Why Uncertainty Can Be Your Best Friend

(photo: By Nicholas Mutton, CC BY-SA 2.0)

I usually like to have everything laid out for me ahead of time. I want to know what’s going to happen, when, and how. I want to know what’s expected of me, and what I should expect from others. No matter how many times I tell that to God, I still end up facing times of uncertainty.

The worst kind of uncertainty – for me – is when I can’t figure out what God is asking of me in a particular situation or which direction I should go next in my life. Akin to that is petitioning him in a dire need and waiting for the response, especially when I haven’t a clue what that response will be.

Uncertainty befuddles me. And did I mention that it can be very, very stressful? And yet, I’m learning that uncertainty actually can be good for me.

In fact, it can be my best friend in terms of my spiritual growth.

Take, for example, the times when our children were in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Three of our four living children were born prematurely – each for a different and unexpected reason – and all three came very close to death. Our daughter did die, and it took the neonatologists three tries to resuscitate her.

Talk about uncertainty.

At the time, of course, I couldn’t stand it. I went from fear to anger to hopelessness round and round again. Yes, I even got angry at God.

But at the same time, it was a spiritually fruitful time because I was forced to surrender everything to God, even my own children. I was forced to admit that only he had the power to save them and that only he knew their future.

In a strange way that I still have difficulty explaining, being in that helpless situation, in that complete uncertainty, brought me great peace. For sure, I didn’t want to lose my babies, but having to place them in God’s hands alone and letting go somehow brought me to a new level of faith.

Once I accepted the inevitability of the uncertainty, I stopped trying to fight it. Then I started relying solely on God’s grace.

That’s what brought me such great peace.

I’ve tried to reach that same peace in other times of uncertainty since then. Depending on the situation, I’ve been more or less successful. The toughest ones for me are the situation in which either there’s nothing I can do or in which there’s something I must do, but don’t know what that something is.

I hate that.

When that happens, I try to take myself back to the time of my preemie babies in the NICU and then I spend some time meditating on Matthew Chapter 6:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?

Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?

Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?

Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin.

But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.

If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?

So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’

All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.

Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” (Mt 6:26-34)

It’s not that God allows uncertainty in order to torment you. Rather, he allows uncertainty because there are things you should not know – or at least that you should not know at present.

He has the big picture, and everything in that picture is meant for your greater good. In the process, you have the opportunity to accept his grace, surrender in trust, and grow in faith.

When that happens, uncertainty becomes your best friend.