Living with Uncertainty

My husband and I got to talking a few weeks ago (feverishly, giddily, and dork-ily [a new adjective!], which is ever the case when we discuss theology), about the element of uncertainty intrinsic to the spiritual life.  As Christians we are told that we are not of the world, but we are called to live in it, but we rarely reflect on what types of feelings this engenders in our daily lives.

Minority Christians
Minority Christians fellowship over tea in the mountains of Yunnan. All photos by Evan Schneider.

Some Chinese brothers and sisters of mine have been struggling with the apparent tension in becoming and living as “a new creation,” “putting on the clothing of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17 & Romans 13:14) while also “regarding others better than ourselves,” “refusing to judge others,” and “bearing with one another in grace and mercy” (Phil 2:3, Matt 7:1, & Eph 4:1-3).

I can certainly relate!  

Living the spiritual life is incredibly tricky: we long to don the clothes of righteousness, and yet we can only do so in all humility, with a contrite spirit, a pure heart.

There is no easy harmony to this life.  

In fact I would say that it is important, natural, and instructive to feel a palpable uncertainty as a Christian today.  When we feel we’ve got it all together, we often fail to see how much we have to learn, but when we feel the uncertainty and the conflict of our call in this world, we often find ourselves relying on God’s grace, opening our hearts to God’s slow work and wisdom.

Incense burning at a temple in Kunming, China.
Incense burning at a temple in Kunming, China.

 It’s a myth, in fact, that when one becomes a Christian, he or she will be rid of this uncertainty, disappointment, failure, frustration, or fear.  But when we’ve stopped believing this myth, stopped fighting it, and wrestling against God, we can often learn to embrace an element of uncertainty, and live confidently among it.

A recent post on Zen Habits (albeit a secular reflection) talks about turning fear into fuel, by reframing negativity, singletasking, and practicing mindfulness.

The thing about uncertainty then, is that it forces us to dig deeper, to simplify, to boldly trust in God, and to err on the side of grace.  We face our failures and see they’ve got nothing on God’s unconditional love and grace.  We name our weaknesses, becoming vulnerable with others, and God can use us to love one another because we’re not standing in our own way.  We commit to serve God each day with our lives, and we don’t dwell on our own insufficiencies, but rely on God’s sufficiency, and we really believe it.

As I mentioned awhile back, an attitude that God only gives us challenges we can handle tends to limit God’s vision, which surpasses our own, and it also suggests that we’re not gonna need God for the long haul.  Instead, I like to think living in uncertainty is a reason to give God praise– it’s never boring, it’s always interesting and challenging, and while at times painful– it’s all for God’s glory, and I can definitely get behind that kind of purpose for my life.

Water lilies.
Water lilies.

Further Reflection:  Read Matthew 16:13-27 and reflect on Peter’s struggle to live with uncertainty.  Where is God calling you to embrace uncertainty in your life?  What does it mean that those “who save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (v. 25)?  

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