Last month, graduates walked across their virtual Zoom stages to end a significant chapter in their lives and step into the unknown. It clearly wasn’t how they dreamed this day would happen, but the emotions that came with this year’s graduation were no less significant. The closing of chapters and marking of milestones usually cause a complex flood of feelings—excitement, accomplishment, sentimentality, opportunity, fear, and no small measure of uncertainty.
Graduates aren’t the only ones who can’t predict the future. A global pandemic has created queries for all of us in one uncomfortable way or another. Will my job be eliminated? How will we pay rent this month? Will I catch the virus? How can we be the Church in a quarantine? Will my kids go back to school in the fall? When will things become normal again?
How can Christians faithfully navigate uncertainty? The truth of God’s Word offers freedom for those who feel trapped by cancelled plans and their inability to anticipate the future. Whatever the specific causes of our insecurity, the Bible gives us sure hope.
Three Certain Truths for Uncertain Times
1. What feels uncertain to us is certainly planned by God.
Abraham knew a little bit about uncertainty. In Genesis 12:1 the Lord said to him,
Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.
Go to the land I will show you? Really? Abraham was called to leave everything he’d ever known and go somewhere God hadn’t yet revealed? Talk about ambiguity! It’s one thing to head off to your chosen college after graduation, ready to start a new chapter. But God’s command to Abraham would be like telling a graduate to pack up the car in August and start driving to a college that God would reveal along the way.
Abraham was obedient, but he didn’t know where he was going or what would happen along the way. However, God knew all along where he would take Abraham. In fact, God had a broader, sovereign plan to call a people to himself and to produce this blessing, in part, through the means of Abraham’s obedience. God’s sovereignty was secure, and Abraham’s uncertainty was only a felt unknown. In actuality, God’s sovereignty is always sound, and his plans are always good. Abraham’s story is a great affirmation of Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
You may be facing the uncertainty of a new life stage, job loss, or illness. You are likely wondering what God has planned for your future. Thankfully, what feels overwhelmingly unknown to you right now is fully known to God. He can make straight what you perceive to be a crooked path. If you are his child, you are kept securely in his sovereign plan of redemption through Christ. Your task is simply to trust in his ways instead of leaning on your own understanding.
2. God is more concerned with the softness of our hearts than the specifics of our plans.
Jesus’ disciples knew something about uncertainty. In Matthew 10:16-19 Jesus told them:
Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour.
Jesus sent them out, two-by-two, to make disciples by proclaiming the gospel message. He instructed them to take no money, no extra clothes, and no bag in which to carry anything they could possibly acquire on the journey. He told them to expect rejection—even flogging, for the sake of Christ. Talk about uncertainty! Yet, Jesus was far less concerned with his disciples’ plans or skills than he was with the position of their hearts. Though the disciples may have felt anxious and afraid, Jesus used the unknowns to teach them to humbly trust God and to willingly do his work, regardless of how it was received by others. Like Abraham, the disciples followed in faith, trusting Jesus to equip them for the task to which he had called them.
Like Jesus’ disciples, we can easily be consumed by trying to figure out the future. Our anxiety and fear can cause us to miss the opportunity to depend on God in the present. God is less concerned with the specifics of where we go and what we do; he is more concerned that our hearts are soft toward him and that our faith is increasing in the process. If you find yourself facing massive question marks about the present or future, know that God wants you to run to him, trust him, and glorify him wherever you are and whatever you are doing.
3. God promises to use our uncertain days for his good purposes.
Paul knew a quite a lot about uncertainty. In Romans 8:28, Paul wrote:
And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Paul’s missionary journeys are dizzying to follow. He endured every kind of trial and persecution imaginable. Yet he said, “I am ready not only to be imprisoned, but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13). How could Paul so fearlessly face his uncertain future? Paul saw the big picture. He knew that loving and belonging to Jesus was of supreme value; therefore, he was willing to obey him no matter what difficulties might come with that commitment. Since he trusted the certainty of God’s character, Paul was able to embrace the unknown with full confidence that “all things work together for good” (Rom. 8:28). Through Paul’s obedience, the gospel went forth to the nations and the church took root.
Like Paul, we can be freed from fear and able to embrace change. We do this by believing the truth of God’s Word—that God will use our risk-filled days for good. Believers will experience the blessing of loving and serving God as we trust that he has a good purpose for our own lives.
Months into a global pandemic, none of us know how the future will unfold. It is easy to be gripped by fear and held captive by doubt. Yet, we can be confident that God is still sovereign. God wants to use the inconstancy of our circumstances to mold our hearts. While we don’t have the privilege of knowing all of God’s purposes, we can trust his unwavering character. These truths foster freedom from fear and bring certain hope in uncertain times.