significance. In the midst of unwelcome changes, he also wants us to forget something else: to enjoy our lives.
Nothing Is As Constant As Change
Considering the chaos in the world and life’s ups and downs and all the other topics the prophet could have chosen, I found President Monsen’s talk in the 2008 October General Conference about change and enjoying the journey of life so encouraging. Here’s how his address started:
“I begin by mentioning one of the most inevitable aspects of our lives here upon the earth, and that is change. At one time or another we’ve all heard some form of the familiar adage: ‘Nothing is as constant as change.’
“Throughout our lives, we must deal with change. Some changes are welcome; some are not. There are changes in our lives which are sudden, such as the unexpected passing of a loved one, an unforeseen illness, the loss of a possession we treasure. But most of the changes take place subtly and slowly.”
He concluded, “Brothers and sisters, my sincere prayer is that we may adapt to the changes in our lives, that we may realize what is most important, that we may express our gratitude always and thus find joy in the journey.” (Thomas S. Monson, “Finding Joy in the Journey,” Ensign, Nov 2008, 84–87)
What a breath of fresh air to be reminded to enjoy the journey! I decided from his talk that the biggest changes I need to make are 1. To turn my thoughts to gratitude, 2. To learn from the Spirit what is most important for me personally right now—and then to do it with gusto! 3. To be fully present in the present.
Live in the Present
We can enjoy the journey only if we learn to trust God enough to let go of the past, avoid over-concern about the future and live fully in the present. I remember feeling sorry for a fellow college student who was unable to let go of her good home and parents in order to enjoy college life. She cried a lot, ran home whenever possible, and was generally miserable.
I also recall some military wives in the branch I attended when I lived in Spain who seemed utterly unable to open their eyes to the wonder of the culture and history that abounded in their current situation. All they could do was complain about how much they missed the conveniences, products, and associations of their former lives in the States. How much wiser to embrace the changes, and find things to enjoy about them.
One vibrant woman known for her ability to live in the present said she lives by the motto: “Life is a tenuous thing. . . fragile, fleeting. Don’t wait for tomorrow. Be here now!” (John and Stasi Eldredge, Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul, 2005, Nelson Books, 215)
Raising children is nothing but change. Every month, every year, chronicles growth that changes our relationship with each child. Parents of teenagers often lament the loss of the affectionate, compliant child they once knew. But the happiest parents are those who find cause to appreciate the present with whatever challenges it brings and look forward to even greater changes.
Those of us experiencing the empty nest can make the choice to waste our time grieving over the change of the children trying their own wings and no longer living with us or we can enjoy the benefits of the new situation. And so it goes. Things change. Nothing stays the same. The only question is how we choose to respond.
Law of Eternal Progression
I’ve always loved the idea that we will never quit progressing. Progress means change. In this telestial sphere, much that is labeled “progress” requires change that is questionable or results in downright negative consequences. (Think of a new job that takes a parent away from his family or land developments that replace acres of beautiful trees with cement and destroy the natural habitat of wildlife.) However, in the eternities, all progress will be positive. We will change and grow from one level of light and truth to the next with joy and ever-increasing satisfaction. We won’t look back and say, “oh I wish I could be back in such and such a situation,” because we will be enthralled with the present. We will move ahead with gladness to the changes that the next level of progress require.
“By these things we know that there is a God in heaven, who is infinite and eternal, from everlasting to everlasting the same unchangeable God, the framer of heaven and earth, and all things which are in them” (D&C 20:17). In a world where everything changes, it’s good to know we have an unchangeable God: “For I know that God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity” (Moroni 8:18).
I received this bit of wisdom in an e-mail recently: “Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don’t worry, God never blinks.” That perspective can help ease our way through all the change. God doesn’t give a “yes” answer to prayers for things to say the same, but He will help us adapt to the changes and enjoy the journey. He has reassured us: “I am with you withersoever thou goest. I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you to bear you up” (D&C 84:88).