That is one of the most often-asked questions during this chaotic, confusing, difficult time in our history with controversy over how to deal with the COVID-19 virus, political polarization in our nation, and wondering who our next president will be even though we have just finished the election. We miss having social contact which is such a crucial part of life whether at church services, restaurants, schools, or sporting events, and wonder if we will ever be able to stop wearing masks which make it hard to breathe, hard to see (if you have glasses), and make it hard to hear others or even to recognize them. What a strange world we currently live in! When will life ever return to normal? Will there be a new normal and what will it look like? Will our schools be able to return to regular in-person classes? Will our sports teams be able to compete as before with crowds cheering on their favorite team?
One thing we know for sure is that there is no perpetual state of normal. Life is ever changing. As I think way back to my childhood, normal was found in the home I lived in with my dad, mom, one sister and two brothers (all of whom were quite a bit older than I). Soon I was the only child at home and life took on a new normal. I rode bikes with my friends, played marbles, kick-the-can and Annie-I-Over. We played “500” with a bat and ball in the cow pasture. Then there was college, marriage and then normal was my wife Kathy and I living in Portland, Oregon and having to make all new friends and living a long drive from any family members. We had to get established in a new church and learn our way around in a big city—quite a challenge after moving from a community of only about 5,000 people!
As I grew up, we had dial phones attached to the wall and were on a party line. I went over to the neighbors’ (an old German couple) to watch black-and-white television to see my favorite programs: The Lone Ranger and Rin-Tin-Tin. Now we have phones which we take with us wherever we go and we can DVR our favorite television programs and watch them—skipping commercials—whenever we choose.
Over time, we navigate through lots of normals. Sometimes the changes are welcomed enthusiastically. Sometimes we don’t even notice the changes have taken place until we stop to reflect on the “good old days,” Then sometimes our normal is abruptly shaken by the death of a family member, the loss of a job, a serious, debilitating illness or the pain of being hurt by a trusted friend, or the loss of a home by fire or flood, hurricane or tornado. This past summer many in the West had to evacuate their homes and some tragically lost their homes to wildfires. Suddenly life had a whole new normal. Then add to that the craziness brought on by the response to a world-wide pandemic and life is definitely “different” for all of us. Everyone is experiencing a new normal.
If you are waiting for normal to return, you may be setting yourself up for a major letdown. Nothing remains normal for long. There are some things, however, that remain constant. The sun comes up each day in the East and sets in the West. We still have the seasons of spring, summer, autumn, and winter. The earth continues to spin at the same rate on its axis and at the same inclination to the Sun. We still have the moon and stars to give us light by night. AND, God remains unchanged, still carrying out His purpose for this earth and for us. Nothing, not a pandemic, a flood, a wildfire, or contested election takes Him by surprise or thwarts His plan for us. “God is still on the throne, Almighty God is He!” God is not up in heaven wringing His hands wondering what He should do now!
“The prophet Jeremiah witnessed the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem. He saw his beloved Holy City burned to the ground and the precious Temple left in a pile of rubble. He witnessed his fellow Jews being physically uprooted from their land and their normal way of life and marched to a different land with a different culture and different language. Their normal had changed drastically.” (from”What Is Normal” by Chris Katulka in the July-August issue of Israel My Glory). Knowing life would never be the same, Jeremiah, in spite of what had happened to the Jews for their apostasy, and despite the mistreatment he experienced by his own people, still expressed his hope in an unchanging God: “The LORD’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22,23). Despite all the grief, pain and uncertainty, Jeremiah was convinced of one thing: “The LORD is my portion, says my soul. Therefore I have hope in Him” (Lam. 3:24). Jeremiah knew God’s faithfulness was the only constant in the tragic events raging around him.
We are uncertain of the future because of COVID-19, what the political scene will be like come 2021, how our lives will be changed, and what the new normal will look like. And that’s okay, because God will not change, nor will His plans for us change. His mercies and compassions will not fail. He will remain faithful (II Tim. 2:13). We can put our full trust and hope in Him. “The hope of righteousness is gladness…the way of the LORD is a stronghold to the upright…The righteous will never be shaken…” (Prov. 10:28-30). “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast…” (Heb. 6:19).
“The times, they are a changing,” but God is our constant, our “Normal” that will not change. PTL! No matter how things around us change, “For this we have Jesus, our Rock!”