Change is a powerful force in our lives. And our lives are always changing. We don’t always like change, and people can feel differing levels of anxiety when things are changing around them. And yet when a change is valuable enough to a person they are willing to adjust and make the necessary changes in their lives. Even the most anxious person who is against change will willingly adjust at times and accept change as important and necessary.
Change is something that we cannot escape even if we try. As long as there is life in us change is happening. As we get older our bodies undergo constant changes. The relationships we are in change over time. Some change for the better and others begin to come unraveled and the changes are less than pleasant. We are constantly undergoing changes in our lives, relationships, careers and families. Harold Wilson said “Change is inevitable. He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.”
Even though we are continually changing we as humans resist change instinctively. A group of scientists placed five monkeys in a cage. Inside the cage, they hung a banana on a string with a set of stairs placed under it. Before long, a monkey went to the stairs and started to climb towards the banana. As soon as he started up the stairs, the psychologists sprayed all the other monkeys with ice-cold water. After a while, another monkey tried to get the banana. As soon as his foot touched the stairs, all the other monkeys were sprayed with ice-cold water. It’s wasn’t long before all the other monkeys would physically prevent any monkey from climbing the stairs. Now, the psychologists shut off the cold water, removed one monkey from the cage and replaced it with a new one. The new monkey saw the banana and started to climb the stairs. To his surprise and horror, all the other monkeys attacked him. After another attempt and attack, he discovered that if he tried to climb the stairs, he would be assaulted. Next they removed another of the original five monkeys and replaced it with a new one. The newcomer went to the stairs and was attacked. The previous newcomer took part in the punishment with enthusiasm! Likewise, they replaced a third original monkey with a new one, then a fourth, then the fifth. Every time the newest monkey tried to climb the stairs, he was attacked. The monkeys had no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs or why they were beating any monkey that tried. After replacing all the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys had ever been sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approached the stairs to try for the banana. Why not? Because as far as they know that’s the way it’s always been around here.”
While this experiment never really happened this way it does illustrate a trait in human nature to resist change. How many times have you heard or said something to the effect of “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” Many things is our lives are simply the result of us having done them that way enough that we develop a pattern which we don’t have to think about, and anyone challenging the behavior gets the same resistant response, and we resist the idea of change even if the change would be simple and valuable to us. Henry Cloud wrote “We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change.”
What changes are we resisting that are necessary in our lives. When we begin to see change as inevitable and see change as valuable to life we can then be more willing to accept changes in our lives and see the value of those changes as we grow and develop. As Christians this is extremely important. We cannot keep fighting changes if we want to see God impact our world. Society is changing all around us, and we all know that the world that once was is no longer, and the changes are not slowing down. If we don’t change our methods we will lose our impact on the people we encounter. What once worked is not working any longer. And yet God’s mind hasn’t changed. He still desires that all people come to know Him personally 1 Timothy 2:4. And He sent us out into the world with the same mandate that Jesus had, to “Seek and save the lost.” Luke 19:10
But the methods that we choose to use need to change to be useful to impact the society we are trying to reach. Pastor Rick Warren said “don’t confuse methods with the message. The message must never change, but methods must change with each new generation”. Change is important, valuable and inevitable. Life is changing all around us. Will we accept the need for change allow changes to happen in our lives?