I have lived in the same town my entire life and yet, on a recent drive through familiar streets to a familiar destination, I realized that absolutely nothing around me looked… familiar. Sidewalk-lined streets where farm fields once grew wild with corn. Two-lane highways had become four; gravel had become paved. There were new apartment buildings, storefronts, and novelty shops. Everywhere I looked, things had changed.
Life has a way of doing that – changing - no matter how tightly we hold on or pray that it won’t. Today fades into yesterday, summer follows too quickly after spring, careers begin and end, friendships come and go. In all of this one thing remains constant: the Father with whom there is no “variation or shadow” continues to be who He says He is (James 1:17).
Hebrews 13:8 tells us that He is the same “yesterday, today, and forever.” The God we read about within the pages of our Bibles is the very same God who sits on the throne today. Our Father is consistently, constantly, and eternally who He says He is. He does not change.
Our “go-to” is too often to define His character by the circumstances we find ourselves in. If all is well, He is good. If all is crumbling, He is unfaithful. On the mountains, we praise His love. In the valleys, we ask why a loving God would let this happen. We liken His character to a river – ebbing and flowing, rising and falling – and in doing so, we deem the only One truly worthy of our trust as untrustworthy. And who wants to draw near and be held close by an unstable Father?
Years ago, my family took a trip to New York together. For as long as I could remember, my dad had worn a mustache (a rather glorious one, if you ask me) and the very same hair cut – short and parted to the side. Until one morning, during our trip, when he decided to get… creative. Exiting the hotel bathroom, he strutted his new mustache-free look with pride. We looked upon it in terror. What had happened? Who was this man? Our father had become a stranger. I could barely look at him, let alone receive his embrace! This one small change to his appearance had changed completely how I perceived him and responded to him. Thankfully, mustaches grow back! The lesson, however, remains.
If we see our Father God as one whose character changes with the ever-changing circumstances of life, we will be hesitant and may even refuse to offer Him our unguarded hearts. Like childhood me, our perception of our Father will be skewed by our doubts. Confusion will lead to insecurity. Who is this? Can He be trusted?
The picture our circumstances will paint of our Father will be stained by misgivings, splattered with questions, and layered in contrary thoughts of who He truly is – good and bad, faithful and unfaithful, speaker of truth and a liar. And that is why we must take the paintbrush back from the hand of our circumstances.
In our Father, there is “no variation” (James 1:17). No variables. No discrepancies. No deviations. He is who He was and who He will always be. There is “no… shadow of turning” with Him (James 1:17). In the original text, the story told by these words is that of the earth revolving around the sun: aimed towards the light and then away, in constant motion, never staying, always moving on. This is the “shadow of turning.” And in our Father, it does not exist. Even as the world turns in its orbit, even as autumn melts into winter, even as day fades into night – He stays. He lasts. He remains exactly the same.
Knowing this, we then must read the Bible differently – not as yesterday’s news, but as today’s promises. If He did it then, He can do it now. If He was that then, He is that now.
***Portion from "To Know Him As Father" by Nicole Homan - available on our Resource Page.