Everywhere you look things are changing. Winter rolls into spring (it will, I promise). Toddlers become school-aged and then become adolescents. Your favorite restaurant closes and your dentist retires. You lose a job or start a new one. There isn’t one area of life that is constant. All things age and decay in time. The status quo rarely remains so for long—just look back through history. Change happens inexorably. And this can be frightening. All this change can be disorienting and disconcerting. It is intimidating to look ahead in life and wonder what is coming.
But change can be invigorating, too. It can be exciting. With change comes newness—new opportunities and possibilities. New life burgeons with the changing seasons. New innovations bring about fresh methods and products. New places bring new faces and friendships. New seasons bring hope to the perpetually losing team. And change brings growth and maturity to the person. Without change we would stagnate in a state of imperfection, but with it we have the hope of improvement and development.
The key difference between whether change is to be dreaded or embraced is whether one looks at it and say “What now?” or “What’s next?” “What now?” is what someone says when his preferred reality is interrupted. It is a tone of pessimism and dismay. It expresses a tacit assumption that all is as it should be, or close enough, so any change is unwelcome. “What now?” is an expression of both fear and stubborn arrogance. It refuses to acknowledge that change can bring betterment and implies a desire to control one’s reality.
“What’s next?” looks ahead in anticipation. It acknowledges improvement is a real possibility for much of life and realizes that a pitted battle against most change is a vain effort. It is a hopeful question, one that looks ahead with an expectation of something worthwhile coming. “What’s next?” expresses awareness of reality, too. It’s easy to confuse the pessimism of “What now?” with realism, but there is nothing realistic about stubborn resistance to change. No, realism looks around and sees that change cannot be avoided then comes to the realization that the best response is to embrace it as much as possible, in hope.
Many changes are difficult, especially in a world where all things are broken and tainted by sin. Regardless, there is no good in “What now?” Yes, it is a natural response when we have faced a series of difficult changes, but it is not helpful. “What’s next?” is the response in which we can look ahead and wonder what God has planned and acknowledge that He is working. It is the expression of faith and willingness to give in to what God has in store for us. In a world where change is unceasing and omnipresent, the only good response is to look ahead in the hope and humility of “What’s next?”