A New Normal

I have had a few circumstances over the last 4 years that have grown and changed me. Inevitably, it is hard, not easy, circumstances that change us deeply.

Three years ago this month, my aunt was murdered. I remember my sister’s story of the moment she had to tell my family. They were all on family vacation in the mountains. My sister got the call on her cell phone from another aunt. She told me she just stared at the scene in front of her–everyone enjoying the mountain air and time together as family–knowing that the news she had to share would change everything. It was a surreal moment. She did tell everyone, and nothing has been the same. Three years have passed. It’s fully incorporated into our lives now. It’s the new normal.

I’ve been thinking about this new normal. What has changed now? Besides all the obvious changes surrounding such a tragic loss, the foundation of change in my personal life has been, simply, my perspective. God shook the snow globe of my life, and some truths that were obscured by complacency have now taken a more prominent place in my thinking. Here are some truths that are front and center now.

1) This world is not my home. I have to repeat this to myself regularly, but frankly it’s foundational to understanding everything else in this life.

2) Evil is very bad and we are not immune from it in this world. And rather than shaking my faith, this reminds me exactly why I desperately need a Savior. I need Jesus to save me from my own sin within me. And I long for King Jesus established on this earth as the sovereign authority who rules with complete justice. When God’s kingdom is fully established, there will be no more murder. There will be no more sickness.

3) Happy is a yuppie word. I struggle with the term happy. It isn’t a fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, and peace are not necessarily grown in our lives through traditionally “happy” circumstances. Yet the beatitudes use the term freely. Blessed or happy are the spiritually bankrupt, those who mourn, the meek, those who thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and, maybe most surprising, those who are persecuted for righteousness. Whatever happiness/blessedness is in Scripture, it is counterintuitive. I’m learning to think about happiness in new ways.

4) Our need for God is better highlighted in hard circumstances. When life is good, I inevitably gloss over my need for Him. But His unchanging character is the only anchor for my soul when life gets messy.

If you’ve had a life-shaking, perspective changing event rock your world recently, I recommend spending some time in Hebrews 11-13. Three years ago, the Lord saved me from despair through that section of Scripture. It reminded me that hardship, persecution, and endurance have been common to the Christian life since shortly after time began, and they will continue to be so until Christ returns. It also reminds me that despite it all, God’s purposes can not be shaken. It teaches me that my new normal is really just the old normal with complacency removed.

Hebrews 12
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

15 Responses to A New Normal

  1. Anonymous June 13, 2011 at 4:49 am #

    We have a Savior! He loves us! He has come to us, His Spirit lives in us and we have a glorious eternal present and future with Him in His Kingdom! So we don't lose heart because our present sufferings aren't worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us…Indeed, we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us! Thanks for the reminder, dear friend!

  2. Alison June 13, 2011 at 8:22 am #

    I can totally relate to this post after having a life changing, perspective altering experience when my twins were born extremely prematurely. Seeing one of them teeter on the brink of survival made me realise what is important in life. It doesn't matter that my daughter has severe disabilities in this life – in the life to come she will be healed and whole. What matters is that we know Christ and will be with Him for eternity.

  3. Dorothy Getz June 13, 2011 at 12:46 pm #

    This post was a comfort to me. My mom was brutally murdered 10 years ago today and it rocked my world. I miss her terribly because she was my support system and always encouraged me and gave me advice that got through the tough times when my marriage was difficult. I know she heard the words well done, good and faithful servant enter the gates of the Lord. I look forward to going home and seeing her again in heaven. It only matters if you know Jesus nothing else truely matters.

  4. Julia at Seeds of Devotion June 13, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    I, too, grow in faith when life knocks me to my knees. I wish I got down on them as intently during the good times, but I don't.

    Your comments on happiness are spot-on. A lot of what passes for happiness in this world is simply pleasure, and if that's what we're seeking we aren't seeking God.

  5. Anonymous June 13, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

    Profound message for me today. Thank you.
    Love, Mama

  6. Stacy Anderson June 13, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

    This couldn't have come at a better time than today. I've been dealing with a lifelong mental illness and just when you think it's beat, the Devil comes back and brings you to your knees. Good thing is I know what to do when I'm down there. We may not feel true happiness in this world but someday we will know nothing but. God bless you and the others who are feeling the same….love to you all and many prayers.

  7. Anonymous June 13, 2011 at 4:46 pm #

    My world was turned upside down in 1997, 5 months after my wedding, when I was just starting out my “real” life. My younger brother died in a terrible car wreck, & it felt like life was sucked completely out of me. I've grown so much in the last almost-14 years (October 25 will be the anniversary), and I've learned not to take anything for granted – and to always, always tell people how much they mean to me.

  8. feedonhim June 14, 2011 at 12:32 am #

    Thank you for the reminder not to take anything for granted AND that this world is not our home AND that joy and peace have nothing to do with happiness. Happiness is about the rare occurrence of circumstances lining up with my desires.

  9. Sarah June 15, 2011 at 1:59 am #

    This was a very encouraging post. The Holy Spirit lead me to Hebrews 12 shortly after I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at 21 years old and it was an incredible encouragement and brought a new understanding of grace into my heart. Thanks for sharing this. God bless ~ Sarah

  10. LLM June 15, 2011 at 9:38 pm #

    Thanks for this post. I am taking a seminary class on the “theology of suffering” right now. Such a worthwhile class. I think it is an issue we all need to think about BEFORE a catastrophic event occurs in our lives. I've known Christians who abandoned/rejected their faith after suffering invaded their lives. I don't judge them. But I think part of the problem was that they had never considered the issue ahead of time, and they falsely thought that Christians could avoid all serious suffering. Indeed that is a false teaching among some Christians…

  11. Anonymous June 16, 2011 at 4:39 pm #

    Thank you for this post. My heart is heavy today for my friends who do not know Jesus. They do not have Hope. They continue to look for yuppie happiness and justice in this sad, evil and broken world.

  12. Paul June 18, 2011 at 6:26 am #

    There is no word in Russsian for “happy.”

  13. Joyfilleddays@wordpress.com June 19, 2011 at 1:54 pm #

    Wonderful post! Thanks for sharing! When someone you love is taken from you, you wake up, so to speak and realize that Christianity is not some sappy, happy state, but it is trusting that God is good through the most heart wrenching trials imaginable and finally coming to the point where you realize that it is all for His glory somehow. I recently wrote about my sister and our family here: “Living Proof: Trials Cannot Destroy You.” http://joyfilleddays.wordpress.com/2011/06/05/living-proof-trials-cannot-destroy-you/
    Thanks,
    Sarah

  14. sterlingsop June 19, 2011 at 3:10 pm #

    I was shocked to learn of the circumstances that changed your life but am glad that you and your family have been able to adjust to a “new normal”.

    I agreed with much of what you said, but one one point I have to disagree. “Blessed” and “Happy” are not interchangable terms and the beatitudes very firmly say “blessed”, which is different to “happy”. I do agree with you that happiness is a bit of a yuppie word and doesn't really describe very much. It's a bit like “nice”….what exactly is a “nice” day for example?

    Happiness is a transient state; it comes and goes based on a whole host of vague criteria, whereas to be blessed is a permanent state of grace from God.

    Thought-provoking post. Thank you.

  15. Anonymous June 20, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

    Thanks for the encouraging four points that help us to rest in Jesus, in what you call one's “new normal” state. Praise God that He is the same today, as yesterday and will be tomorrow. No new normals for Him!!!
    In Christ Jesus there is sweet hope and deep rest for all. A part of the Good News is the hope and peace and that we have in Jesus…. even in the here and now, resting in our precious Savior! In the light of Christ as we gaze longingly on His lovely face, drawing nearer to Him, those difficult and sad situations of our lives grow strangely dim, they become as Paul says they should be… the “light and momentary afflictions” of this world. God's sweet grace to see things His way!
    For 24 years I despaired over the death of a younger brother, possibly suicide, and the death of a child at 5 months pregnant, the deaths of my parents which leaves a person without Christ feeling orphaned. Deeply depressed for some years, I eventually became an emotional cripple, barely able to serve the needs of my husband and two sons as they grew up. Then at the ripe old age of 53, this sinner came by saving grace to know the God of this Universe through the precious Lord Jesus! PTL! And on that day that the Father brought me out of darkness into His sweet and marvelous Light, the day that I laid down 53 years of sin at the cross (surely the main cause of my deep despair), I also laid down the burden that I’d toted around with me all those many years concerning the loss of my brother and the deaths of others. The sin and the burdens gone, I was filled to perfect satisfaction with His joy and His light and His truth and His hope, filled with His Spirit….these things which ONLY our SWEET Jesus can do!
    In the intervening 6 years, there was a day near the anniversary of his death after coming to know the Lord Jesus that I struggled, weeping much of the day, thinking that the enemy was behind the resurfacing of that grief, when later realized it was the Lord with whom I was struggling. He wanted me to give that burden back to Him.
    When Jesus says to come to Me those who are weary and heavy laden and find rest for our souls in Him, O, what sweet rest there is in Jesus! Yet we have to trust the Lord with our burdens and give them over to Him, just as we have to trust Him with our sins and give them over with a repentant heart. The familiar quote of St. Augustine’s comes to mind, “our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” AMEN!
    In these 6 years since coming to know the Savior, there have been times I have quickly given burdens over to Him and yet sadly plenty of other times not so quickly. Slow learner! There are times for tears and deep emotions, even righteous anger, but also times to let Jesus take those draining emotions from us. I was touched by the difficulties in the world that many shared in their responses to this devotional and encouraged by what so many said of their faith in Jesus, and look forward to that Day when we will be free of such struggles, in the presence of our dear Risen Lord Jesus. Our ULTIMATE new normal! May God's peace be known in the hearts of His people, in God’s perfect way and time, in part for how strange and compelling and encouraging a testimony it is for our lives to be at rest in Jesus.