Updated: Apr 28, 2020
One of the things I have found hardest over the last two weeks has been the incredible pace and depth of change that has happened in my life and the lives around me. My daily routines have been unpicked, re-written, unpicked again, and are only now being re-written once more. Understanding what my work is as Associate Pastor has almost felt different every day. My family has a new pattern of living and learning. Change is tiring even when we choose it. When it’s forced upon us by negative circumstances, it’s exhausting.
We’ve all felt it to greater of lesser extents. It’s all been thrown up in the air: routines, health, finances, plans.
Change is of course inevitable at any time, but at a time when change has come at such speed and volume another feature of God’s glory which we would do well to pause and remember is that he is unchangeable. Read these verses from Psalm 102 slowly:
25 In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. 26 They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. 27 But you remain the same, and your years will never end.
The most astonishing thing about here is the contrast. Literally everything else is changeable. One day creation itself, the entire universe even, will ‘wear out’ like an old T-Shirt, not even worthy of the charity shop any more. But God does not change.
That’s amazing. As you read these words, change is happening all around you, and in you. In his book, Incomparable, Andrew Wilson reminds us that even if we tried standing or sitting as still as we can, perhaps closing our eyes and even holding our breath, we cannot stop change.
As still as you might think you are, in just one second your brain has processed around 400 billion pieces of information, your body has made 2-3 million new red-blood cells (let alone other types of cell). Meanwhile even while you sit 'still,' the rock you’re living on has travelled more than 18.5 miles through space and the sun has lost 5-6 million tons of material. All in one second! Meanwhile you have experienced one moment followed by another, bringing change with it.
And all the while, God does not change. In fact, it’s more than that: God cannot change.
The wonderful, mind-stretching truth about God’s glory is that he is unchangeable. Why is that so good? Because it is central to who he is. He is perfect in knowledge, which means he cannot change by gaining or losing knowledge. He is perfectly just, which means his standards of justice will always be consistent. He is perfect in love, which means his love does not increase or decrease. As a friend of mine put it, “God is everything he is at full volume all the time.” He doesn’t change because he cannot change!
In a world being thrown upside down by the coronavirus outbreak that is simply fantastic news. Nothing could be better!
Why? Because, although change in us can sometimes be for the better, it can also be for the worse. We can grow more humble, but we can also grow more proud. We can grow stronger and healthier, but we can also grow weaker and become sick. For a perfect God, change could only be negative. It would either mean he has become less perfect, or that he wasn’t perfect to start with.
Most of all though, the fact that God does not change means he is totally and utterly trustworthy. When I promise my children something—say a trip to the seaside during the Easter holidays—there can be all sorts of reasons why I might not be able to follow that promise up. I may not be able to foresee the changes that will make it impossible. But when God makes a promise, we can trust that it will not change because he will not change.
For a Christian that is wonderfully precious. When God promises to work for our good, to make us like his Son even through the toughest of circumstances, we can trust him. When he promises to set his love upon us we can know that love will not change. We can’t lessen its volume by disappointing him any more than we can increase its volume by pleasing him.
One writer put it this way:
“What peace it brings to the Christian’s heart to realise that our heavenly Father never differs from himself. In coming to him that any time we need not wonder whether we shall find him in a receptive mood. He is always receptive to misery and need, as well as to love and faith. He does not keep office hours or set aside periods when he will see no one. Neither does he change his mind about anything. Today, this moment, he feels towards his creatures, towards babies, towards the sick, the fallen, the sinful, exactly as he did when he sent his only begotten son into the world to die for mankind.”
And there is one more astonishing truth to be added into this mix of wonder. In the New Creation, when we have been made new and brought face-to-face with Christ himself, we will find that our changeable natures have been changed. We won’t become unchanging—we will still grow in our knowledge of God with each passing moment (wonderfully he is an infinite God which means there will always be more to know!)—but we will be unchanging in one vital and new way: our sinlessness. We will never again fall, because that is what God has unchangingly promised for us, and he does not change!
Here, again, is a feature of God’s glory which is worth drinking in deeply as we experience the changes and challenges of this time.
Onwards to Glory!