Just what is normal? What should be normal?
Ever since the Fall, we have been living with a ‘new normal’ – which is really not normal at all, but abnormal. It is a sin-soaked world where mankind has rebelled against its creator. The real normal does not happen until Christ returns and subdues all his enemies, and reigns forevermore. I cannot wait for that new normal.
In the meantime we learn to ‘live between the ages’. The old sin-ravaged age remains, but a new age inaugurated by Christ 2000 years ago is also among us, but it does not get fully realised until he comes again. So that is the ‘normal’ world we have all been living in for a very long time now.
As such, there is always going to be a mixture going on: great evil and horrific suffering go hand in hand with great beauty and kindness and acts of love. The biblical worldview alone fully explains all this. Man, as made in God’s image, is a wonderful and glorious being. But because of the Fall, we have all been massively tarnished with sin.
So we see Stalins and Pol Pots as well as Mother Teresas and Billy Grahams. We see those who are completely sold out to sin, selfishness and evil, and we see those – because of God’s saving grace – who are sold out to love for others and lives of complete selflessness. We have a world that can produce a Hitler as well as a Bonhoeffer.
One nation can produce those who want to kill and destroy everything while also producing those who make some of the world’s most beautiful music or art or literature. It is always a mix. Seeing the bigger biblical picture is crucial in all this, as is how the way we respond to things.
And so often Christians live and act as if this current world is all there is, and that it will always remain the same. They are not really living for eternity. They are fully submerged in the things of this world and have little or no thoughts about the next one.
Examples are easy to come by. But let me first say that there is nothing wrong with enjoying some sport or some other leisure activity, especially to offset the woes of life, including the Covid craziness we have had to endure. The government overkill has certainly taken its toll.
But AFL fans will know that the other day, a milestone of 1000 goals was reached by Buddy Franklin. Well done. But I just wonder: how many Christians who screamed themselves hoarse over this, and talked about it endlessly thereafter, would ever have carried on like that when it comes to worshipping and adoring their Lord? Are they just as passionate and excited about their faith as they are about a fleeting sporting moment?
Or take another recent sporting event that got everyone talking: the early death of cricket legend Shane Warne. Death is always tragic, but I again wonder: how many Christians who constantly spoke about this and were so passionate about the loss of a sporting figure have showed similar things when it comes to the death of, say, a Christian missionary?
And – good timing! – I just saw Owen Strachan saying this on the social media: “Hey fathers: if our kids see us breathless and thrilled by four straight hours of sports, and disengaged and bored by a single hour of church, what should we expect them to conclude about the worship of God?”
Once again: there is nothing wrong with relaxing and taking time out, and avoiding some of the worries, cares and pains of the world, be it by watching sport, gardening, reading, walking the dogs, enjoying a nice meal, and so on. By all means we do need some distractions and some leisure time.
Obviously what I am trying to get at here is this: it is all about priorities. It is all about our chief concerns. What gets you the most excited? What do you spend most of your time thinking about and talking about? What is your main passion in life?
For the Christian it should be Christ above everything else. But too often he takes second or third place at best. Too often what is happening in this world is all-consuming, and thoughts of eternity are few and far between. And it is all too easy for all of us to become like this. When things are going along just fine, thoughts about God and spiritual matters tend to go by the wayside.
But when a tragedy or a disaster or some heartbreaking event happens, then we can tend to snap out of our worldliness and carnality real quick. All of a sudden we switch right back to God – if for no other reason than to get out of the predicament we find ourselves in.
As I have mentioned before, I have long been praying that God would do something to wake us up. Even well before Covid struck, I kept thinking and praying about how the West could not continue the way it had been going. Things had become far too comfortable and entertaining and carefree and easy-going. Most Westerners have long ago forgotten all about God – and plenty of believers have been living as if he does not exist.
I know that other Christians had been praying along the same lines: ‘Lord, something has got to give. Things cannot go on as they now are. We are on a slow but steady slide right into hell.’ So then Covid came along. Whether or not that was in part an answer to our prayers I cannot say for certain. But it sure well could have been.
All of a sudden what had been normal became quite abnormal. Ordinary life was turned on its head. Going out to restaurants and sporting events and concerts ground to a halt. The ability to travel and move around freely all of a sudden disappeared. Countless folks lost their jobs and livelihoods. On and on it went.
We are still trying to get back to that sort of normal. But is it really going to do us any good? If we go back to our previous way of life, one in which God is totally absent – or at best, at the margins – is that really worth going back to? Is that kind of normal worth it?
And if mega-events like a global pandemic might be one of the ways that God tries to get our attention, much more personalised events can also do the same. With a major cancer scare now in my immediate family, that too has certainly changed things. That too has thrown everything up in the air. That too has tossed out the old normal.
Pretty much everything changes. Certainly for my wife – big time. But for me as well. Speaking engagements have been cancelled, and normal things I used to do I now try to avoid, if it means spending any amount of time away from my wife. Multiple trips to hospitals become the new normal. So does making charts to keep clear what medicines need to be taken when.
So does getting head coverings as the hair disappears. So does finding which foods she can keep from coming back up. So does learning to do many things by myself that we always used to do together. Everything changes with cancer. The old normal is replaced with a whole new normal.
And then of course – heaven forbid – if she were not to pull through, that would certainly mean a whole new normal. While we would rejoice that she would no longer know pain and suffering, and would be welcomed in her Saviour’s arms, those left behind will have a whole new bunch of things to radically adjust to. But we will not think in those terms just yet.
And as I have also said before, if all this is hard for me as a longtime Christian to cope with, I wonder how those who do not know the Lord cope. Especially if they are suffering so greatly now, and have no belief and hope in the next life. What a miserable existence indeed.
So I for one am thankful that the many millennia of life as we have known it is actually NOT the real normal. Sure, it is the norm now as we live between the ages. But what God intended when he first created us, and what he has in store for us when he comes again – THAT is the real normal. That is the normal I long for. That is the normal all believers should cherish more than anything this world has to offer.
Yes, we enjoy all the good gifts and blessings that God grants to us now in this sinful and broken world. But we dare not become too comfortable here. REAL life is still to come. I just can’t wait. What about you?