This four part series is meant to be a brief, yet fairly comprehensive, overview into the world of uncertainty for Christians. SUMMARY:
- In Part 1, uncertainty is explored as a human experience- one for which Christians do not escape simply in lieu of being a faithful follower.
- Part 2 addresses what ways people generally handle uncertainty. Broad definitions are given alongside clinical considerations for Intolerance of Uncertainty (IU), finished with a strong exhortation that faith does not equal certainty- faith is more robust than being some fake “feel-good” tool.
- Part 3 provides a framework and evidence for the need to embrace uncertainty, through faith.
- Part 4 launches us into the incredible Good News- and includes a worksheet to help you face uncertainty in your own life.
The Good News In Uncertainty (Part 4/4)
Truly there is double good news in facing uncertainty:
- Good news that if we know there’s a problem that needs to change and there are solutions to that problem, awesome!
- Also, THE Good News of the Gospel is extensively shrouded in both a revealing of mystery and current incompleteness and uncertainty. If you accept this, you are looking more clearly (and Biblically) at what the Good News is and isn’t. At the heart of the Christian faith is something paradoxical: it’s already, not yet.
What we have to gain/lose in doing uncertainty well is no less than experiencing the best of life:
- Watching a beautiful child grow and develop
- Adventure, Fun, Risk
- Walking closely with God
Please hear me in the tone I mean (kindness and patience): if you don’t have room in your life for uncertainty, you are immature.
But no worries, there’s always room to grow up– I know I still am immature in many ways (Ephesians 4:11-16; Hebrews 5:14, and remind yourself that God’s will is tested by the mature, see Romans 12:2). I hope we get to be on this journey together.
Unconditional Love & Living With Uncertainty
There’s never just one quick answer as to how to live out something for the rest of our lives. It takes patience, endurance, and lots of love. I think that God’s love and love from others and love towards others just might be the end goal we’re looking for. Knowledge is great- but it’s not the end all. Our hope, I believe, is in love, not certainty.
- Knowledge “puffs up, but loves builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1).
- Without love we are nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2).
- “Do everything in love” (1 Corinthians 13:14).
- To whom else should we go but to Jesus (John 6:68)?
- And truly, perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).
Ending Exercise and Prayer: Faith Accepting Uncertainty
Here is a sitting with uncertainty exercise for you. Please note it is adapted for any person experiencing uncertainty and is not specifically a tool like Exposure and Response Prevention or necessarily what you will need for every specific situation. But hopefully it is a start to sit with uncertainty today. (The first question is taken from above.)
Take a moment to look at your personal experience and something you can pause with now.
What leads you to experience uncertainty?
What in your life really brings this out?
Do you know what you believe about it? If you do and you are just wanting reassurance, skip this part. If not, take a moment here to write that out- just a moment.
What, regardless of how you feel, seems
to be your actual belief about this thing
outside of the feeling of the moment?
Sit with the uncertainty for 1, 3, or 5 minutes. Take this opportunity to take note of several things.
Label one element of your uncertainty in
a short phrase or sentence. Repeat if
desired for other specifics.
Notice how your body feels. Label
different sensations internally, like your
heart, breathing, back, muscles, feet,
distress level (0-10) if any.
Outside of your internal sensations,
what do you…
Notice your thoughts, whether they pull
you away or not. Try to label the
experience of thinking, with a word like
Focused, Scattered, Racing, Looping,
Stuck, or Impartial.
However you experience it, just notice,
and keep sitting until your timer goes off.
Keep redirecting back to sitting with the
Practice for longer and longer to develop the “muscle” of sitting with uncertainty.
Develop the core of your faith by identifying trustworthy resources and engaging them broadly, with accountability (not research only on your own). Find a spiritual mentor, pastor, priest, adviser, etc.
“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?” (Romans 11:33-34)
I come to you as I am. You are worthy of my focus, my time, my heart. There are so many ways I turn aside from devotion to you- I am fickle! Forgive me and strengthen me, for that which leads astray is often my feelings, my thoughts and opinions. I want to know You: You over feelings. You over thoughts. You over opinions. You over others. Help me to learn to sit with you. To be present. To be still and know that you are God, and that you love me. Help me love you more, through Christ, I pray, Amen.
The beauty of it all is that the mystery that is revealed for believers in Christ, however uncertain the details are day-to-day, is that what we need to be on right terms with God and fellow man– the two greatest commandments- is summed up in one word, love, and one person, Christ. We have to trust Him by faith. Faith that He died as payment for my sin. Faith that God’s power raised Him from death. Faith that He’s coming again. Faith that is lived out imperfectly every day, but still lived out. It’s wild to think for the non-spiritual mind, but it is the bedrock of Christian faith.
Remember, though I am a clinician and seminary trained, I am one person- one member of the Body of Christ. Your most effective growth and participation will be with the full body. I may only present one part- consider me an arm- without the rest of the body I am nothing (see 1 Corinthians 12:12-26). Get in community. Be around people to care for you- which involves support, telling you both what you need to hear and sometimes what you don’t want to hear.
You May / May Not Need More Work On Your Foundation
Since I can individually assess each client and then determine appropriate steps, it is the number one challenge for a writer like myself to try to explain complex processes. It’s not that they can’t be explained- it’s rather that they can’t be experienced until they are accessed for each person.
This article is really an introduction. Many people are very clear on what they believe, and their anxiety and doubt and uncertainty feelings are just getting in the way. This is a fairly clear instance where we actually don’t want to spend much time talking about beliefs because it’s likely obsessive and/or giving credit to fear– which makes anxiety and fear and uncertainty worse. The task here is usually more about tolerating the uncomfortable feelings than it is about clarifying beliefs.
Church Leadership: Considerations
Unfortunately, this is a main misunderstanding at times in the church (and part of my mission): if you help a church member to reinforce unhelpful fear, you’re not helping them live in faith.
Church accommodation (supporting unhealthy behaviors is a real thing, and I see about every example on a spectrum. Someone who is compulsively serving at church is not acting out of faith; they’re acting out of fear. The woman who keeps asking for prayer and making multiple visits to different staff members to pray over the same anxiety and get reassurance can worsen her doubt and get burnt out- not to mention possibly experiencing God in a demanding way that he is not (Matthew 11:28-30). The scrupulous man who is told to read the Bible more and pray in response to fears about hell- without help in how to do this non-scrupulously- will likely not be discipled to maturity, but rather desperation.
Accept the Mess
We are all messy. We all mess up. We all will continue to mess up. It’s precisely in these moments where God’s love is the realest to us (those forgiven much love much- Luke 7:47). Lean into that.
If you need some intro resources, here are several to get you started that may help. PLEASE- don’t use these to obsess, compulse, or live in fear, but only if you need to do some foundation building/reinforcing.
What Is The Gospel?
Inerrancy, inspiration, and authority of Scripture:
Other Articles on Faith, Fear, And Uncertainty:
- The Holy Spirit Is Different Than Your Emotions Or Thoughts
- An Introduction to the Over-Active Conscience
- Is Anxiety Sin?
- Intrusive, Unwanted Thoughts and Faith
- Psychological Flexibility and Christians
- A Biblical Rationale for Exposure Therapy
- Face Fear, Flee Temptation
- Fear Not
Blessings to you on this road. Jesus is worth it all.