I was on a walk the other day enjoying the vibrant colors of Fall and Portland’s last glimpses of sunshine before the rain settles in for the winter. Change. It struck me how everything around me changes – the seasons, the weather, circumstances and people. As I considered the flux and uncertainty of life, the sharp contrast of the character of the Lord came to mind. That the Lord does not change, his immutability, is not a topic I often dwell upon but one that has significant implications for the way we approach our own lives and the things we know to be true.
God does not change, he isn’t altered, he isn’t in process, he is as he has always been and always will be.* I find that even as I write that, my soul settles, there is peace in it. In the midst of a life that swells, whose river bends and turns in unexpected ways, the constancy of the Lord is something to hold onto. The image of a river grabs me, it catches the feeling of resting in the changelessness of the Lord well. In the midst of circumstances that are difficult and inexplicable, resting in the character of the Lord doesn’t always feel like you’re standing on solid ground. You’re still bumping up and down, you still have no clue what’s around the next bend, and yet the consistency is in the current. There is a certainty there, its goal never shifts. While it speeds up and slows down, when the river bends a different direction, the current relentlessly moves the river to the ocean. Think about the Lord in this light. His being is immutable, his will never changes, the direction of his actions remain constant, and yet he is active and moving within his creation. The immutability of the Lord offers us a foundation to reframe our own understandings of the circumstances of our lives. He remains constant in both our joys and our sufferings, his will remains the same. There’s comfort in that.
The immutability of the Lord is also something that points us to the otherness of God. In many respects we are like God, we bear his image, but in this aspect God is something completely other. We have no reference to immutability in our lives. Everything we see, everyone we know, every piece of our experience is changing and in process. What that means is that it’s not a natural jump to rest on something that is changeless. Your most natural inclination is going to be to think that God is like you. And if God is like you in this respect it means that he is in process, that he is learning how to love you, that in one moment he might act for your good but in another he might choose himself. It’s helpful to take note of the otherness of the Lord in this respect because it gives you the foundation to doubt those inclinations that God reflects your own changefulness.
Finally, there’s a richness and depth that considering the character of the Lord brings. Think with me back to the image of the river but this time think about a drawing of that river. A blue marker and a curvy line could communicate the idea. While you might understand what I was getting at, it lacks the real sense of what is happening in that river. Theology can feel the same way. Have you ever had the experience where you know the right truth to hang onto but it feels like it doesn’t move in your own life, it feels stagnant and unattached? For example, in the midst of suffering saying that the Lord works for my good is kind of like drawing a river with a blue marker. There’s a richness and a depth missing from it. Thinking about the character of the Lord undergirds the things we profess to be true. It’s like painting that same river but this time using different colors to catch the reflection, lights and darks that create movement. It brings it to life.
* Taken from notes from Dr. Horton’s Doctine of God class in 2009
Kristin Silva is a Biblical Counselor living and working in Portland, OR. She graduated from Westminster Seminary California in 2010 with a Masters in Theological Studies.