Times of Transitions

Over the last month, various emotions and feelings have been brought to the surface, probably initiated by my daughters returning to school and college, resembling some form of normality, yet anything but normal.

Upon reflection on Noah and his time in the ark, I realised that the ark came to rest on the Mountains of Ararat 150 days or exactly 5 months after the rains started (Gen 8:3-4). However, it would be another seven months before God would finally release Noah from the Ark, on the twenty-seventh day of the second month, the following year. In total, they would have been in the Ark for over a year.

Clearly, Noah and his family waited longer to come out of the ark than the period that they were being buffeted about on the waters. Having come to rest on the mountains, this was not yet the time to leave. They seemed to enter a time of waiting, a transition period, not knowing what lay ahead of them. I am sure this came with its own frustrations and fears, wondering if their time in the ark would ever end.

Once God opened the door to the Ark the ‘landscape had changed’. Vegetation needed to grow and flourish again, so God gave them permission to eat meat. Quite a significant change to what had been before, and for the first-time animals feared man (Gen 9: 1-3).

Thinking about Noah’s transition period highlighted some key themes to me.

Characteristics of ‘a season of transition’.

1. Transitions are needed and occur as we move from one season to another. Noah and his family were moving from what had gone before into the unknown.

2. Transition times are vulnerable times. The grace we had in the season before is leaving, but we have not yet arrived in the next season. This can leave us feeling frustrated and as though we do not know where we are going.

3. We do not know what the next season will look like. Noah did not know what the landscape would look like when they left the ark. Similarly, Abraham was told to ‘Go to a place that I will show you’ (Gen 12:1) but did not know where he was going.

4. Familiarity can be our biggest enemy. Even the ark for Noah could have become familiar and difficult to leave when God told him to. We can refrain from moving forward because the unfamiliar is uncomfortable. A stage in childbirth is called the ‘transition phase’. It is the most difficult part, and the only option is to ‘push through it’. We need to ‘push through’ the transition for God to bring us into the place He has promised.

How do we transition well?
1. Recognise that God is our everything.
Proverbs 3: 5 & 6 - ‘Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.’ This is the time to be pressing into God, to be leaning into Him even when we don’t understand. Noah trusted God even when he did not understand, and his faith was counted as righteousness. (Hebrews 11:7).

2. Embrace what has gone before and evaluate where we are going.
We need time to process the past season and embrace any mistakes, then ask God for a glimpse of what is to come.
1 Chronicles 12:32 says “…of the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, their chiefs were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their command;”
As the sons of Issachar discerned the times and seasons, we can ask God to help us understand the times we are living in.

3. Take Courage.
Nelson Mandela once said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
Courage is often found not in a crowd but when you are alone, when no one is aware of whether you have made a hard or right choice.
Noah took his courage from the Lord by standing on what God had said. Joshua was told “Be strong and courageous…this book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth but meditate on it day and night…” (Josh 1:6-9). In times of transition we need to stay close to the word of God, meditate on it – this is what will give us confidence.

4. Be listening to God for the next step.
We don’t need to have the big picture, but we can know at least one step ahead.
▪ Psalm 37:23 – “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way.”
God is the one who ordains our steps and will let us know what to do and when. God told Noah when to leave the ark (Gen 8: 16-17).

5. Prepare for what is next.
Seasons of transition prepare us for what is to come.
▪ Isa 42:9 - Behold, the former things have come to pass, And new things I declare; Before they spring forth I tell you of them."
▪ Isa 43:18-19 - "Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness [And] rivers in the desert.”

When Noah stepped out of the ark the landscape had changed. Vegetation needed to grow again. The aspect of eating meat was a ‘new thing’. There is a sense in this season that God is doing and going to do ‘new things’, not just new ways of doing old things but a ‘brand new season of brand-new things’. We need to be careful not to revert to what we have known in the past but seek the Lord afresh, because if God is doing something new we need to be teachable and flexible, ready to learn new ways. A while ago I had a dream about repeatedly sewing up the same piece of material with no affect and felt the Lord say to me, in the dream, I needed to ‘learn a new way’.

Mark 2:21-22 - "No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear is made worse. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins."

6. Allow God to develop our character.
David went through a season of transition before he became King - a period of growth and transformation when God was developing Himself within David. From God’s perspective, transition is a time when we are the most teachable because we are not in control of the circumstances around us so He can mould and shape us more into His likeness.

Times of transition highlight areas of our hearts that need to be renewed into the likeness of Him. It is an opportunity to rid ourselves of the things that hinder us before we move into the new season - to ‘put off the old self’ and ‘put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.’ (Eph 4: 20-32) - so that we move into the new season with a fresh and renewed intimacy with Him.

7. We need patience and endurance.
Heb 12:1-2 – ‘Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of [our] faith…’

Noah had to have patience and endure the days in the ark. Even when the ark came to rest, he needed to wait some more. Let us be patient and endure the season we are in, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus and not be too quick to leave the ark before the appointed time.

Christine Devenish