(Editor’s Note: This post originally was published at the Reaching and Teaching blog.)
We live in uncertain times. Every day, I turn on the news to get the latest updates about the growing number of patients falling prey to COVID-19, about the new restrictions in place to limit its growth, and about how its ripple effects are spreading to every corner of the globe. The common refrain you hear from doctors, journalists, and politicians nowadays is, “It’s an ever-evolving situation.”
That’s our world. An ever-evolving situation. And it didn’t start with the onset of the coronavirus. The seasons change. The trials take different forms. But the world—and our life within it—is constantly changing. With the various changes come questions:
- When can we get out of the house again?
- What if she doesn’t like me?
- What if I lose my job?
- When will the kids go back to school?
- Will we have to come off the mission field?
- What if I never get married?
- What do we do now?
The questions we ask are endless. There is a temptation to look at all of the uncertainty around us and to be engulfed by discouragement.
Finding Rest in God’s Character and Essence
Facing uncertainty is not unique to us or our circumstances. Throughout the Bible, we read of men and women who face the same whiplash of changes. Moses went from living in Pharaoh’s palace to being a murderer on the run to leading God’s people out of Egypt. David was anointed by Samuel to be the eventual king of Israel, and yet, he was forced at one point to pretend he was insane because he was afraid of being killed by the king of Gath. Jesus’s disciples followed him around for three years, and then they had to figure out what life would look like after Jesus was killed and rose again.
As fallen and finite beings, we are continually learning new facts that alter our perception, continually facing new developments that alter our plans, and continually experiencing trials that threaten our relationships. We change, and the world changes around us.
Yet, God does not change. The theological term for this idea is the immutability of God. Simply put, God does not change in his essence, attributes, or purposes. To state it another way, God’s God-ness does not and cannot change. He does not choose one day to be God and the next day decide to hang it up, like Batman might hang up his cape. Neither can he give up his love or goodness or eternality. He is perfect and infinite in all of his attributes, and to change would diminish his perfection. Michael Horton writes, “God is never free to be not-God. None of his attributes can be suspended, withdrawn, diminished, or altered” (The Christian Faith, 230).
While theological concepts can appear abstract and detached from the nitty-gritty of life, God’s immutability should be an anchor for our weary and wave-tossed souls.
Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you will remain;
They will all wear out like a garment.
You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
but you are the same, and your years have no end.
The children of your servants shall dwell secure;
Their offspring shall be established before you. (Ps. 102:25–28)
In this psalm—a psalm that is described as a prayer of one who is afflicted and weary—the writer ends on a note of hope. Where is the hope rooted? It’s rooted in the fact that God does not change. Though the natural world will wear out, the psalmist finds solace in our unchanging God. The doctrine of God’s immutability is a liferaft that keeps the author from drowning in the waves of despair.
Boldly Facing the Unknown
While you may or may not be experiencing the same degree of anguish as the psalmist, we can still find security and hope in God’s unchangingness. We do not know what will happen with our health or our wealth or our current fields of service. But we do know that we have an infinitely wise and loving God who has set his plan in place from before the foundation of the world.
No global pandemic, economic downturn, or scheme of the demonic forces catches our sovereign Lord off guard. Likewise, we need not worry that he has changed his mind like an unsure or ill-informed leader. Rather, we can believe in God’s Word that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17).
We can boldly face the struggles of the day and the uncertainty of the world around us because we have an immutable and eternal God in which we can rest.