Right now normal sounds so good. Do you remember all those things that used to stress you out about 3 weeks ago? Have you reminisced back to that time and thought, “it would be so nice to go back to that! I wouldn’t complain if I was just dealing with those old problems!”
But, the truth is, there will be a new normal as a result of this. Whether that’s good or bad will depend on us. We can long for things to go back to the way they were or we can look for ways that God can work in the new normal.
That’s what Joseph did. No matter what situation he found himself in, he kept looking for ways to honor God and trusted God to get him out.
Sometimes it took a while. The cupbearer forgot about him for 2 years. That means he sat in prison for two years waiting for someone to follow through with a promise. Can you imagine if this lasted two years? How would you respond to the cupbearer when you finally saw him? You’d probably be giving him some serious side eye.
As far as we know, Joseph didn’t spend much time longing for the good ole days when He was daddy’s favorite and he could belittle his brothers with his dreams of superiority. He kept looking forward to the next way God would come through for him.
That’s why we can have hope in any situation. Whether it’s this one or others that are much worse than this. We can have hope because even when things seem out of control, God isn’t. There has never been a moment when God wasn’t in control. Not for even a blip on the timeline of history has God ever lost control.
If God is still in control, and He is, then why would we want to go back to the old normal? If God is in control that means that what’s happening right now will be used to bring about His good for His children. In God’s kingdom economy, nothing is wasted. So, nothing we go through on this earth is in vain.
“When will things go back to normal” isn’t really the right question. Why would we want to go back to normal? Look at how it worked out for Joseph. If he had gone back to the normal he knew before being put in prison, as good as that life may have been it was nothing compared to being the second in command in all of Egypt. The new normal for Joseph was so much better than old normal.
So then, we have to turn our attention to depending on God to get us through this time. We don’t like that idea. We don’t want to be dependent on anyone other than ourselves. Because that requires trust. When we are self-sufficient we at least know we will never let ourselves down, even though we do all the time.
But, sometimes things come along that are outside of our control. Sometimes a global pandemic sneaks up on us like when my daughter Hannah uses the restroom in the middle of the night. She just appears out of nowhere. When something that is bigger than us that is out of our control comes along, it shows us just how foolish it to try to be self-sufficient.
This situation in particular is showing us that even community and relationships with friends and family can leave us wanting. It’s great to have a supportive community, but what do you do when you’re quarantined from them? How do you survive when you’ve been dependent on others who are just as vulnerable to this pandemic as every human on the planet?
Things had been going pretty well for us in America until about 3 weeks ago. The economy was booming, unemployment was the lowest it had been in about 60-70 years. We were living on a constant high. Everything was going our way. Of course we still found plenty to complain about, but in large part, things were great.
When you’ve been living on an emotional high and that gets taken away from you, it’s easy to want to retreat to a cave and throw your pity party. Just like Elijah, we can find ourselves whining to God that there are no other people following God like we are and ask God why isn’t He acting on our behalf.
We don’t realize that this is right where God wants us. He doesn’t want us to live on the mountain calling down fire from heaven. He doesn’t want us to live in the roar of the outrageous. He wants us to live in the calm of His peace. His voice is not very often heard in the thunder that echoes across the valley. His voice is most often heard as a whisper, a still small voice. God may very well strip us of all the things we turn to for comfort if they have caused us to stop turning to Him. We may want to turn to the left or to the right, but God will be right there ready to whisper to us which way to go, if we’re listening.
As much as we would like to believe that we are self-sufficient, the truth is it is God who sustains us. When Elijah was defeated and crying in the cave, it was God provided for him. When you’ve felt defeated over the past week and found yourself crying into a pillow, God may have you right where He wants you. Where you can do nothing to provide for your own needs, where you realize you are radically insufficient in comparison to the eternal God of the universe. Where you can see that you’ve been fooling yourself trying to prove that you’re strong when nothing compares to the strength of the Lord. Because true strength isn’t found in our ability but in God’s eternity.
But, when will this be over? When will things go back to normal? There’s so much chaos in the world right now! Things seem out of control and I need order, I need systems and structure. This has to be over soon so we can get back to a sense of stability, right?
Since God is always in control, the timing of the situation is in His hands. We may plan our days, but the Lord determines our steps. If we try to take control right now, it may be disastrous. Our job in this moment is to trust the one who is outside of this situation with the outcome of this situation. We are too close, we are limited by our biases. What is our job in times like these?
Our job is to wait on the Lord. “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall” In all our human striving we will grow tired and weary. But our job is not to strive, our job is to trust.
Don’t be confused by the word waiting. Waiting is often a very active activity. When Noah was building the ark, he was waiting. He waited for over a hundred years. But he kept working on the ark. Joseph was waiting in prison, but he was still serving God by interpreting dreams and working hard to gain the favor of the prison guards. In God’s eyes, waiting is not a time to sit still.
You may not be able to do what you want, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do what God wants you to do during this time. The good news is that this active kind of waiting comes with a pretty good promise. “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
The question is, are we waiting on the Lord, listening to His still small voice and trusting that He has all of this apparent chaos under control. Jon Bloom wrote: “Uncertainty is only apparent uncertainty. Our future and our provision and our ultimate triumph are certain to God.”
The uncertainty of the moment is only apparent uncertainly. Our future is certain. God’s provision for His children is unquestionable. Our triumph in God over this situation is guaranteed for those who’s hope is in the Lord.
So, the questions we should be asking is: “Where is our hope?”
Hebrews 12 tells us that we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Have you been shaken by this? Because God hasn’t. This hasn’t caught God by surprise. He’s not up in Heaven shaking his head and scratching His chin saying, “Well, I didn’t see that coming.” If we have been shaken by this, it’s actually an opportunity.
Instead of getting down on ourselves for being shaken, it’s a chance to find our footing. If we have been shaken, we may have had our hope in other things. We may have had our hope in ourselves, in our standard of living, our culture or a thousand other things.
Where is your hope?
1 Peter 1:3-4 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you…”
We have a living hope, a hope beyond the here and now, established on a firmer foundation than earth itself. Our hope is in God, the maker of heaven and earth. We have hope because we “…have been raised with Christ” which is why we “set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God…not on earthly things.”
And when our hope is built on a better foundation, even when we face such “light affliction” we know that these temporary afflictions are “…working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes: but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8.