I’m sure most of us have heard the phrase: “History repeats itself.” In fact, if you look at scripture, you will see that is actually a very true statement.
The writer of Ecclesiastes put it this way: “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”
Nearly 100 years ago, our world was facing some of the same challenges as today. The comparisons are alarmingly similar. In 1918, the Spanish flu pandemic was gripping the world. In the United States, it was first identified in military personnel in the spring of 1918. These soldiers most likely contracted this flu virus during the fighting of World War I.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, “It is estimated that about 500 million people became infected with this virus. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States.”
The Spanish flu came on the heels of WWI. These two events back to back had caused many Americans to become weary of the crisis and long for things to “get back to normal.”
What feels normal to you? To me, eating in a restaurant feels normal. Going to church in the building with other people feels normal. Shaking hands feels normal. Being around crowds of people feels normal. Taking my kids to school every day feels normal. Going to the gym feels normal.
Normal is the day when we can cease all of these emergency measures and enjoy the freedom we previously experienced. Normal is the day we can return to worshiping God with our fellow brothers and sisters in the church building. If you are like me, you’re probably ready for a return to normalcy.
Approximately 100 years ago, in 1920, there was a Republican Senator from Ohio running for president. His name was Warren G. Harding. His campaign slogan was, “A Return to Normalcy.” Here’s how Harding defined normalcy in a May 1920 speech in Boston: “America’s present need is not heroics, but healing; not solutions, but normalcy; not revolution, but restoration; not agitation, but adjustment; not surgery, but serenity; not the dramatic, but the calm; not experiment, but equipoise; not submergence in internationality, but sustainment in triumphant nationality.”
For many Americans in 1920, their “normalcy” was a restoration of what was before WWI. Americans had grown weary of the influenza-related disruptions, such as quarantine and closures. The Spanish flu returned in waves between 1918 and the election of Harding in the fall of 1920. America was then, as I believe is now, ready for a return to normalcy. I surely don’t want to be moving church online again this fall or next year. My kids don’t want to spend their childhood cycling through periods of not seeing their friends. None of us want to spend Christmas in front of screens, rather than celebrating Jesus’ birth with our sisters and brothers in Christ.
As a Christian, normalcy should be defined through the lens of our faith. With all the talk of a “new normal” for the believer, the new normal should be the tried and true and proven normal that simply says “trust God.” There are two things of which I am certain you can place your trust: God’s Word and God’s faithfulness. Psalm 119:89 reminds us, “Forever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.” When something is forever it is eternal, unchanging, and established. God’s Word is a source of stability for us as believers in an unstable world. Secondly, we can trust God’s faithfulness. Psalm 90:1 encourages us, “Lord thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.” Back in 1918, schools, churches and business were shuttered just as today. People struggled, but God’s faithfulness remained. He was their dwelling place. The Lord has not forgotten this generation.
I personally don’t believe that COVID-19 will forever change the world. This is only a season. Eventually it will pass. Just as the generation 100 years ago survived and went on to build a great nation, I believe in time we will see a victory over this unseen enemy. There will be a return to normalcy. But let me encourage you to create a new normal built upon the foundation of your faith. Choose to pray more than you worry. Choose to speak life and health over your family. Most importantly, choose to love God and love one another. Let this be our “new normal.”