By Brianna Hines
Here we are, diving into another Bible study. It seems to me like the last two years have been a blur. Change after change has rattled my routine and our church. We have had to be flexible, think on our feet, and hold loosely the things we always thought would be stable. All of the balancing and readjusting has been exhausting for me, and I would imagine for you, too. It takes a lot of energy to weather disappointment, plans that change once, twice, seven times, and so many unmet expectations. It can leave us feeling shaken, and not just frazzled, but shaken like a soda can bouncing around a pickup bed going 60 down a gravel road! I can’t take much more of this. One more change and I am fit to burst and spray debris all over the nearest unfortunate victim. I have realized that I am desperately craving a patch of solid ground.
I look around me, and it isn’t just mask mandates and the faces I see on a Sunday morning that are changing. There are a lot deeper changes going on as well. I am hearing about long-standing marriages failing, the faith of rock-solid believers crumbling, the hearts of my friends breaking under the weight of all the prolonged stress they have shouldered for far too long. I see younger and younger children struggling with mental health, schools losing their best teachers, and celebrity pastors tumbling like great white pillars into shattered heaps of moral failing. Even my personal ability to handle stress has plummeted to a dangerously low threshold. It takes less and less to send me spiraling into either anger or apathy, both of which are tough on my family — and me. What is happening to us all?
I know things are “back to normal” now, but my trust has been forever shaken. After what we all experienced these last two years, I think we realize now that things, even the most certain things, could change in an instant. It is hard to really trust our own weight on even the soundest aspects of our previously normal life.
I have realized that I have been seeking after things that won’t change on me. I have been asking myself a lot of questions like, “How do I know what is true in the midst of a world that changes so much? What is really worthy of my trust? What can I count on?” I need to know what is stable. I need to know what is true. I need to know what I can stand on even when all the rest of my life feels like a Richter 10.
We are not the first people in history to crave this solid ground. Two thousand years ago there was a church of believers that felt exactly the same way. They were trying to figure out what was true in a very uncertain time. They had guest preachers spewing half-truths from the pulpit, messed-up ideas of what salvation looked like floating around the community, and so much doubt and fear about what to believe that a kind old pastor wrote them a letter. Today we call that letter the book of First John, and it was written to people a lot like you and me, who were trying their best to figure out what on earth they should believe as true when nothing around them seemed trustworthy or solid.
As I studied this little book, it brought me a lot of comfort. Over and over again, the author, John, tells his readers what is true. He tells them all of the things they can trust wholeheartedly, that will never change with time or circumstances, and he describes the kinds of people they can trust fully as well. He also repeatedly reminds them of what they already knew but began to doubt in the face of all the uncertainty in their culture. The entire letter of First John is one big assurance to believers that were withering under the weight of an unpredictable world, and its words can have the same bolstering influence on us today.
The words of First John, and of the entire Bible, have remained unchanged across the centuries, and their truth rings out as trustworthy, solid ground. God’s Word is the same as it was 2000 years ago, and it will be the same 2000 years into the future. The words are just as true, just as dependable, and just as life-giving as they were for the believers reading this letter from Pastor John when it was hot out of the postman’s hands.
God’s character will never change either. His mandates for salvation don’t shift with the times. His love and devotion don’t fade even when we are at our worst. I have been reminded through this little letter that the ONLY thing I can count on to remain unchanged throughout my life is God and His Word. That is the only solid ground I can stand on with confidence. Praise the Lord that I don’t have to rely on other things to be that stability for me, unlike so many of the lost people floating adrift in our shifting culture.
If, like I, you are desperately seeking some solid ground in our unpredictable world, studying First John with us might give you the assurance you crave. God’s Word will never change, and His love will never get canceled. He is the solid foundation that can help us stand firm even when the world, or our very lives, are falling apart all around us. I pray that more and more, you and I may be able to say as the psalmist does:
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Psalm 62:5-7
Editor’s Note: Join UFC Women this Thursday at 9:30 a.m. at Barn (or on Zoom) or at 6:30 p.m. in the church offices for Brianna Hines’ newest Bible study on First John. The cost for the newly published book is $15. Childcare will be provided for the morning study. If you are interested in joining the Zoom group, please contact Jamie Harms at firstname.lastname@example.org.