Beware the Idol of “Normal”

What good will God bring out of COVID-19?

This is a fair question to ask, and one to even anticipate. Joseph, at the tail end of his life, having experienced all manner of disappointments, accusations, oppression, and despair, reflected the truth that God does indeed bring good even out of the worst things. When speaking to his brothers who were the instigators of the events that turned Joseph’s life upside down, he wisely noted:

“Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result—the survival of many people” (Gen. 50:19-20).

God can – and does – bring good from evil. Of course, that’s not the same thing as saying that an event is good in and of itself. COVID-19 and all the sickness, death, and societal upheaval it has brought is not good. But God brings good from what was a bad thing. It’s a right thing for those two things to exist side by side in our mindset – that a thing can be bad, and that God can bring good from it.

So what good will God bring out of COVID-19?

Perhaps we have seen some of it already. For in the wake of the disease and the shut down that accompanied it, we have been forced to confront all the sources of security and safety that we have held for ourselves. These idols – idols of our financial system, our jobs, our government institutions, our entertainment and comfort, our personal control and power – we have seen them topple one by one. And we have been left to confront our own hearts, seeing clearly the places where we have put our hope, security, and identity. Having seen that, we will, by God’s grace, return to the purity of finding ourselves hidden in Christ and in Him alone.

That is a good thing. Painful, but good.

And yet as we continue to find out what the next phase of life looks like, post quarantine, but still in a world with this virus, let us collectively recognize that there is another idol seeking to displace Jesus on the throne of our hearts. That is the idol of “normal.”

Who among has not said, or at least thought, “I just wish we could get back to normal?” We want to go to restaurants. We want to watch college football. We want to shake hands and give hugs. We want the stability of open workplaces and stores, of seeing facial expressions not hidden behind a mask. We want normal, and we want it badly. Perhaps we want it so badly, in fact, that we are willing to do almost anything to get there.

Surely this is yet another way to define what an idol is, isn’t it? It’s that “thing” for which you would do anything. Sacrifice anything. It’s that thing that you are convinced you absolutely cannot be truly happy without. And while we might typically think of “idols” as things like money, sex, or power, perhaps “normal” is another one of things which is fine and good until you start bowing down to it.

If you sense that strong desire in your heart, as I do, then we have a good moment here. A good heart check moment. A good moment to ask the Lord to search us and know us; to help us know our secret and hidden thoughts; and then to reaffirm what this period of time has taught us:

That there is no Rock like the Rock of Ages. That there is no true security except that which is in Christ. And that true hope is found in God alone. Let us not so quickly go backward and seek desperately to find small comfort in the arms of “normal.” Not when our Good Shepherd is waiting with open arms.

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