A while back, I was sitting with a young couple who were planning on opening a new orphanage. Along with all of the important topics we covered, I asked them one key question. “Are you ready to never have a “normal” week again?” When running an orphanage there is always some disaster around the corner. Children get sick, cars breakdown, government officials can be crazy, funding is always an issue. Every week brings some new challenge that needs to be overcome. Looking back at that question in light of what’s going on in the world, maybe that’s a question we should all be asking. Are we ready to never have a “normal” week again?
The last dozen years or so have been some of the best in the history of mankind. When one looks at the hard figures, we are coming out of a pretty incredible time. The last decades have seen historic economic growth worldwide. Extreme decreases in infant mortality, dramatic reductions in extreme poverty, less war than any time in human history, less famine worldwide than at any time in history, increase in life expectancy and education worldwide, the list is pretty long of what mankind has accomplished.
As life has improved around the world, it seems like everyone expected the good times to keep on rolling. But if one looks at history, the good times are framed by the rough times that cycle through regularly. People talk a lot about the “new normal,” as we move forward, but that’s assuming there ever was a normal. The world has always been ending, life has always been a risk, what we call the “good times,” have just been times between world-altering events.
“There is always an alien battle cruiser, or death ray, or an intergalactic plague that’s going to wipe out this planet.” Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones), to Agent J (Will Smith) Men in Black 1997
Let’s look at a couple of points over the last 100 years. Right after the previous turn of the century World War I starts, 22 million people are killed. About that same time, the Spanish Flu epidemic hits, and fifty million people die from it; that’s hard to wrap your head around. That would be about 20% of the current US population dead. Pandemics are pretty common when you look at history.
In the late 20s, the great depression hits, unemployment reaches 25%. The world was on the brink of economic collapse. My dad was old enough to remember being a boy in the depression. The late 20s and early 30s were not a great time to grow up.
About 1940, World War II starts, 75 million people die, including 6 million in the holocaust. The world is on the brink of collapse again. Pretty much every ten or fifteen years, something world-changing happens.
In the 60s was the Vietnam War and the Cuban missile crisis. People weren’t sheltering at home; they were home digging bomb shelters in their backyard to try and survive a nuclear attack. Imagine what that did to society. Less than 20 years ago was 9/11 and all of the changes that brought.
This depressing walk through history has a point. If we wait for normal, our life will never move forward. There is no normal. Even without wars, pandemics, and economic collapse, no one has good times forever. On a personal level, we go through job loss, death of loved ones, and other events that shift our world from “normal.” A pastor friend of mine was just diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). He will never have another normal week again; this is his new normal.
The big point of all this is, our joy, security, and peace can not exist if we expect our lives to be consistently pleasant and uneventful. Pleasant and uneventful is a myth. The only security we have, the only joy during war, pandemic, or whatever the world throws at us has to be more significant. Remember the source of your joy and peace.
The apostle Paul wrote while he was in chains in prison that he had found “Joy in all things.” We serve a Master that is bigger than this broken world, and this is where our security needs to be. Ministry changes, the world shifts, jobs and lives are lost, we need to remember that in this world these things are normal. It’s a good thing we’re not of this world; we’re created for something bigger. The hard times come and go; God is eternal.
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