Following God, Feeling Lost, and Longing for Normalcy
Written by Lance Adams
Recently I was listening to a song by Andrew Peterson called the The Silence of God. In it he beautifully poses a difficult question:
…if a man has got to listen to the voices of the mob
Who are reeling in the throes of all the happiness they’ve got
When they tell you all their troubles have been nailed up to that cross
Then what about the times when even followers get lost?
‘Cause we all get lost sometimes
So, what about the times when even followers get lost? I know many of us are feeling somewhat lost at the moment. Not lost in terms of salvation or ultimate destiny, but a feeling of being unable to plan or move confidently in a single direction. We are living with a sense of unease about our undetermined return to normalcy and the consequences of this disruption. At times, I am even overwhelmed by the amount of resource materials we are encouraged to consider to distract, educate, help us manage our kids, serve or help us grow. These tools are meant to help, and they often do, but they also serve as a constant reminder that things are different. I have definitely been guilty of trying to fill the space with productive busyness. There are advertisements, emails, commercials, news feeds, Facebook posts, and tweets that are all vying to offer us pandemic management tools. In this context, where do we turn to when we are feeling lost and longing for a return to normalcy?
It is interesting to look at the Israelites’ exodus from the bondage of slavery: The Israelites said to [Moses and Aaron], “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” Exodus 16:3
Even after 400 years of oppression, the people demonstrate a desire for normalcy so strong, that they grumble and long to return to live in bondage, just to keep the status quo. Human beings have a deep and persistent desire for normalcy and constancy.
While the desire for normalcy is ubiquitous, is a “normal,” predictable, safe life an appropriate expectation for a follower of Jesus? It often makes me feel uncomfortable, but I think the answer is “No.” Jesus says,
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Despite short periods that tempt us to believe the contrary, the "normal" Christian life is not often one of stable circumstances, wealth, comfort, and health. We need not be surprised when trials and difficulties come our way, as they are a common and prevalent experience for the Christian. Paul said,
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.
2 Corinthians 4:8-10
What then are we to do with our cravings for safety, normalcy, and comfort? It is not sinful to desire these things. They are good, God-given desires that remind of us of Eden, our first home, the one we were designed for. But we must not let them draw us back to a place that is not our home, as Israel did looking back to Egypt. They were foreigners, travelers, on their way to a place of blessing and safety. Instead of longing for what laid behind them, they needed to look toward Who was leading them and hope for what lies beyond. The Christian life, also, is described as one of sojourning, or moving through foreign circumstances with purpose:
All these people [who were faithful to God] were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. Hebrews 11:13
Just like the Israelites, we are expected to follow Jesus as the good shepherd, as a living and trustworthy guide. We look forward to our place of safety and comfort, though it will not be in these realms. The ultimate destination is the same for all of us who trust Jesus. While we are here, as foreigners and travelers, we must fix our eyes firmly on Him who walks ahead of us. We may feel lost, but we are not lost. We are redeemed sojourners in broken bodies, in a broken world, following our God, who was broken for us. For me, any small calibration to my day that leads to a more intimate knowledge of the one I need to follow makes this difficult journey a little easier.
Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:2-3