What Is Normal?

I think you’ll agree with me that nothing seems normal anymore. COVID-19 has emptied highways, closed schools, turned homes into offices, shuttered small businesses and big corporations, closed ballparks and restaurants, and for some reason made it impossible to find toilet paper.

Our normal way of life has been turned upside down, leaving us all asking, “When will my normal return?” My regular pattern of life has been significantly disrupted. Overnight I became a part-time teacher to my third-grade daughter and first-grade twin boys, with my two-year-old son in tow. Didn’t see that one coming.

I’m learning there is no perpetual state of normal. Life is ever changing. In this phase of my existence, my normal revolves around my wife and four children. Twenty years ago, normal was found in the home I lived in with my dad, mom, and two sisters. Life’s journey changes as we walk the paths God has prepared for us.

King Solomon’s wisdom from Ecclesiastes tells us there’s a time in one’s life for everything, and “He has made everything beautiful in its time” (3:11). Solomon was saying that with every passing season, normal changes.

For example, almost everyone today communicates through text messages or social media. When I was a kid, my normal was a phone attached to a wall by a cord; and for phone calls between New Jersey and Pennsylvania you were charged long-distance rates. And I had to wait for Saturday morning before cartoons aired on television. Today every show is at my fingertips. I wait for nothing.

Over time, we navigate through lots of normals. Sometimes we welcome such change with enthusiasm. Sometimes we don’t notice change has happened until we stop to reflect on the old days. Sometimes our normal is abruptly shaken when we didn’t ask for it. We lose loved ones without notice.

I personally experienced that change in my normal when my father unexpectedly passed away in 2012. I never had a chance to say goodbye, and his absence has altered my life to this day. Maybe you’ve experienced the pain of being hurt by someone you trusted, which changed the regular pattern of a meaningful relationship. Or perhaps you lost a job and are wondering what’s next.

I know none of us asked for the coronavirus, which triggered a historical event that has simultaneously changed everyone’s normal. But the truth is if you’re waiting for normal to return, you may be setting yourself up for a major letdown. Nothing remains normal for long.

The prophet Jeremiah witnessed the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem. He saw his Holy City burned to the ground and God’s holy Temple left in ruins. The Jewish people living in Jerusalem and Judah were physically uprooted from their land and way of life and were marched from their homes to a distant land with a different culture and different language. Their normal changed drastically.

In despair, knowing life would never be the same, Jeremiah cried out to God: “Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22–23).

As the sun rose the next day for Jeremiah—despite the grief, pain, and uncertainty occupying his thoughts—he was convinced about this truth: “‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I hope in Him!’” (v. 24). Jeremiah knew God’s faithfulness was the only constant in the tragic events raging around him.

No one knows the future extent of the fallout from COVID-19 or how this pandemic will change our lives. And that’s okay because our normal is never constant. But the sun that rose the next day for Jeremiah 2,600 years ago is the same sun that rises in the east for you and me every morning, showing us yet again that His mercies and compassions fail not. Great is His faithfulness.

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