Backing into 2022: Longing for the World-That-Was

By M.R. Conrad. Reposted from Rooted Thinking.

2022. What kind of year lies ahead of us? Will we continue living in this dystopian world or will we finally return to normal?

Longing for “Normal”

Normal was the way things were before. We knew the parameters, and we were accustomed to them. No one judged others by their medical decisions. When we wanted to go somewhere, we went without consulting the latest guidelines. We were aware that most media was designed to shape public opinion, but we could ignore it without consequence. We just lived. No, life was not perfectly smooth, impartially just, or always prosperous. However, we were, for the most part, used to the bumps. Because life was settled and generally predictable, we were able to look ahead and anticipate future plans. This was normal.

Then, the pandemic hit in late 2019. Then masks. Then closed borders. Then quarantines. Then inflation. Then the “new normal,” which, as yet, has not been completely defined. Social unrest spiked. Loved ones fell ill and suffered alone, barred from their families. Like never before in our lifetime, the world has been subdivided by quarantines, vaccines, ethnicity, celebrity, wealth, and travel restrictions. We look back and wish for better days to return.1

However, as Christians, we are looking the wrong way. Our hope is not in the past but in the future. Our eyes should rest, not on world conditions, but on Jesus Christ. Only He can eradicate disease and heal society’s ills. As we wait for His return, how do we cope in the world-that-now-is?

1. Look to Jesus and Endure.

Jesus is our example. We turn our eyes to Him: “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Our Savior endured a hostile society. His own people turned against Him just for Who He was. They twisted the good He did into a threat to their society (John 11:47-52). Yet, Jesus continued helping people, speaking the truth, and following God’s will. Look to Jesus and endure as He did.

2. See Yourself as a Pilgrim on this Earth.

Even the most spiritual among us are too attached to this world. Yet, God calls us strangers and pilgrims (Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 2:11). He commands us to seek the things that are above, not the things on this earth (Colossians 3:1-2). We should care about the state of the world, but the events of our day should not consume our outlook or shape our attitudes toward others.

Whatever the new reality is, we must learn to live in it, rather than gripe against it. We should adapt without accepting lies and propaganda. We can exercise God-given rights (Acts 25:11). We must live “blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15). Our Heavenly Father, the source of our light, must inform our perspective on world affairs, help us interpret what we hear, and keep us grounded when the sands of public opinion shift. When we recognize that the new normal, like the old normal, is temporary, we can spiritually thrive despite the world-that-now-is and whatever it may evolve to become.

3. Eagerly Wait for Your New Home in Heaven.

While we are strangers and pilgrims in this world, we are not untethered nomads. We belong to a different realm. Philippians 3:20-21 reminds us that as born again believers in Jesus “our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” However insecure this changing world may feel, our future remains unshakable. The world-that-will-be is our destiny.

4. Serve God Contentedly Where He Has You Now.

However, the perfect reality of the world-that-will-be has not yet dawned. We must live where we are. We must serve God with contentment today.

When the apostle Paul wrote the book of Philippians, the society of his native Judea had turned against him. Then, the Roman prison system robbed years from his life. Yet, Paul could rest with contentment in God’s will … in jail … unjustly … often lacking funds … for doing right. During this time, Paul testified, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13).

Contentment does not come from an idyllic environment, free of restrictions or oppression. Contentment comes from keeping our eyes on Jesus, getting our values from Him, and submitting to His sovereignty in our lives, even when we do not understand. We do not need the world-that-was to be happy today.

Challenge

The world-that-now-is is not the world-that-was. Time marches on. We cannot live in the past. There is no more we can do for God there. We must press on into the future, serving God faithfully in a changing world. Discontented reminiscing gets us nowhere. Complaining never furthers God’s work. Griping never glorifies God.

Let us not pine for the world-that-was. Let us long for the world-that-will-be. May we look beyond 2022 even as we wholeheartedly embrace the opportunities God brings in the new year.

Photo by Ishan Gupta on Unsplash.

Notes

1 Read more about faithful living in a changing world in the testimony of Darlene Deibler Rose, Eric Liddell, and others in my missions devotional, Daring Devotion: A 31-Day Journey with those who Lived God’s Promises.


Dr. Conrad serves in urban Asia. He, his wife, and their four children squeeze into a 700 square-foot apartment where he seizes rare moments of quiet to write amidst homeschooling, a cacophony of musical instruments, and the steady stream of visitors they so enjoy having in their home. He enjoys birding, board games, and basketball. He is the author of Daring Devotion: A 31-Day Journey with those who Lived God’s Promises.

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Aaron Blumer's picture

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A lot of timeless truth here and you can't go wrong with that. The framing feels off to me, though. I'm apparently out of sync with most of conservative evangelicalism and political conservatism right now. I don't see our times as particularly dire. I don't look back on pre-covid as dramatically better days. I do see the government response to covid as flawed, but any response would have been--and I don't see the response as particularly egregious. I see religious liberty as sort of under attack, but not mainly from government: it's most threatened indirectly by increasing unbelief, which government and policy and politicians can do nothing about. Well, they can make it somewhat worse. They probably can't make it better. They can uphold the law, which is great but only slows the inevitable in a culture that is increasingly unbelieving.

In short, I don't feel like the end of America as we know it much closer now than it was in 2016-2019, and I'm not nostalgic.

All of that proves nothing at all, but I feel this out of sync thing so often these days, I wanted to offload some of it. In the big sweep of history, we live in really great times and there's a ton that is exciting, promising, and hopeful going on.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

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