READ: Psalm 46, Jeremiah 31-33, Matthew 18, Acts 25
THE INSTABILITY OF NORMAL
Some of the most precious promises of Scripture are revealed in the context of duress and instability. We love the encouragement of the psalmist regarding God being our refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1-2), forgetting somehow that it is war and conflict that demand such a refuge. We lack fear even as the mountains shake and the earth is removed, as the nations rage and as wars increase (vv. 6, 8). It is in the times of war and shaking that we are to be still and know that He is God. These last days are going to be terror-filled. Instability is our new normal. Economies will fail, nations disintegrate, civil wars abound, famine, death, and tragedy will increase, not diminish; this is the context in which God calls us to be still, to be at rest, and to know that He is God. It is out of duress that we are comforted, and it is in trial that God’s will is revealed. The famous assurance of Jeremiah 33:3, “Call to me and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things which you do not know,” was given while the prophet languished in prison. Revelation comes most clearly to us when we are oppressed by another, when our normal is unstable, when all external props are taken away and all we have left is Jesus. When Jesus is all we have, we at last discover He is all we need–and all we want.
Offenses must come, Matthew reminds us (18:7) and we should rejoice in them, for God’s greatness is revealed just as much in times of trouble as times of triumph. We do need to treat those two impostors just the same. In this age there will be cycles of peace and war, with war becoming more and more frequent, culminating in that glorious day, our blessed hope, when Jesus returns to kill death and establish eternal peace. As distress becomes the norm it is imperative we learn to be at peace while the world is at war. Jeremiah reminds us of the essence of God: “For He is good, and His mercy endures forever” (33:11). This primal goodness of God, His love-in-kindness, is revealed at all times. God is not silenced by war; on the contrary war and trouble often amplify His voice.
Let us therefore give up the futile search for havens of peace in which to live. Let us give up the hope of an utopian society in this life. Heaven cannot come to earth until this earth is re-created and evil is banished from human hearts. Until that day (which we fervently long for) we are called to live at war. We are to live normally in cities and countries that are disintegrating about us, and by the unnatural calm we exude testify to the present and coming kingdom, and the God who is above all the messes of men. Instability is our new normal. Suffering is the lot of every follower of Jesus. Let us embrace it, for the worse it gets, the sooner it will be over, the sooner Jesus will come and all creation will be liberated. Then, and only then, will peace be normal.