Transitions have much to teach us
When one door closes, another one opens … but before we get there, we’ve got to make it through a hallway.
Our lives are largely made of distinct phases, ‘chapters,’ if you will. Periods of time connected with certain places or activities. Going to college, for example. That’s a distinct chapter in one’s life with a beginning, middle, and end.
We often go through less exciting periods of transition between these chapters. These are the “hallways” we must go through to get from one door to the next. To get to our next chapter and start our next adventure.
It can seem like not much is happening when we’re in the hallway. We may simply be ‘going through the motions’ at these times. Working a job we know we won’t stay at while we plan our next move, for example. Things like that.
With so many people around the world staying at home during the Coronavirus crisis, many of them may be feeling a forced ‘hallway’ moment of their own, boredom, anxiety, and depression building as it feels like they’re not going anywhere or doing anything.
But the hallways we go through are great opportunities in disguise. That’s why I’m grateful for mine. Today I’m talking about some benefits of these hallway periods, what to do during one, and why to trust God while in one.
Time to think
Having some transition time between chapters of our life is a great thing. It’s like God slowing us down, making us stop and think about the last chapter we finished before starting the next one. This is when God prepares us for that next chapter.
What’s so special about time to stop and think? We often don’t stop to take this time in our fast-paced world. We often rush from one chapter to the next without thinking through the lessons of the last one. That is a great way to continue making the same mistakes.
After all, not every chapter of our life ends well. Some end painfully, in tears. Some end with life-changing losses. Some end with professional setbacks. We don’t start a chapter of our life planning for it to end badly. These unfortunate, sometimes tragic endings hit us unexpectedly.
When our big plans fall through when our dreams go up in smoke when our hopes are crushed … it’s time to mourn, yes. There is a time to sit with the sadness and disappointment and feel it. But after some of that, it’s time to reflect on our last life chapter that ended badly and understand the lessons God is trying to teach us through it.
By that, I do not mean obsessing over different scenarios such as, “If I had done X, Y wouldn’t have happened.” That kind of thinking drives us insane, fast. No, this is when we must pray for the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.
We simply ask God, “what are You trying to teach me through this (situation)?” We add that to our prayers. Rest assured we will receive an answer! Sometimes it takes time before God answers us, even months, but He does.
Time to read
Though we should always be in God’s Word, reading the Bible every day, hallways are especially good times for reading the Bible.
If our last chapter ended badly, chances are the sting of disappointment and lingering questions will be on our mind every day. Even if we try to think about something else, our mind keeps returning to the same painful question marks about what happened. That’s how it is for me, anyway.
But here’s the thing: Others have already been through what we’re going through now, as far back as the days of the Old Testament.
The Bible is full of characters experiencing the same hardships, mistakes, betrayals, setbacks, disappointments, failures, and tragedies that we do. The details are different, but the substance of what we all go through is the same.
What is happening now has happened before, and what will happen in the future has happened before, because God makes the same things happen over and over again. (Ecclesiastes 3:15, NLT)
The basics of our human condition have always been the same. Life has always been hard and unfair. When we read the Bible during a hallway time in our life, we can read stories of characters who went through our same situation long before us. We can learn how they got past it, and what God had to say about it.
When we see an answer relating to us, we’ll know it! If we keep reading, we’ll see a Scripture passage or Bible story that resonates perfectly with our situation. So let’s keep reading and praying every day.
In the slow transition of the hallway, we are blessed with the quiet time we need to reflect on our life lessons with God through prayer and by studying His Word.
We must slow down and claim the blessing of that time though, without being in a rush to start the next chapter.
Time to prepare
When we slow down to consider the lessons of the last chapter, we see how God is preparing us in the hallway for what’s next. As we pray to Him for wisdom, He educates us on how to move forward.
I’ll use my own example to explain. My most recent life chapter ended with me leaving a relationship. I gave her my reasons, and I left. That was some months ago. Since then I’ve been in a hallway of singleness.
Instead of rushing into another relationship out of the fear of being alone, something the old me would have done, I took it slow this time. I focused on improving myself while trying to draw closer to Jesus every day.
Because I stopped to think, I had the peace I needed to hear the quiet voice of God’s Holy Spirit inside me, giving me the wisdom I was asking for.
God showed me that this woman had mentally and emotionally abused me in our relationship — I hadn’t even known it! This kind of abuse is very stealthy, we often don’t realize it until later.
God’s education came in different forms: A relevant Scripture here, an enlightening YouTube video there, and plenty of dreams in my sleep. It all came together so that I knew God was giving me the education I never received. The wisdom I was praying to Him for.
He showed me areas where I needed to work on myself, weaknesses I wasn’t aware of. He showed me that this woman was unquestionably abusive, and how to detect that in the future. He is preparing me to get my next relationship right. Without this preparation, I would get abused again!
He is preparing me for my next chapter, the one He truly wants for me.
So can you see what I mean when I say God prepares us for the next chapter during these hallway times? If we stay close to Him, He will give us the answers we seek.
Keep moving in the hallway
The hallway itself is a test of its own. When one door closes, another one opens. But first, we must travel the hallway to find the new door that’s open.
If the hallway is dark and we don’t know where we’re going, this is daunting. We get scared. We feel the temptation to go back to a door we already left behind because it’s familiar to us. We know where it is.
Some hallways are long, boring, scary, painful, nerve-wracking. It’s not always a relaxed, pleasant time. When we know we can get short-term relief or pleasure from a door that closed in the past, we get tempted.
For me, that’s the siren song of drugs. If I turned to drugs I’d be going backward at least 3 or 4 chapters. I know I don’t want to go backward, and I know how bad those chapters were. But the temptation remains because my hallway is long, it’s lonely, and I don’t know where it’s going. The promise of (short-term) consolation amidst this uncertainty is what tempts me.
We must remember why we closed the old doors and ended those chapters. Remember how things ended and what we suffered instead of any short-lived pleasure we had.
The temptation to fall back on old habits or return to old people will always be there. But the hallway is when we need to move forward. It’s not time to return to our old ways—that’s going backward. It’s time to find the new door God opened somewhere — that’s forward, somewhere down the hallway.
We must have faith and follow His guidance when we know we’re being led. We won’t know where He’s leading us, but if we know we’re going in the right direction (not going backward), that’s all we need to know!
Moving in the right direction is what’s important, not the speed. Every step we take in the hallway brings us one step closer to the end of it. Every day that passes means one less day to go. Baby steps will get us where we’re going, when it’s time for us to get there.
If we knew our destination before we got there, would we take the full journey God wants us to, or we would look for a shortcut? Would we learn the lessons God needs us to? Would we do the work He asks of us?
In the darkness of the hallway, walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Our God is always with us, so there’s nothing to fear.
The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (Deuteronomy 31:8, NIV)
Like I said, the hallways can be difficult. Getting through them can require patience, fortitude, endurance, tenacity, and determination … or all of the above.
What’s important is that we keep following God, and keep moving in the right direction. Following God’s guidance is moving forward; falling back on old ways, habits, and people is going backward. These only appear comforting because we fear the unknown future. Have faith that God is leading us somewhere much better.
We might feel we’re moving slowly, but our baby steps will grow larger and more confident as we get a better feel for where God is leading us. Keep moving forward when in the hallway, keep moving. If we do, we just might find a light switch that illuminates our whole situation.
Thank God for the hallways
It’s important to recognize when we’re in a hallway period, a transition from one life chapter to the next.
God is in no hurry and we shouldn’t be either. He uses these times to prepare us for our future, so it’s important to slow down and learn the lessons we need to. We must take the time to hear what God is saying.
And we must keep moving. This could mean moving on emotionally, it could mean self-improvement, it could mean education … all kinds of things. When we pray to the Holy Spirit for wisdom, we receive it. When we receive that wisdom, we must have the courage to follow it, even if we don’t see where it’s going! It can seem scary, but it’s the way God is showing us. It leads somewhere much better.
And stay positive! Remember that at the end of this hallway is the next life chapter, the next adventure. That next chapter must be pretty awesome, don’t you think? Why else would God spend time working on us like this? He needs us ready to handle the blessings He wants to give us.
So I say thank God for the hallways!
This story is published in Koinonia — stories by Christians to encourage, entertain, and empower you in your faith, food, fitness, family, and fun.