When World War broke out some said, “No worries, it’ll all be over by Christmas.” And that was the hope, that the war was just a temporary blip, and soon everything would be back to normal. And isn’t that the hope of this virus thingy, that it’ll all be over soon and we can all get back to normal?
“Normal” being what, though? Will it be society’s normal or God’s normal?
Society’s normal is the freedom to do what we want, and have all our basic wants and needs met by our own strength and ingenuity, and by the skills and support of others. It’s having a job to supply the necessary income for food, housing and whatever else we need and enjoy. It’s having friends and family to enjoy life with. It’s learning and having things to do that keep our spirits up. It’s buying things we like, watching things we like, eating what we like, going places we like, meeting with people we like, and being able to care for those we feel responsible for, and giving pleasure to those we love.
But things keep interrupting that normal, don’t they? A lost job, an accident, back pain, a cancer scare, a bully, a scam that steals our savings, scary weather, and now sudden pandemics that strike any time and anywhere. And when our normal is interrupted our natural human reactions are anger, fear, complain and blame. The fabric of our “norm” soon unravels to reveal a rather fragile and nasty side to us. And we can’t help it; it’s just who we are.
I’m glad Psalms is in the Bible, then, because many of the Psalms are written by people whose “norms” have also been interrupted. But they talk of another “norm” they experienced too. They discovered it was quite normal for God to come to their aid when he was asked to. The “sons of Korah,” the writers of Psalm 46, for instance, had discovered that “God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him,” which had enabled them to “stand fearless at the cliff edge of doom,” as the Message translation phrases these first few verses.
So, what if this Covid thingy isn’t over by Christmas, and the whole world is on “the cliff edge of doom” – or feels like it is – and there’s no “getting back to normal“ in sight? And people are really falling to pieces all over the place.
Well, in Psalm 46 the sons of Korah have some advice from God, and it’s in quotation marks as if it’s God himself speaking. And God says, “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.”
I like that: “Step out of the traffic.” Traffic is where everybody is headed, rushing headlong totally oblivious to anything but their own need and destination, like the first few days of the virus scare when people rushed Into stores to strip the shelves. Well, don’t you be like that, God says. Step aside from it all, and “Take a long, loving look at me.”
I have to admit I haven’t taken a long, loving look at God for a long time. Who’s got time for that? I‘ve got work to do, people to meet, phone calls to make, exercise to do, cars to repair, house to clean, a yard to care for, TV to watch, news to keep up with, sermons to prepare, and when (and if) that lot is done I’m done too. I’m ready for bed.
It’s the typical “traffic” we’re all caught up with in this world, isn’t it? There’s a brief “stepping out of the traffic” during a church service, which is nice and sometimes extremely relieving, but for how long? A couple of hours, maybe, and then whoosh, the week takes over and we’re off and running again.
But along comes a pandemic and all of a sudden – no traffic, or at least a whole lot less of it. I’ve actually got time on my hands. A chance to dive into Psalms where I can read about people just like me being brought to a halt too, and what they discovered when they had time to take a long, loving look at God.
And God had them write down what they discovered too, and it’s quite shocking, because they had a relationship with God that lifted them into an entirely different dimension – “Above politics, above everything,” as it says in Psalm 46.
That’s quite something, because whose life isn’t ruled by politics, whether it’s politicians and what they’re up to, or the politics at work and in families that throw our emotions into turmoil?
Well, according to Psalm 46, I can actually find myself separated from it all, above it all, not swayed by it or afraid of it in the least little bit. It doesn’t affect my day or ruin my mood. And it’s not just the writers of Psalm 46 who say that; tons of Psalms do. They make it worth a long, loving look, because the writers of those Psalms are describing what actually happened to them, to people just like me.
So, will this virus thingy be over before Christmas, so I can get back to normal? Well, maybe I’ll discover a new “norm” instead, the kind of norm the writers of Psalms discovered. And I’ve got the time now too, to take a long, loving look at what God provided for us in those Psalms.