How the Bible Addresses Trials, Transitions, and Dealing with Unwanted Change (Part 1)

Dr. Tim AllchinFor Those Seeking HopeLeave a Comment

“I didn’t want to move to Illinois. I hate it here, and my dad keeps moving us every time he gets promoted for his stupid job. Sure, we got rich, but I got more lonely. It’s not even worth it to try to make friends anymore. Life was so much better for my family in Tennessee. I find it hard not to hate him for moving us six times in the past 14 years.”

Stories like this have been told numerous times in offices over the past 35 years from angry young people trying to adjust to a new life in Chicago. The story is often the same, a young person in isolation, making poor choices, anxious about getting involved in school and church activities, and too depressed to do much of anything.

These situations don’t just affect young people. Transitions and unwanted change are hard for individuals of any age to deal with.

We want to examine how the Bible addresses adjustment difficulties and more broadly the experience of unwanted and painful change.

What is an Adjustment Disorder?

Counselors at BCC regularly meet with people struggling with seasons of life transition.

Painful change can be the result of divorce, death, dysfunction, distance, damage, or many other reasons. Some changes can be adjusting to the reality that something desired may never be obtained, and other changes can be when something good has soured and will likely never be the same.

When people adjust to unwanted change, they sometimes act out with unhealthy emotional responses and unhealthy choices. These responses and choices have led many to be diagnosed by counselors with an “Adjustment Disorder.”

This diagnosis isn’t complicated or even profound in any scientific sense. The exact language that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and psychologists use to describe an adjustment disorder is “marked distress that is out of proportion to the severity or intensity of the stressor, taking into account the external context and the cultural factors that might influence symptom severity and presentation.”

So essentially, an adjustment disorder is a disproportioned reaction to an unwanted change or painful experience that occurred in the past three months. It is a failure to deal with the situation in a healthy way.

The DSM diagnostic manual goes on to point out that adjustment disorders often include the following [1]:

  • Depression (feeling sad, tearful and hopeless, very tired, and taking no pleasure in the things you used to enjoy)
  • Anxiety (nervousness, worry, having a hard time concentrating or remembering things, and feeling overwhelmed)
  • Maladaptive Behaviors (quitting work, cutting off friendships, isolation)
  • Disturbing Behaviors (truancy, destruction of property, reckless driving, or fighting).

The research on adjustment disorders encourages counselors to consider the reaction within the context and culture to determine the health, normalcy, and validity of the response. Good counselors wouldn’t expect a “one-size-fits-all” reaction. For example, a child would be expected to respond differently than an adult, and various cultural norms can be expected to influence how a person views unwanted change.

An experienced biblical counselor will help you replace unhealthy reactions to painful change and respond in ways that please the Lord and lead to more productive living.

What is a Biblical Approach to Adjustment Disorders?

We can’t go to the Bible and find “adjustment disorders” described by that exact name. However, when you break down the experiences, responses, and thought processes described, the Bible is full of insight about unwanted life transitions.

Consider Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, David, and even the Apostles as examples for us of dealing with painful and unwanted trials and transitions. Christians are told that this world will be full of troubles and tribulations. Further, we see many examples within the biblical text of anxiety, depression, and disturbing behaviors in relationship to these trials.

How to respond to trials and unwanted change can be found in virtually every page of the Bible, and those various principles can shape us. Scripture explains why painful circumstances occur and how to respond wisely.

Remember the words of Jesus as He concluded the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:24-27:

“‘Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.’”

If we want to be prepared for the storms of life and stand strong, we must build our life upon the rock. We must be willing to listen to Jesus’ teachings so we can respond well to unwanted changes and trials of life.


In part two of this post, we will examine some teachings of Jesus on how to respond to the trials of life and see how Christians can shape a healthy perspective on unwanted change.


Do you or someone you know need counseling?

We are passionate about helping hurting people. We provide Skype counseling for people across the country, and live counseling in 5 offices across the Chicagoland area.

Get Help Today

Are you interested in learning to counsel others?

We believe that the Bible has the answers for a hurting world. We are passionate about training people and churches, through online courses and events, to help those in need.

Learn More Today

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *