The world of uncertainty
Our world is complicated and fast. When you look into their faces you see the emotional sea that stirs deep in so many of us---anxiety, uncertainty, confusion, resignation, fear. A few of them reflect confidence, hope, and peace. But, not many. The American landscape in the current version of our national ethos is more reality and less dream. Suddenly the symbol most identified across political, economic and social strata is the question mark. Underneath the facial mannerisms the young people above were coached into displaying are the questions of life. When most of what we've collectively valued is blown away, the question marks give rise to what may come next.
Our young neighbors are newly married, recently graduated from college, in their first professional jobs, had recently purchased their first home, and are planning a family. What was "me, myself', and I" a few months ago is now "we". They are hoping to be three in the next couple of years. Their question marks are growing. So, one Sunday they decided to go to church. When I asked how it went they were pretty much non-verbal. Going deeper, they said they had left church that day with more questions than they had when they went there. Evidently, the preacher that morning, in a attempt to identify and connect with the large crowd of younger people, asked more questions than he answered. After our talk, a couple of reflections came to mind---
1. Faith should always be communicated with confidence. In thirty five years
of pastoral ministry I'll confess to being in times when I didn't have answers for
some of the crises we faced along the way. When I was diagnosed with stage
four cancer, I was at a loss. When our son was murdered, I was without words. I
openly confessed my inability to understand what was happening. At the same
time, I expressed my confidence in God to reveal what I needed to know in his
time. I tried to be transparent in my lack of understanding by saying "I do not
know...". At the same time, I always countered with, "But this I do know...", and
shared the certainties of life. It was how the Apostle Paul always shared his
faith, the uncertainties of his human condition alongside the certainties of God.
So, faith can be communicataed with question marks. But, it should always end
in an exclamation point.
2. Life isn't fair. Our neighbors indicated that the preacher that morning
punctuated his message with the statement "it isn't fair" several times. Well, no
kidding. It's a fallen world. There's nothing fair about it. But, God is just, and we
can depend on that. I've been teaching my eight year old grandson the facts of
life. We have worked through Number 3---
Number One: Keep the women in your life happy.
Number Two: Women are from Venus, Men are From Mars.
Number Three: That's life in the big city.
Hey, bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people.
That's life in the big city. And, God is just.
3. Keep your doubts to yourself. Hey preachers, teachers, spiritual leaders, and
parents. Someone is looking to you for guidance, counsel, and direction. So,
"...work out your own salvation with fear and trembling..." (see Philippians 2:12,
ESV), go to Scripture and times of prayer and fasting when you're spiritually
troubled. Be transparent with your questions and troubles. But, when you offer
a question mark, provide an exclamation point as well.
4. Understand and depend on the role of the Holy Spirit in your life. The
mysteries of life and death and eternity, and a good bit in between have been
hidden from us mere humans. However, Scripture is certain that God has
revealed some secrets to us (see Deuteronomy 29:29, ESV) and holds us
accountable as stewards of his mysteries (see 1 Corinthians 4:1, ESV). The Holy
Spirit guides us, teaches us, and brings to remembrance what we have heard.
So, while we have this treasure in jars of clay (2 Corinthians 4:7, ESV) we are
co-heirs with Christ and are given certainty and confidence about life.
5. Study and memorize Scriptures of certainty. Every day we encounter people
like the ones in the picture above. They have questions, plenty of them, and
could use a little certainty. Being able to give the people under our leadership
some assurance in times like these is a special gift. Go right here if you'd like a
list of some verses about certainty. It's a good start.
Harriet and I depend on the promises of God. They are certainty in the storms of life. When I was diagnosed with stage four bladder cancer Harriet prayed for a Bible promise and was given this---
For I will restore your health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the Lord.
Jeremiah 30:17, ESV
On the day we learned of Brian's murder God gave me this promise---
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you
up in due time.
1 Peter 5:6, NIV
These verses gave us certainty in a time when our ship was wrecked and we didn't know what was happening.
Hey, friends! Give them exclamation points, and not question marks.