The Trouble With Normal
“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. Romans 7:14-15
You do not live in constant crisis, though you might think so at times. For you are not designed to live in crisis every moment of every day and survive it; in actual fact most of your life is made up of “normal. Normal for some people in some environments may be truly crisis for other people who have the privilege of living in nations in relative peace. However, crises of one type or another penetrate all societies in this sinful world. Crises can have a beneficial impact on many lives; they push you to seek relief from the crisis, and if the current crisis pushes you to earnestly seek God, it is a providential life-saver that comes from God’s loving hand. On the other hand, “normal lulls you into spiritual sleep. Spiritual lethargy is the disease that arises from a fallen nature that is prone to sin rather than pursue righteousness or consistent obedience.
A good analogy of how your fallen nature subtly works in you is thinking of yourself floating through life with the natural current of a river that moves inexorably downstream. You cannot stop your aging process, or the movement of time, any more than the direction of your flesh if you are unwilling to exercise faith in your God and Savior. As in the words of Isaac Watts’ rendition of Psalm 90, “Time like an ever rolling stream bears all its sons away. You must intentionally exercise personal and, with others, corporate faith and paddle or swim against the current. No one floats or glides into the rewards of heaven simply by going with the flow in this world. You must as Paul says, “Kick against the goads which prod you in the direction of the current in which you live. Your “normal life can be a sleeping pill necessitating God to use crisis or crises to get your attention on what is truly paramount in your life now for eternity’s sake.
As I was reading the Bible to my 97 year old father, who expressed eagerness when I asked him beside his bed if I could read God’s Word to him, he fell asleep within the first few verses. Soon after, he awakened to my silence and asked why I wasn’t still reading. I began anew, and he again fell asleep. It is not as though the Word was new or unfamiliar to him; he spent a lifetime in its study. But it caused me to think how much we “fall asleep or allow our minds to wander when we are in worship, hearing the Word preached, or drift off in personal prayer, meditation, or private worship. My almost century old father has good reason at his age to drift into sleep; those of us of much younger age have little excuse, and are really just proving the point of the nature of our flesh. The truth of Ecclesiastes 12 comes home to us in this, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth before the days of trouble come (particularly, as the passage continues, concerning the “trouble of old age when the capacity of the body cannot keep us awake or alert to spiritual food). It needs to be “packed in now, fixed in the heart and mind before the days when “the grinders are few…….and the grasshopper drags himself along and desire no longer is stirred. Old age isn’t for sissies any more than a fool-hardy approach to life should result in your youth being squandered with regard to your spiritual growth. The wisest of scholars emphatically advises that you take every advantage in the energy and alertness of youth to pursue God and His wisdom! Anathema to procrastination!
If God did not invade your normal you would be of all men most pitied; if He should not get your attention in the only way that seems to waken you to the horrors of your lethargy, He would not love you. Love drives Him to not leave you alone as the Hound of Heaven who pursues you relentlessly. It is true love which shakes your soul awake through circumstances of pain before you go headlong over the cliff of destruction. Stop complaining of God’s apparent silence in your circumstances and prayers to relieve you of their pain, or His not protecting you from hardship when you need to be seeking why and to what end He has brought whatever it is about. And if you are thinking “Been there, done that, do I need to do this again? think on this truth from C. S. Lewis with regard to your learning dependence on God each new day: “As you say, the thing is to rely ONLY on God. The time will come when you will regard all this misery as a small price to pay for having been brought to this dependence. Meanwhile (don’t I know) the trouble is that relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done. (Letters of C. S. Lewis)
Do not allow your normal to be a sedative, putting to sleep your growth in Christ. It will unless with intentional faith you swim against the current of your fallen nature in your normal life. Do not succumb to “What I want to do, I do not do. Paul asks the question you should be asking daily in response to this very real dilemma in your normal life: “Who will rescue me from this body of death? that is, this sinful nature which dwells in my flesh and thrives if I let it. The answer? “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! This is a very real and effectual answer to your embattled NORMAL life.
“I ask thee for the daily strength, to none that ask denied, a mind to blend with outward life, while keeping at thy side, content to fill a little space, if thou be glorified.
(3rd verse of Anna Waring’s hymn, “Father I Know That All My Life, 1850)
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