Change is Gradual, Not a Race: Guest Post by Jessica Sawaya

Change- it’s scary, difficult and brings out all kinds of emotions in someone: fear, excitement, joy, sadness, etc. Everyone goes through it, in all sorts of sizes, from microscopic change to more extensive change- it’s simply complex. In the last couple of months, I’ve personally gone through various changes, the biggest one has been moving halfway across the world for college and let me tell you, it’s been one of the hardest changes I’ve had to adjust to yet.

I grew up in a city called Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The UAE is located in the Middle East, and Abu Dhabi is the capital city right next to the more well-known city of Dubai. I lived there for the majority of my life, 17 and a half years, to be exact. It’s a place that is so dear to my heart and I am grateful to be able to call it home.

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I may be quite biased with what I say next, but Abu Dhabi is one of the most unique places to be and being a part of such a diverse city is what made my experiences and more specifically, my walk with Christ, such an influential journey. The friendships I have made, the different cultures I’ve gotten to learn about and even partake in have taught me so much about people’s viewpoints on the world, how to love others as Christ would, and just simply having that opportunity to be a light to people who don’t know Him personally. While those had been some of the highlights, knowing that my time in such a place was running down the clock every second of every day, knowing this chapter was coming to an end and a new one about to begin, made me fear the unknown even more.

My final day came, and there are no words to even begin to describe how I felt, but one thing I could say was that I was NOT mentally prepared, in the sense that it didn’t feel like it was going to be my new reality. I just saw it as another summer away from home. Even though I had been talking about it with my family, friends, and God for months and months before, it just never sunk in and it was also me denying the change in a way. But who wouldn’t? Leaving the comfort of your home and the only place that you have known your entire life is terrifying and a huge transition that your mind needs to take in.  

Fast forward to the first couple of months living in the US, I tried to deal with the change right away. I kept looking at the positive things and would not even let the slightest of homesick feelings creep in. Of course, it happened a couple of times but just for a few minutes and never more than that. I submerged my feelings so far down and I rarely talked about it with God either. I was still in denial and refused to let the change and emotional roller coaster take its turn. Personally, I was in the honeymoon period, where all this change was so new, fresh and exciting. Don’t get me wrong, it was how I was feeling; however, that is all I let myself feel.

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Eventually, those pushed down feelings started making its way up to the surface and one night, I decided to look through my memories from back home and that is when I just completely broke down. I felt defeated, heartbroken, weak and above all, disappointed. I cried and cried and cried and couldn’t stop. I asked God why I felt so much pain and why I was hurting like this. I had just made amazing friends here in college, I found a church that I truly felt a part of and I was growing rapidly in my relationship with Him. I just didn’t understand it.

I remember one Sunday at church; the sermon was about carrying all this external baggage and how that can hold us back from the life God wants to fulfill for us. More specifically, when we have baggage, we should not carry it alone, we need Him and also the church community to share it with. The verse that was given with this message was:

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Matthew 6:33

When we seek God and acknowledge His goodness, graciousness, and glory (what I call the three g’s), He will provide all that we need to get through our trials, it could be at times where we least expect it. And that is when my mindset started to change and I allowed myself to open up my heart to every emotion I was feeling. I started talking more about it with my parents, siblings, friends and I definitely opened up to Jesus about it. In those times of talking to Him, He taught me something significant through the chorus of a song called “Seasons Change” by United Pursuit and has been on my mind ever since:

“Though the seasons change, your love remains.”

Even though every season of life has its changes, Jesus remains faithful and His love for us NEVER CHANGES. His character stays the same regardless of what goes on in our lives, prosperous or dry seasons, and that to me has been one of the prominent reasons to why I do not fear change nearly as much as I used to, because His steadfast love for me is sufficient enough to prepare my heart, mind, and soul for the next changes in my life. There has also been a couple of verses that have stuck with me through the times where I’ve experienced various changes, here are a few of them:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 

Hebrews 13:8

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.

Lamentations 3:25

Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Matthew 6:34

Cast your burdens on the Lord, and he will sustain you.

Psalm 55:22

These verses emphasize the promise that God has our path all mapped out for us and that we need to persevere and remain patient through times of uncertainty and the unknown. Also, we should not carry the hardships that come with change on our shoulders and on our own strength because no matter how hard we try, it will never be enough.

So even though I have transformed my mindset about one of the biggest changes in my life and I have been able to work through it, I still struggle, stumble and fall down because I am still human, a human being that continuously sins and is broken. Although this time, I have accepted God to pick up some of the heavy burdens of change and do not lean on my own strength. Also, I remind myself that I am not alone in this and I want to remind everyone reading this that you are not alone either. There will be times when experiencing changes in life, that you may feel exhausted, depressed or burnt out, and that is okay! BUT do not bottle it up and seclude yourself. Talk to someone about it: a friend, your pastor, youth leader, and above all, open up to God about it! He hears you, loves you so much more than anyone else on this earth will ever be able to and He will provide in His perfect timing. The last important reminder that I want to speak about is do not treat change as a race. Change is not something you can accomplish overnight, it is not a “how fast can I settle in” type of deal, and it is not a task checked off on your to-do list. It is a process, more specifically, it is a gradual process. It takes time and as agonizing as that could be to be patient, it is a fact that needs to be accepted.

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I want to reassure you all that change is still hard and all these things that I tell you will not completely prevent the circumstances of change but if you can set your mind on God himself and abide in Him, I can guarantee that the way you portray the concept of change will be quite different, as it has for me. I want to end with this verse that always keeps me encouraged and hopefully will do the same for all of you too:

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

John 15:7

Thank you all for reading, and thank you to Jess for sharing her story with you guys! As always, if you have questions or comments, head on over to the ‘Contact’ page. If you have any questions for Jess, send them to that page and I’ll be sure to pass them on!

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