Imagine that your friend has just handed you a page from her journal…
Another day, another disappointment. I’ve been waiting, studying, looking for any signs of the slightest change. Nothing. Zero. Nada. It ain’t happening. He’s the same person today that he was yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that. It goes way back, this sin that he still hasn’t managed to remedy in his life, that defect of character that he hasn’t yet shored up. It’s ugly, unbecoming – hideous to me,now, really. I am numb. I don’t care about it anymore. I’m resigned to the fact that change is probably never going to come. I have been in pain, waiting on change to come. Well, I’m done waiting. Now, I just want to know how to get on with my life.
As a Certified Biblical Counselor, I am familiar with these types of “journal entries”. This type of interpersonal conflict is common among us. Each of us has probably penned something similar to this at least once in our lives about someone. For some, the ink might still be fresh on the page.
Change is hard, especially when we’re dealing with habituated sin – “I do not understand what I do… For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing…What a wretched man I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?” (Romans 7:15-24).
But, if we are in Christ, the good news is that heart change is always possible. ALWAYS…”Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25). If we are going to have any hope in this kind of a “hopeless” situation, we have to believe this.
If we give up hope that God can and will eventually bring lasting change in a person, we will be left frustrated, despairing, and tempted to sin.
Now, I want to interject a common question that arises here – What if the person who is failing to change really isn’t a believer? Or, what if the person professes to be a Christian, but they just aren’t changing (there are no visible signs of fruit)?
Well, I would say, You have two choices here:
- Decide that this person is an unbeliever, in which case you can relax about change, because they are not capable of it. Instead, now direct your attention to presenting the good news of the gospel, from which you know the only hope of change can come.
- Take them at their word and trust God to continue working in their life and using you in the sanctification process.
Either way, you’re at a crossroads here. You have the privilege and opportunity, now, to wait upon and watch God work to affect change in another person’s life – a chance to witness a miracle of sorts, or you can throw your hands up in the air and surrender to despair. The choice is up to you.
Heart change is hard, messy work, and it can be a long time coming. We want and expect it to be quick, but, with deep-rooted sin, often it’s not.
Aren’t we so thankful and grateful that God is long-suffering?
So, what do we do when we’ve grown weary, waiting for someone to change and we just don’t feel like waiting any longer?
We have to start by asking ourselves some crucial initial questions:
- Am I willing to wait however long it takes for God to bring about the change I’ve desperately been waiting for?
- Am I willing to suffer as I trust the same Author and Perfecter of my faith (Heb. 12:2) to initiate and carry through on His promise to conform His other children into the image of His Son?
- Am I willing to be faithful and obedient to continue running with endurance this race set before me (Heb. 12:1) – in the sharing of the Gospel with an unbeliever or in bearing with the imperfections of my sister or brother in Christ?
The choice, again, is ours: stay and “share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:3), or give up and walk away.
It reminds me of Joshua’s challenge to his brethren: “…choose for yourselves today whom you will serve…” (Joshua 24:15)
Like Joshua, will you say, “…as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD”?
If the answer to that is, “Yes!” then I invite you to join me for part 2 of When Change Seems Impossible where we’ll discuss what to do while we wait*.
* If you are in an abusive or destructive relationship, you need to enlist the help of your pastor, elders, and possibly even the civil authorities. Safety is your number one priority, right now. You can still love, wait, hope, and pray for your loved one, from a distance, where you can be safe)