We probably didn't need Hurricane Florence to remind us that many of life's mysteries are hidden from us. It's an in your face truth evident to mere humans every single moment of every single day. Still, Florence kept us guessing for an entire week. As we watched and waited hurrication became the newest word in our vocabulary and the Weather Channel meteorological professionals introduced us to several new layers of on screen drama. The life lesson pounded us again: it's hard to be confident when uncertainty is on the rise.
Early in my spiritual life a wise mentor warned me about being a know-it-all. Evidently that's one of the dangers of advanced education and, more to the point, a tripping point for spiritual leaders. So, my friend, who was a member of the first church I was privileged to lead, gave me a card with Deuteronomy 29:29 written on it. I looked it up in the King James Version I was using at the time---
The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed
belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.
Deuteronomy 29:29, KJV
Even today, thirty-eight years later, the newer versions of that verse give me a thrill. That God has revealed truth to his people makes living the life he has planned for us a great joy. In the same way, that he has hidden things from us emphasizes our need for his wisdom and our trust in his guidance. And, that truth alone is the source of any confidence we may have as we navigate life's uncertainties.
It's the reality of the secret things that has my attention this week. Even with our most sophisticated technology and information available in nano-seconds we cannot predict the future. Even more, calculating the whims of human nature, what's coming around the corner, the results of that recent medical test, or when the mail will arrive are mere guesses based on previous experience. It's one of the reasons we struggle with contemporary syndromes like decision fatigue. In a world of so much uncertainty getting things right seems a remote possibility at times. How can we live confidently when the clouds of uncertainty hover over us so closely? How about a thought or two?
1. Consult your personal values.
Everyone has a basic belief system. It may not be systematic or organized or related to any previously known ethos. But, most humans subscribe to some definition of what is important and what is not. My personal value system is biblical, what most would define as a Christian worldview. Life's uncertainties are less troubling in this system because I know God loves me, has a plan for my life, and has provided guidance for living the life he has planned. It's a simple application but I am reminded of the occasion when the armies of Israel were being attacked by Ammonite, Moabite, and Edomite military hordes. Jehoshaphat prayed a simple but reliant prayer based on his belief system. He prayed, "We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you”
(2 Chronicles 20: 12, ESV). When uncertainties have stymied our progress or decision making, we should touch base with those life truths that are most evident to us. Our personal values should direct us.
2. Ask for the advice of people you trust.
My Christian, biblical world view acknowledges the insight of others. For almost forty years my life has been blessed with an accountability group whose counsel and advice were usually wise and discerning. Solomon knew this way through moments of uncertainty. He wrote, "Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety" (Proverbs 11:14, ESV). And, of course, that is the definition of "confidence", literally from the Latin, "with trust". Having people you trust alongside in this journey helps us clear the path of distractions and question marks.
Even more, in this regard, Harriet has been my most trusted adviser for forty-five + years. Not meaning anything irreverent or disrespectful, she has fulfilled the roll of assistant Holy Spirit during my thirty-eight years of spiritual leadership. When life has been unpredictable or vague her words and direction have given me assurance and confidence in important decision making challenges.
3. Pray for God's guidance.
Prayer is a Christian discipline and I believe in it, totally. The many mysteries of prayer are perhaps one of the secret things not revealed to us humans. Yes, there's ample biblical instruction about prayer. Does God hear the prayer of an unbeliever? That's a matter of debate and a bigger subject than I can cover in this space. There certainly are restrictions about the discipline of prayer. But, we know God answered Hagar's prayer for Ishmael, and the prayer of the Ninevites to spare their city. So, I usually advise people to pray or at least seek the prayers of believing friends when the way is uncertain. King David prayed, "Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long" (Psalm 25:4-5, ESV). Warning: whoever prays this kind of prayer better be ready to obey and follow God's direction when they ask.
4. Do the right thing.
OK, this is one of those relative, secular worldview no-no's, doing the right thing. It's depends on who's asking, or giving advice. A world allergic to truth and clarity will always prefer the shades of gray that color most moral and ethical questions. In my worldview, doing what is right in God's eyes is the final answer. God told the nation of Israel "And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD, that it may go well with you" (Deuteronomy 6:18, ESV). However, even for those who reject the teachings of Scripture, reflecting on the right thing may give direction when the way is unclear or unmarked.
Uncertainty? Yes, that's the nature of the world we live in. We humans don't know everything. But, we can move beyond our moments of indecision when we develop the personal discipline of seeking the correct path.