Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Even Our New Normal is Temporal

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16–18, ESV)

I’ve heard the phrase “new normal” used a lot to refer to a significant change in someone’s life. Having an inquiring mind (a popular marketing term for a magazine in the 80’s) and wanting to know more of the history of the phrase, I went to the internet to look up any information on the source that I might find. According to many sources, it appears that the phrase was either coined or at least gained popularity when Mohamad El-Erian, the CEO of PIMCO (a large bond fund manager) in 2009 used it to describe a period of economic malaise that the U.S. would experience in the wake of the biggest recession of a generation. The "new normal" was characterized by below trend growth, high unemployment, and ultra-low interest rates as the U.S. suffered the economic consequences of the crisis. Well, earlier this year El-Erian said that the “new normal” may soon be over, to which another analyst said we might be nearing “The Big Turn.” (source:

Personally I have been very uncomfortable with the phrase for a variety of reasons. While it may be based upon a somewhat new norm that people may be experiencing because of the loss of someone close, or a significant change in health, or maybe a change in financial condition. Clearly, when this phrase is used it is intended to refer to this change and the subsequent learning to live under the umbrella of that change.

Even as we can see from the originator of the phrase, that new normal was only a temporary one. It might have endured for six or so years, but it did not endure indefinitely. And the reality is that nothing we experience in this life is going to endure forever without significant change. Well, everything we know except God.

Last year one of my aunts died, and this weekend my uncle is getting remarried. He went through a very difficult season, but even in that season there was a changing of his heart and his ability to stand after the loss of his wife. And now, at least for him, there is a new joy in his life and a new expectation for the coming years. Sure, my aunt will always mark him with her love and the joy and commitment they shared for so many years and the wonderful children which they raised together and even the grandchildren which they got to know and enjoy. But with her passing things did not remain stagnant. There came healing and even hope in the days and months which followed. It is very normal for people to die. It happens to all of us. And it is very normal to mourn their loss and to have to adjust to life without that individual as unpleasant as that might be. But even here there is change which will occur over time.

With the loss of health there also comes change to lifestyle and continual adjustments to how we deal with those health issues. With the loss of a job there comes hardship, but there also comes the adjustments as new work is sought and life is tweaked. All of these might seem to point to things that were once normal now needing to be approached differently and even becoming somewhat normal in that difference. But with that, we also know that these changes are not the last ones we will make.

When people speak of their new normal, I am frequently reminded of their immediate loss but also led to reflect on the hope that comes for their future. Earlier I pointed to our God who does not change, and with His steadfastness there comes a dependence which we can have in Him for our future. As Christians there is so much that we have to look forward to, realizing in the light of eternity that even the most enduring change to normalcy here is only a drop in eternity. But we also can know that this drop in eternity has not missed our God’s attention. He knows every hair on our head. He knows our every thought. He knows when we stand up and when we sit down (Psalm 139). And He knows the plans which He has for us, plans not for our welfare and not calamity, but to give us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).

I used to hear another phrase, “This too shall pass.” At one time I seem to remember a sermon that touched on it by pointing to a couple of polar issues. The first is that the worst that we can experience here is only temporary in nature, and it most certainly will pass either in this life or when we pass into eternity. The other is that even the best that we can experience here is only temporary in nature, and it most certainly will pass either in this life or when we pass into eternity. (I don’t remember the exact wording, so I made up my own in order to convey the idea.) This phrase, while portrayed as biblical, is not found in the Bible. It is inferred from 2 Corinthians 4, which is quoted above.

In the New Living Translation we read, “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” (2 Corinthians 4:17–18, NLT)

This does not mean that we are to live in denial about our present struggle. Living in denial is to live as if none of this happens or matters or as if there is no hope for anything better. Living with hope means to recognize that what God is bringing us through now is a down payment on eternity. In the good we see His blessings and in the difficult we see His comfort and His strength. In all of them we know His faithfulness to bring us through and we look forward to each step of our lives in the direction of His presence—which is our hope for today founded in eternity.

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NASB95)

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (12/18)

When you are plagued by a persistent problem—one that goes on and on—view it as a rich opportunity. An ongoing problem is like a tutor who is always by your side. The learning possibilities are limited only by your willingness to be teachable. In faith, thank Me for your problem. Ask Me to open your eyes and your heart to all that I am accomplishing through this difficulty. Once you have become grateful for a problem, it loses its power to drag you down. On the contrary, your thankful attitude will lift you up into heavenly places with Me. From this perspective, your difficulty can be seen as a slight, temporary distress that is producing for you a transcendent Glory never to cease!

“Although the Lord has given you bread of privation and water of oppression, He, your Teacher will no longer hide Himself, but your eyes will behold your Teacher. Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left.” (Isaiah 30:20–21, NASB95)

“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,” (2 Corinthians 4:17, NASB95)

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