Gracious Uncertainty


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August 15, 2015

During our sojourn in Poulsbo, Washington in 2011-2013, I ran across a phrase that had not lodged in my memory before. One morning I was reading “My Utmost for His Highest” (Oswald Chambers) This was not my first time through this book. Yet, because of the situation we were in it connected sharply this time around.

Here is what I read:

It doth not yet appear what we shall be. — 1 John 3:2

Naturally, we are inclined to be so mathematical and calculating that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing. We imagine that we have to reach some end, but that is not the nature of spiritual life. The nature of spiritual life is that we are certain in our uncertainty, consequently we do not make our nests anywhere. Common sense says – “Well, supposing I were in that condition . . .” We cannot suppose ourselves in any condition we have never been in.

Certainty is the mark of the common-sense life: gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness, it should be rather an expression of breathless expectation.

We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. Immediately we abandon to God, and do the duty that lies nearest, He packs our life with surprises all the time. When we become advocates of a creed, something dies; we do not believe God, we only believe our belief about Him. Jesus said, “Except ye become as little children.” Spiritual life is the life of a child. We are not uncertain of God, but uncertain of what He is going to do next. If we are only certain in our beliefs, we get dignified and severe and have the ban of finality about our views; but when we are rightly related to God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy.

“Believe also in Me,” said Jesus, not – “Believe certain things about Me.” Leave the whole thing to Him, it is gloriously uncertain how He will come in, but He will come. Remain loyal to Him.

“Gracious uncertainty.” Why had I not noticed that phrase before?

We had quit long-term employment, moved out of the state of Alaska, and had settled in Washington near our son and his wife and their kids. We anticipated what was next in our lives. We looked to God to lead us in a new direction.

There certainly was . . . uncertainty. Our income stopped. Many enouraging job leads failed to become reality. But I liked the increased time to read, reflect, study, and pray. My relationship with God went deeper.

Most of us like things locked down.

No Room For Error, No Room to Move

No Room For Error, No Room to Move

We like plans all laid out. We want to know what is next, before we make a move.

That seems to be the modern American Way. We work to avoid uncertainty. If we are not reasonably certain about what’s next, we usually will not make a move. Sure, that could be called wisdom in many cases. But fear of uncertainty can squelch new things and the work of the Holy Spirit. I began to understand during this time how uncertainty could be gracious.

A big issue is trust. Do I trust God? Do I really believe He will be faithful, even if I make a mistake, or worse – am unfaithful? If I am never in a place where I “have to” trust God, have I learned anything about what trust is? If I always stay in the safe place, what happens to my expectation toward God and my hope in Him? What amount of risk am I willing to take in order to see Him work in my life?

Not Going Anywhere, But Safe

Not Going Anywhere, But Safe

If I stay parked all the time in a bland, comfortable, routine, neutral state, how am I giving Him the opportunity to do something in my life? I recently read that, in the biological world at least, equilibrium is death. My life with God is an organic, dynamic, living thing. The life of God’s people, the church, is an organic, dynamic living thing.

We should not strive for equilibrium. This leads towards sameness, and ultimately death.

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I gained a new appreciation for “gracious uncertainty”. There is something about living in that space that is fearful and energizing. My relationship with God gained new life. Why do we think we are in control anyway? Isn’t it better to live in the absolutely safe place of being uncertain of the future but certain of God’s presence and work?

To live in “gracious uncertainty” turns out to be a place of rest, peace, assurance, and excitement. He sees the whole picture. Why would I think having everything mapped out and all the dots connected would be better and safer? Or even interesting?

Photos: Bernd Thaller on Flickr, Johannes Ahlmann on Flickr, UnsplashMariano Garcia-Gaspar on Flickr

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