Monthly Devotion: Who Decides What Is Normal?

A few years ago, I sat across from a friend in the food court at UNC-Chapel Hill Medical Center. I listened to a friend describe his family’s desire for “normalcy.” You see, his child, who at the time was four or five years old, had already undergone multiple major surgeries. Some were corrective in nature, while others were designed to simply improve quality of life.

Think about that. A five-year-old needs major operations simply to improve the quality of their life. Five-year-olds should experience life “enjoyment” by eating more ice cream rather than life “improvement” by the hands of the best pediatric neurologists.

Nevertheless, this had become a familiar experience for my friend’s child and his family. At the same time, my family was learning to navigate a “new normal” brought on by health problems for my wife. I shared with my friend an idea, but better yet, a truth that had helped my family. I simply asked, “Who decides what is normal?”  

If we truly believe Jeremiah 29:11, we’ll know who decides:

11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Hearing these words, we must then embrace the reality that what we may call normal, God may call yesterday’s plan. If there is one thing I have learned in the nearly twenty-five years that I have been following Jesus, it is that I need new mercies each morning. Why? Because each day has its own challenges and its own victories. When I demand normalcy, God insists on greater things for me through change. When I ask, “why can’t it be different,” He gently replies, “It will be, but on My terms, because I will give you a future and a hope.”

Today, billions of people cry out for “normalcy.” Amid a global health pandemic, when nothing about the future is certain, it would seem that a little normalcy would do us good. But again, I ask, who defines normalcy for you?

It’s been necessary to remind myself that COVID-19 did not take God by surprise. All that happens in the world on any given day is a normal occurrence for God. And everything that happens in my day is precisely part of God’s plans for welfare in my life. In Romans 8, the Apostle Paul teaches that since God, our father, has given His son, Jesus, as a substitute to pay the death penalty for our sins, which is the best gift we could ever receive, will He not also give us all things? That is to say, if God is for us, who (or what) can be against us?

Beloved, we must not forget that God is unchanging, and He is faithful to shower us with His lovingkindness and endless mercy. No trial will ever be wasted or rendered pointless. And even a coronavirus must yield and bow its knee to the one true God, creator of heaven and earth. The effects of such viruses indeed only exist because of Adam’s original sin. But this virus does run maverick around the world. Just as God draws a line in the sand for the waves of the sea, so does He say, “…this far virus, and no further.”

You see, then, every day is a “normal” day because God is in control, and things will only become abnormal when He loses control. So praise God that every day is filled with new circumstances measured out by a kind and gracious God who says I will be your strength (Psalm 46) needed to navigate another normal day.

May we embrace the faith-strengthening work of God day by day.​

Yours in Christ,
Chaplain James Chavis