The COVID-19 pandemic has led to two terms becoming endemic to our daily vocabulary: “pivot” and “new normal”. We are warned that we have to adjust to a new normal arising from restrictions to lives and livelihoods. Businesses are exhorted to pivot their operations to this new normal to survive, and perhaps thrive. However, this new normal seems suspiciously like the old one. We still do the same things, sometimes with more difficulty than encountered previously. Others face challenges and are now worse off than in the old normal. Despite all our pivoting, things seem the same, but different, and often bad.
As Christians, we are thankful that despite the difficulties faced either currently or in the future, God will pivot us towards a newer and better normal. This is aptly captured in Romans 8:18-19, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the eagerly awaiting creation waits for the revealing of the sons and daughters of God.” What Paul says is that even though we may be suffering here on Earth, our current condition is only temporary for we will one day be as God intended us to be, a new creation, transformed, Christ-like.
We are not there yet though. We still live in a fallen world where there is decay, destruction, and death. Paul says in Romans 8:22, “For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.” The childbirth metaphor tells us that the pain that results in groaning and suffering is not without purpose, much like birth pangs which lead to new life. This pain will one day lead to our glorification, our final state as children of God. Our sinful selves will be removed, we will have new eternal bodies, and we will enjoy fellowship with God forever (Philippians 3:20-21).
What happens in the meantime? We wait for the arrival of God’s new normal. However, this waiting has important characteristics. First, we wait with perseverance as stated in Romans 8:24-25, “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, through perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” In other words, we continue to wait even in the face of suffering because we know that our hope is based on the immutable foundation of God’s promises.
Second, we wait with confidence that our transformation will eventually come to pass because God has given us “the first fruits of the Spirit” (Romans 8:23). This is God’s pledge that we will receive our future inheritance, that is, our glorification in His time (Ephesians 1:13-14). Third, we wait with reassurance because we know that we are not alone. To borrow another favourite pandemic phrase, God, specifically the Holy Spirit, is in this together with us. The Holy Spirit knows us, helps us, and intercedes for us. This is found in Romans 8:26-27, “Now in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” When our troubles become too much to bear, we can take comfort that the Holy Spirit is there to sustain us.
God’s new normal is something that we as believers can look forward to, knowing that our current struggles are fleeting in the eternal scheme of things. As we wait for that day, know that “the whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own” (J.B. Phillips’ New Testament, Romans 8:19).
By brother Dion Goh