2008 closed as one of the most dramatic years in decades. From a historic election, to a reeling economy, to the outbreak of serious hostilities in the Middle East, every corner we have turned this year has confronted us with major changes. Change is a constant in our physical world. Our bodies change, aging and adjusting. Our families change, with children growing up, and parents growing old. Our society is in a constant state of change.
There were times in history when societal changes were extremely slow. William Manchester, writing about Europe during the Middle Ages in a book titled A World Lit Only by Fire, relates how a traveler could theoretically return to a village after 500 years and find virtually no change in the tools, technology, and lifestyle of the people. If we analyze the pace of change over the roughly four hundred years of American history, we find an interesting parallel to William Manchester's observations about Europe. From the first colonists until approximately 1900, comparatively little technological change occurred. Most of the population of the United States worked in and around agriculture, and most of the labor was done by hand, though some newly-invented farm machinery was beginning to make inroads. The cotton gin, for example, which was invented in 1793, was beginning to change the way cotton was processed, but it was still picked by hand.
But the pace of change has changed.
Change happens at breakneck speed today. Technology changes in leaps and bounds. Anyone who uses a computer knows the frustration of trying to keep up with software updates that occur on a yearly basis, giving us the "sundown principle," where software rapidly becomes obsolete. And transportation is no different. The mini-van I drive today is far from being like the car my father drove. Computer chips tell modern vehicles how to run and tell us what maintenance details or problems need to be tended to. How about styles? Styles come and go in months – not decades. High school fashion that is the rage in September may be totally "un-cool" by the end of the school year. Change can be frustrating.
Yet we venerate change. TV commercials, music, jargon – it's all about something new and something different. It's all about change. Political campaigns, both Democrat and Republican, equate change with good. In fact, we've made a mantra out of change. In a society and culture with prosperity-induced boredom, the "change" mantra provides novelty if not escape. When ice cream is a rare treat, we savor every bite. When we can afford to eat ice cream every day, with every meal, vanilla just doesn't impress us much. We want something different.
Judges 5:6-8 tells us of a time in ancient Israel when the people were bored with the status quo. They pursued new gods and new ways. But they paid a price. Change began to hurt. They lost their freedoms, their farms, and their families. They couldn't walk along the roads for fear of their lives. They had to harvest their food in secret, for fear of confiscation. Their economy was ruined by the aggression and oppression of foreigners.
Not all change is good.
2008 has been a year in which we have seen how change can hurt. Our economy has dramatically changed for the worse – virtually overnight – though the seeds were planted years ago. With the price of gasoline hitting historic highs, we've gotten a taste of the impact of dramatic change in a commodity we depend upon for everything that makes our little world go around. And companies have gone bankrupt, leaving employees with little hope of return to the same level of income in today's changing job market. According to all accounts, our standard of living is changing for the worse.
What changes will occur in 2009? Will the pace of dramatic change in our world continue? No. In fact, it will increase in speed. The Bible describes a time immediately before Christ's return when our world will be turned upside down, changed in a whirlwind of activity. We read about environmental disasters, national collapses and overthrows, and a world that will change dramatically in a matter of months (Revelation 6-8).
Thankfully, we can rely on a God Who will direct us, protect us and preserve us – Who does not change (Malachi 3:6). Request our free booklet The World Ahead: What Will It Be Like? It will show you what God thinks about change – and tell you about good changes that are ahead.