Be Strong and Courageous: A Prayer for Graduations and Transitions

Used with permission: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/graduation-1311237

Used with permission: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/graduation-1311237

This time of the year is always bittersweet for me. As our church prepares for graduations and transitions, we reflect on the memories we’ve had with students, but also prepare to send them onward.

Over the years, this has only gotten more difficult as we watch the young ones we’ve lived life with prepare for what is next. But during this time of the year, I’m reminded of the importance of these bittersweet moments. They are a reminder that life is made up of transitions and new beginnings.

Graduations signal something new. It’s standing on the boundary line of where you’ve been and where you’re going. Walking across that stage and receiving your diploma is an invitation to step into the future.

Most of us can remember the feelings associated with graduation day. On the one hand, it’s incredibly freeing and exciting to stare into the future. And yet, it’s also somewhat terrifying to say goodbye to what you’ve known.

The future is scary in part because it’s different from familiarity. Hence, most people are resistant to change, clinging to where they’ve been, fearful of facing something different and new.

But this is the path of life.

It’s the path onward, stepping into the future, past what we’ve known where we’ve been. In fact, when you really think about it, life is a series of transitions and new beginnings. Scripture is a good reminder of this.

The people of Israel were no strangers to the process of transitions. They were slaves, then free people, then wanderers, then homebodies.

One compelling example of this was when they entered the Promised Land. Coming out of the wilderness to the border of this new place, they stood on the precipice of where they’d been and where they were going.

Moses proceeds to give them a commencement address known as the book of Deuteronomy. In these chapters, they prepare to make their way forward, saying goodbye to a life of desert wandering and into the newness God has prepared for them.

Moses closes his speech and hands the leadership baton to Joshua. And the words God speaks through Joshua are simple, but powerful.

He tells him to be “strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:9).

As the people enter into this new land, this new existence, they have the promise of God’s presence. And that will be their strength.

In many ways, the transitions in our lives feel like this–going where we’ve never been before and trusting in a higher power that, somehow, we can make it.

Jesus had some things to say about transitions too. In fact, he spent several chapters in the gospel of John preparing his disciples for his upcoming absence, His transition from life on this earth to his return to heaven.

He gave them words of comfort, reminding them that although He was leaving life on this earth, He would still be with them. He assured them that they wouldn’t be alone. Of course, they were confused by His words and why He needed to leave.

Most of us have this similar reaction when things change in our lives. We bemoan the “why” questions, trying to figure out how to make things stay the same. But Jesus seemed to know how to answer this.

There are many things in life that we might fail to understand in the moment. This, at times, is absolutely true of the transitions.

We’re scared and confused and saddened to make changes. Sometimes these changes can be hard to understand and sometimes the only take away is that life is like this–it means change.

As we prepare for what is next, embracing the transitions and new beginnings in our lives, it helps to remember that this is the path of life that many have lived before us. This path might not always be clear and perhaps there is no discernible plan at this point in time. But this doesn’t mean God isn’t with us as we move into the future.

Be strong and courageous.

This is a simple, but powerful reminder for all of us as we anticipate the transitions in our lives.

Perhaps we’re past the graduations and new beginnings of school and life after high school. But let’s not forget life is always in motion. We are always in the process of change from family dynamics to jobs to our own thinking about life and the world.

Handle the new beginnings and transitions with grace and truth.

Be strong and courageous.

This is my prayer during this time of the year, for graduates and for all of us as we anticipate new beginnings in our lives.

It’s true. We may not know what the future holds.

But we can rest assured in the promise of His presence.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

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