UNCERTAINTY. Of all the words in the English language, that one might be my least favorite.
I want things to be simple. I want everything to be resolved. Most of the time, I want things to be cut-and-dried, easy-peasy lemon-squeezy. I want to know what’s coming around the bend so I can prepare myself for it. There’s something reassuring about having everything go according to plan.
Truth be told, I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who was a big fan of uncertainty. Most people do not thrive in chaos. So, we put calendars on the fridge to help us feel like we have some control over our day. We come up with things like “five-year life strategies,” so we can pretend like we know where all of this is headed. We want to come up with a plan and work the plan, mitigating as much uncertainty as we possibly can.
And yet, we all know that uncertainty has a way of inviting itself back into our lives. Your marriage hits a pothole and suddenly it seems like the wheels are about to fall off. The doctor returns with the test results and everything changes at the speed of diagnosis. The taillights turn the corner and suddenly you find yourself dealing with the reality that your baby is off to college.
We may run from uncertainty, but it has an uncanny way of chasing us down.
Perhaps we can take some comfort in considering all the Biblical characters who faced uncertainty. We have the benefit of knowing how their stories ended, but in the moment, they had no idea what awaited them at the end of the path. Many of them, like many of us, had no idea what was going to happen.
Take Esther as an example. Though she was the queen of Persia, she wasn’t allowed to visit the king unannounced. He could have her executed for such a blatant violation of protocol.
So, when her cousin Mordecai asked her to intervene and stop the slaughter of the Jewish people, Esther didn’t know if she would survive a visit to the king. The path before her seemed as uncertain as the whims of her husband. She admits as much to Mordecai in Esther 4:16:
“‘Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.’”
On this side of the story, we know exactly how things turned out. Esther was welcomed into the throne room and the king granted her request. Esther, however, had no idea what was going to happen. All she could do was trust. She called Mordecai and the rest of the Jewish people in Susa to fast and pray for her. Though the outcome was uncertain, Esther placed her trust in God.
The same goes for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. In the book of Daniel, we’re told that these three young men refused to bow down to the idols of Babylon. Unfortunately for them, such defiance carried the death penalty with it. When they faced their punishment, they had no idea what would happen in the fiery furnace. Their refusal to obey King Nebuchadnezzar looked like it would lead to certain death, still, they believed something miraculous might happen as they talked to the king:
“‘King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up’” (Daniel 3:16-18).
Notice how the word “if” comes to play in this passage. They knew God could save them. “But even if” He didn’t, they would not bow to Babylon’s statues. Whether the outcome was uncertain or not, the one thing that was certain was that these young men would not betray their God.
Regardless of life’s uncertainties, these characters were all certain about who God is and what He could do. And that’s what made all the difference.
Even if the fire burned up the boys from Judah, God was still good. Even if Esther didn’t survive the trip into the throne room, God was still on His throne. In a life of uncertainty, it helps to know Someone who is certain.
Life is uncertain for all of us. We don’t know what’s going to happen. Most of the time, it’s probably better that we don’t.
More importantly, however, we’re not alone in our uncertainty because He is certain. We may not know what’s around the bend, but we do know the One who will be waiting for us when we get there.
Whenever we face uncertainty, we can take comfort in the God who has proven Himself faithful again and again. No matter what life throws at us, we can find our certainty in Him. As the prophet Habakkuk exclaimed at the end of his book (Habakkuk 3:17-18 NLT):
“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!”
Brandon Braun is a pastor at Southeast Christian Church.