I’m outside enjoying the unusually green July grass, birds singing, lush forest, and I’m not in a hurry to do anything while I sip a cup of coffee. It seems almost impossible that something could disturb this peaceful atmosphere. And yes, I want it to last as long as possible.
Even so, as I turn my attention from my surroundings to the pages of Scripture, I observe other scenarios that are anything but calm, relaxing, or routine. I read about various events from the ancient past and others still to come that are described with sudden change—even dramatic cataclysmic change. Some of these changes reveal the amazing goodness of God coinciding with His eternal plans. Yet there is even more Scripture that describes dramatic sudden change that reveals God’s mighty judgments upon the earth, bringing justice to a sin-soaked world, and an end to second chances (E.g. see Isa. 24:1-23). That some of these events could be described as sobering is an understatement.
As I ponder these events, I realize that even though most of my life could be described as relatively stable, normal, or routine—often including the pleasant surroundings I just described—I must guard against what psychologists call normalcy bias. In fact, because of enjoying a relatively stable life, it is probably more important for me to understand this phenomenon than it is for others.
Normalcy bias is common to most people and is defined as the refusal to believe that dramatic changes are coming, even when it’s obvious. In other words, because our lives are often routine, our natural inclination is to ask, “What could possibly go wrong?” and to believe that the days in the future will largely mirror the pleasant days in the past.
In the New Testament, Peter writes about a normalcy bias mindset that will be held by many before Jesus’ return: “They will say, ‘Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation’” (2 Peter 3:4). In other words, while some seasons of life are easy going and others prove to be difficult, no one need worry or examine anything because everything is cyclical and will continue as it always has.
Peter goes on to explain that these scoffers have chosen, deliberately, to forget the sudden catastrophic change that took place during the global flood of Noah’s day. And then he explains another dramatic unpredictable change: “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare” (2 Peter 3:10).
Clearly, normalcy bias did not work out well for those in Noah’s day, nor will that mindset prove helpful at Jesus’ Second Coming. So, as I examine my normalcy bias, I have three questions I believe all of us can benefit by pondering:
- How do you know that nothing difficult—even cataclysmic—will happen in your lifetime?
- If you are willing to reject normalcy bias and accept the possibility that God might send dramatic change to the world in your lifetime, how do you know that it won’t happen suddenly and without warning?
- If God might send a national shaking, or even a global judgment, in our lifetime, what does that mean for your life now? Peter asks an almost identical question: “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?” (2 Peter 3:11 NIV).
As you ponder these questions, look through the Bible and seek heaven’s perspective, especially on the third question. Because if changes do come, it is vital that you and I are living out our answers now.