URING THE PAST SIX MONTHS OUR FAMILY HAS HAD TO NAVIGATE many transitions. Visa applications, container shipment quotes, flight schedules, and at least half a dozen “goodbye” parties have reminded us that we are beginning a new journey, to a different place, with other people, in a distinct context.
Transitions are often challenging. They can be scary, but they also provide new and exciting vistas. We all experience transitions in our own lives—even though we may not be preparing for a trans-Pacific move. Two in love become a married couple, then parents, cheering on their little ones, who in turn grow up to become (sometimes) awkward teenagers, adept at typing text messages on their cell phones at a breathtaking speed but wondering where their place in life will be . . . You get the picture. Transitions are not always natural or anticipated.
Scripture itself is full of transitions. For the Israelites 40 years in the wilderness was a major transition period, only to be topped by the 70 years in exile in Babylon many centuries later. Jesus Himself spent 40 days in the wilderness following His baptism and faced the archenemy in different disguises with a quiet but consistent “It is written” (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10). His focus on Scripture reminds us of one thing that is not in transition. No, it is not the book itself as a magic potion or talisman that remains the constant anchor, but rather the One who inspired Scripture and makes sure that its message reaches right into our hearts.
God’s presence is consistently visible during moments of transition. He walked in front of Israel and guarded them from behind, day and night (Ex. 40:38). He called fragile individuals into leadership positions and told them “Fear not, I am with you” (see Num. 21:34; Joshua 8:1; 2 Kings 1:15; Isa. 7:4). He moved the hearts of powerful (and often ruthless) pagan rulers to return His people to a midsized town in the mountains of Judah where His Temple was to teach people about God’s character, His plan of salvation, and the true cost of sin (Ezra 1:1).
As a worldwide faith community, we are in the midst of numerous transitions. This church is an international organization in which the native language of one of the associate editors of its flagship magazine is German and only 6 percent of its membership is still located in North America. It is a church that is growing so rapidly that in many parts of the world it is struggling to keep pace in training the projected number of leaders that will be needed in the near future. It is a church that has (seemingly) left behind the dynamics of a movement and has joined the ranks of established denominations. It is a church that has to address questions and issues that were irrelevant 150 years ago.
It is also a church that is moved forward by the fervor and energy of its members. From the jungles of Peru to a little town in rural Entre Ríos in Argentina to the megacities of Asia, this church is defined not only by its history (though important and helpful) or trailblazing new evangelistic methods, but rather by its confident reliance on the Lord, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8) in all these transitions.
As my family experiences its own transitional bumps here in Maryland, I remind myself that the God of transitions has not been transitioned out of the picture by politicians, theologians, or my own lack of faith. He is still with us, telling us to “fear not,” and is ready to move in the midst of this diverse, multicultural, and multilingual church that anticipates joyously the ultimate transition (1 Cor. 15:51-54).
Gerald A. Klingbeil is an associate editor of the Adventist Review.