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It doesn’t have to be normal

Now, I’m not saying we can just decide to live differently, break the rules in place to protect us and be un-safe. We’re going to need to adapt. But Jesus wasn’t one to sweep things under the rug and ‘accept things as they are’. He didn’t tell his disciples that everything was going to be fine and dandy and that they would have peace no matter what the future held. Jesus was real about the fact that it would be a struggle and (here’s the key), not just that it ‘eventually will be OK so just accept it’, but to be courageous as we battle our way through alongside him.

In John 16, Jesus tells his disciples: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart!I have overcome the world” (verse 33, NIV). Jesus knew the disciples were about to enter a difficult time, when he would die on the cross – and that they would have to get used to their ‘new normal’ without him. They didn’t have to accept it, they didn’t have to like it, he doesn’t tell them that the trouble about to happen is OK or justified – he just says: “take heart”.  We don’t have to accept the ‘new normal’, nor like it, and it’s not necessarily justified. Jesus asks us to stand with him. 

Take heart!

What does this mean - to ‘take heart’ as Jesus instructs us to? I’d say, to live courageously and look towards him, doing what he asks of us while also pulling our own weight in the situation we’re placed in. It’s an active process we can get our children and young people involved with. We don’t just sit back and say: “It is what it is” – we get up, get going and shout along the same: “This is what’s happening but I’m being active in living the life I want to despite the limitations – despite the ‘trouble’.”

Suddenly, the anxiety of having to get used to a ‘new normal’ seems less threatening when we’re not only allowed by God to have our moment moaning about it, but also when he invites us to be part of the process. It switches from happening to us, to happening alongside us. Even as an adult, feeling included and in-the-know with Jesus is a comfort to me. I know I can turn in prayer and say: “Lord, I’m not happy right now with the way things are. It’s not OK. But I’m being brave and I’m going out there giving it my best shot.”

We have to be reminded that we need teamwork with Jesus to make the dream work (it’s a cliché, but we all know as youth and children’s workers that working together works best). As much as the adults in the room were right in telling me that “God will make everything OK” all those years ago – he will and does – I also had my part to play in this. I had to choose to actively pursue him, trust him and love him for the best results in changing my life around. It didn’t make what was happening to me OK, it gave me grounds to start sharing how I feel with Jesus and adapting my life to fit what I wanted to see with his blessing. 

“I have overcome the world”, Jesus reminds us in the same verse, a comfort that we don’t have to have it all sussed. Young people need to know in equal parts that God has their backs in this, and so, more importantly, he is giving them the freedom to adapt as they feel comfortable, in their own time and in their own way. I know that my ‘new normal’ won’t look the same as yours, and yours to your neighbours – so let every child adapt in their own way.  

Jess Lester is deputy editor of Youth and Children’s Work magazine.