The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said that change is the only constant. It often feels that way in our lives. We may be wearing short sleeves today when we needed a sweater yesterday. The patients we visit today may no longer be in the hospital tomorrow. Just when we replaced all our VHS movies with DVD, stores are selling Blu-Ray discs. Friends move away or drift out of our lives, and new acquaintances become dear friends. Children we clearly remember as toddlers are now graduating from high school. Trusted colleagues are transferred to a different unit, or move on to another job altogether.
Some of these changes are good, while others are painful. We may find ourselves struggling to keep up, wondering if there is any solid ground on which we can stand. At times, even God can appear inconstant. When I pray with patients for physical healing, I don’t know how those prayers will be answered. One patient may leave the hospital healthy; another may die. So what does this mean? In a world of constant change, can we not even count on God?
My faith and the evidence of what I experience every day tell me that God can be trusted fully. This does not mean that God is at our beck and call or will always do what we expect, but that God’s nature never changes. The wisdom of many religions affirms that the nature of God is love, and everything God does flows from that attribute, although we may not always be able to see that from our human perspective. William Cowper’s 1774 hymn God Moves in a Mysterious Way sums up this idea beautifully. According to tradition, Cowper wrestled with depression and religious doubt. One night, he called a carriage to his home in London and asked the driver to take him to the River Thames, where he planned to drown himself. But a thick fog rolled in, and the driver became so hopelessly lost he could not find the river. They drove in circles for some time until finally the driver let Cowper out, back on his own doorstep. After that experience, Cowper penned these words:
“God moves in a mysterious way / His wonders to perform. / He plants His footsteps in the sea / And rides upon the storm. / Ye fearful saints fresh courage take / the clouds ye so much dread / Are big with mercy and shall break / In blessings on your head. / Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, / But trust Him for His grace; / Behind a frowning providence / He hides a smiling face. / His purposes will ripen fast, / Unfolding every hour. / The bud may have a bitter taste, / But sweet will be the flower.”
God, with so many changes happening around and within us all the time, thank you for your love that never changes. You were and are and always will be gracious, compassionate, and abounding in steadfast love. Help us to adapt to the inevitable changes in our lives, and give us grace for the especially difficult ones. Thank you for being with us, whatever else may change. Amen.
--Chaplain Stacy N. Sergent