I communicate on a daily basis with many peer group friends who are advancing in age. They email me, write me, phone me, and we meet at church or in the community. There is not one of us who is not going through some changes in his or her life.
Changes come in all shapes and sizes. Among them are Changes in living circumstances, being uprooted in living space and having to move; needing to downsize possessions and part with precious memorabilia, decisions overlaid with emotion; changes in long time relationships, children relocating, friends dying, perhaps being left to grow old alone without our life's companion; changes in bodily and mental health, diminishing strength and energy, more medical appointments than social engagements.
Like it or not, we all have to cope with changes in some way. Changes are inevitable, and they come thick and fast as we grow older. For the Christian, changes are not accidental or incidental. They are God’s means for our growth in maturity. They are part of the Heavenly Potter’s maturing, finishing process and plan, shaping us like clay until our final day of life. Changes move us further along toward holiness as we are being transformed into the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ from glory to glory.
In our youth, by and large, we welcomed changes eagerly. But older people tend to resist changes whether inward or outward. To compound the problem, our negative attitudes and habits become more pronounced as we grow older. We become more rigid and drag our feet insisting that it's too late to change. That isn’t true. We lose a blessing if we refuse to change. We gain and progress when we view changes as new challenges and opportunities to grow. Even while living in our summit years, we can still change so that the rest of our way will be more pleasing to the Lord. We can face life’s changes anchored to the Unchanging One, the Lord who is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Living in our vintage years, we must try to roll with the punches and meet changes of life head on with courage and trust in God or we become anxious and miserable.
God apparently uses changes to make us malleable. That seems like a strange word, not often used in daily conversation. When applied to matter, malleable is defined as capable of being extended or shaped by a hammer or by pressure from rollers. OUCH! What a painful analogy!
The word mallet comes from the same root referring to a hammer-like tool usually of hard wood. A judge’s gavel is a mallet of sorts when he uses it to demand attention and order in court. When applied to people, the term is used to mean adaptable or tractable, able to adjust, open to change. Other synonyms are compliant, obedient, amenable, supple, flexible, and pliable. The latter are all good and positive spiritual attitudes.
When unwanted changes come into our lives, they may seem like painful hammer blows. Those of us in our later seasons of life often find ourselves far from malleable! To the degree that we remain spiritually malleable, God can extend our horizons, teach us more of His truth, and shape us into the vessel that He envisioned us to be when He planned for our lives before the foundation of the world.
At the same time, God also created us with free will so that we can either resist His work in our lives or accept it. The Lord doesn’t force us to receive His blessings or more of His truth. With love He leads us gently in that direction—but the choice is ours. If we wholeheartedly will to do His will and try to live in a state of grace surrendered to His leading, we open ourselves to receive His blessings in overflowing abundance and become His instruments to draw others to Him.
On the other hand, if we drag our feet, follow Him from afar, and resist changes, God may have to use gentle pressure to make us more malleable and shape us toward the good destiny He lovingly planned for us. It is not punishment; it is meant to transform us into the image of Jesus, just as some mallets have rubber heads for softer blows that don't leave marks. “Whom the Lord loves, He chastens.”
Can I say, “Thanks, Lord, I needed that! Help me become malleable and grow through the changes You bring into my life.”?