The question that stalks most of our thoughts in these troubled times is, Will our lives ever get back to normal? I have to admit that I’m one of the many who has pined for the old normal to return. I want to go to a movie with my husband. I want to go shopping without feeling like I’m risking my life to do it. I don’t want to have to wear a mask at Walmart or wonder if the kid with the spray bottle has thoroughly sanitized the cart. I want there to be peace in the streets and prosperity in the collective pocketbook.
But I’m beginning to believe that, as a Christ-follower, the life I’ve been living is not what the “normal” Christian life should look like at all.
My heart is yearning for another kind of normal.
I’ve written many times about my salvation experience, so I’ll only mention it briefly. You can read the story here. When I first accepted Christ as my Savior at the age of fourteen, it was my normal to stay after church service and pray until the pastor said he had to lock the door. It was my normal to worship God and read His Word voraciously. No one pressured or persuaded me. I did it because I loved God and I wanted to be with Him.
So what happened? Little by little I let other things become more urgent than seeking the face of God. I had a husband to please. Children to care for. A job. A ministry. A life to live.
Earnest prayer and Bible study were often replaced with pre-packaged devotionals. There’s nothing wrong with devotionals. There are many I would highly recommend.
But reading a devotional is not the same as being devoted to God—longing for Him like longing for a lover. Needing Him more than food or drink.
I made the excuse that I just didn’t have the time. Maybe that’s why God allows pandemics that keep us in our houses—to give us the gift of time.
I have the same 24 hours a day that I had when I was a new believer. I simply choose to spend less of it on my knees and more of it on my needs.
Or what I think are my needs.
The Bible says to be content with food and raiment. I Timothy 6:8
That’s all we really need. It doesn’t even mention shelter. Owning a home may be the American dream, but it’s not promised in the Word. In Matthew 8:19-20, a teacher of the law told Jesus he would follow Him wherever He went. Jesus replied that foxes have holes and birds have nests but the Son of Man doesn’t have a place to lay His head.
That was Christ’s normal.
The right kind of “normal” isn’t the easy road. It’s the harder road. It’s living an intentional life that makes room for the important things. Things like taking time to pray for the oppressed and marginalized, no matter their color or creed. Loving with our deeds, not just our words. My normal has become too easy. Too soft. And, as a result, too unsatisfying.
But I can reset my normal!
Colossians 3:2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
I can reset my affection on whatever I choose. I can refuse to be distracted—because distraction destroys devotion.
It’s the daily choice that changes our normal. The choice to put the “lover of our souls” first.
Colossians 3:3,10 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God . . . and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
What does it mean that my life is “hidden” with Christ in God? My old life is concealed, covered up in Christ’s love. It isn’t my “normal” anymore. There’s a new me. A new normal that’s taking shape. My new self is being renovated through knowledge.
In the original language, the meaning of knowledge in this scripture is to become fully acquainted with.
I know who the president is, who the governor of my state is, but I’m not personally acquainted with them. We say we know God, but are we personally, fully acquainted with Him? The more time we spend with Him, the more we meet Him in His Word, the more we commune with Him in prayer, the better acquainted we become with Him. He becomes our new normal.
David was a friend of God. He was a murderer and an adulterer, but He was still a friend of God. Why? Not because He was without sin, but because He longed for God’s presence. He feared being without the presence of God more than anything.
Psalm 51:11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
That’s what I feel is wrong with today’s normal. There’s lots of activity in it. Good activity. But there’s not enough presence of God in it. And I miss that.
The presence of God brings joy. Joy should be the believer’s normal.
Psalms 16:11 . . . in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Fullness means filled to satisfaction. When we have joy, we are satisfied in our circumstances (read our post 3 Things We Can Do to Bring the God-Joy Back).
If you’ve tasted it, you know that nothing brings pleasure like the presence of God. And this pleasure is forever pleasure. Not the kind that disappears when our normal gets difficult.
At some point, persecution will become the believer’s new normal. Will we be ready?
I’ve mentioned it before, but when my daughter, Rebecca, was about three or four there was a lot of anticipation in the Christian community that persecution was coming to the church. Persecution has always been the church’s normal.
I remember well how I felt. I hate to be cold more than almost anything, so I got Rebecca a new coat. I remember looking at that coat and wondering if that would be the last warm coat my daughter would ever have. It wasn’t. She’s had a lot of coats in the forty-odd years since then. And, for the most part, the American church has escaped the kind of persecution that truly costs something.
But even as I write this article there are Christians all over the world (mostly black and brown Christians) demonstrating their devotion to God at the cost of their lives, while I worry about whether or not the local theater is going to open any time soon.
I recently read on the website Help the Persecuted that a Christian is martyred for their faith every six minutes. That’s about how long you’ve been reading this article. How long will it take you to eat your breakfast? Take a shower? If this information is true, and I have no reason to doubt it, forty or more Christians will have lost their lives before you sit down for lunch. That’s their normal. What is yours?
The American Christian’s turn at persecution will come. It’s already here, but it’s growing slowly, stealthily.
We all need the strength to face what may someday soon be the church’s new normal. And what may be our new economic normal. It may not be easy, but I, personally, pray that I won’t hang on to the old normal because the old normal can’t compare with what the future holds for those who believe.
Rebecca has a great story to share with you about how accepting change brought about a wonderful new normal for her and her family. So here she is!
Years ago my husband Doug and I were living in Indiana, raising our two young daughters. We had a wonderful church community. My husband was in a rock band with his brothers. We were part of a large fun and crazy family, and we had many amazing friends.
Life was good!
In spite of all this, we became discontent for some silly reason and decided to take a transfer to Arizona with my husband’s job.
We stayed there for over a year then realized how homesick we were for our old normal, so we decided to return to Indy.
Only our old normal didn’t exist anymore!
The brothers had moved on to form a new band. Many people who we had gone to church with had moved away or no longer attended there. The family had new friends and new jokes we weren’t in on. Even though they were glad to have us back, it was a lonely place. I didn’t like this new normal at all.
Why couldn’t everything be like it was before we left?
I was so angry with God, questioning why He would allow us to move back to this! Why couldn’t He have stopped us from moving in the first place? I was blaming Him for OUR choices.
God had a huge plan for our lives right around the corner, but we couldn’t see it through the regretful tears. We even bought a house as a way of digging in our heels to get that old normal back. But that old normal was gone, and it couldn’t be recovered.
Six months later—after much fit throwing, humiliation, and tears—we gave in.
We made the choice to give up our will and ask God what His will was.
We prayed for a few days and one night my husband said, “I feel that we’re supposed to return to Arizona and this time make it work.”
But we had just bought a house! It didn’t make sense!
I finally said, “If this is Your will God, I trust You, but You’ll have to make it happen.”
Two weeks later we had a renter for our house, the girls were enrolled in a private school in Yuma, Az, and we were packed and ready to go. What God did in our willingness to let go of our old normal and embrace the new and improved normal He had planned for us is still hard to believe.
We ended up moving in with my parents and were able to help my mom take care of my dad whose health was rapidly declining, giving us time with him we wouldn’t have had if we’d stayed in Indiana.
I was able to go to nursing school and become an RN, something I wouldn’t have been able to do if we weren’t living with my folks.
Our kids were able to get a solid Christian education and make incredible lifetime friends. And they were also able to get a taste of my dad’s mission work in Mexico, which was life-changing for them.
We became involved in a wonderful church and community in Yuma, which led to my husband becoming involved in even more music and bands. It also brought us more ministry opportunities where we were able to impact many lives for Christ.
And my husband was finally able to start a very successful business that has grown financially every year for the last 15 years.
Wow! Imagine how much we would have missed if we had insisted on getting back to normal.
I know in this current climate many of you are desiring normal again. I struggle with that too. But I would challenge you today to walk boldly and confidently into whatever new normal God has for you. Whether you see it yet or not, He has better things waiting.
You just have to say “I’m in!”
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I was a Stranger: A Guide to Biblical Hospitality is a book about treating the “strangers” in our midst like we would treat Jesus. It’s full of helpful information on how to do that, funny stories about our own experiences of sharing our home, and a cookbook full of fabulous recipes to cook for those strangers! Oh, and whoops! The fabulous best-in-the- world brownies recipe is missing an important ingredient! 1 and 1/2 cup flour. The new addition will make that correction, but you’ve got to try these brownies!