Confidence and uncertainty
Confidence is a human virtue with very soft edges. Slip over one delicate edge and you're tentative, reluctant, and hesitant. Just a filament off another edge is conceit, prideful arrogance, and egotism. How we negotiate these thin, almost imperceptible lines may be the benchmark that determines how we function when life is uncertain. And, they're not just gray matter, these very feint edges. They are clearly delineated and evident to any one open to detect them. They're the final answer of confidence.
It's not a bad word either, this confidence. Our word originates in a Latin compound of "com", meaning "with", and "fide", meaning "faith" or "trust". We can maneuver the ups and downs, the twists and turns, and the many unknowns of this life if we have confidence. The ultimate question is always a tripping point for us humans: what is the source of our confidence? What brand of confidence drives our inner machinery when we are stumped by life's unpredictable occasions? As alluded to above, if there is none, we're caught between the proverbial rock and hard place, very tenuous ground in these fast and complex times. Indecisiveness may be the curse of these superficial times and the root cause of the decision fatigue that plagues so many of our neighbors. Without confidence delay rules the roost. And, we know that this slowness aggravates the wait problem so prevalent in most of us. Typically, we don't want much, but we want more. Right now!
More prevalent is our tendency to discover confidence in the wrong things. You know them, the artificial props that so often define our movement---personal position or status, career, education, wealth, experience, lineage, age, and hundreds more. Every worldview and belief system has these entry ramps to a level of personal assurance and certainty that give us guidance when they way isn't so clear. In short, most of them can be summarized in the trendy, whimsical psycho-babble of self-confidence. Belief in yourself seems to be ruling confidence builder in these times. How many times do we hear the refrain, "you can do this" when life's uncertainties steer us off course.
Except when we encounter those realities beyond our control, those horrible moments when self seems so small and ineffective. In that event, there are now two prevailing uncertainties: the situation we are facing, and our inability to deal with it. Then , we have a genuine reminder that our confidence needs to exist beyond mere self.
Enter the Christian worldview. In Scripture, confidence is always grounded in our knowledge of and relationship to God. Solomon wrote, early in the wisdom directed to his sons---
Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes, for the
Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.
Proverbs 3: 25-26, ESV
This advice centers our confidence not on temporary solutions, the whims of the world at the time, or the flimsy, ever-changing ideals of culture. In this worldview the surety of life is focused on that which is immutable, unchanging, and eternal, regardless of what is popular at the moment. Trusting God to guide and direct us is the foundation of this kind of confidence for the length and breadth of life. It is certain and sure.
The Apostle Paul wrote many words about this confidence for life. Scroll through his Epistles to discover the many times he faced uncertainty, at times even death. He moved through these many unpredictable moments with great confidence in God through faith in Jesus Christ. To the Corinthians he wrote---
Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are
sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from
God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but
of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
2 Corinthians 3: 4-6, ESV
To the Ephesians he wrote---
To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the
Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the
plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the
church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and
authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has
realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence
through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you,
which is your glory.
Ephesians 3: 8-13, ESV
He reminded them of the many uncertainties that surrounded his life, and petitioned them not to lose heart over his troubles because he had confidence in the one who had called and commissioned him. He made clear to him that this confidence was the result of his faith and the eternal purpose of God.
Uncertainty? Sure, plenty of it. But, Paul, consistent with God's purpose in history, had confidence to navigate those unpredictable and often harsh realities about life. His wish and prayer what that God's people, in all of history, then and now, could share this confidence to function in a world of uncertainty. Remember---
But Christ is faithful over God's house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold
fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.
Hebrews 3: 6, ESV
Yes, confidence and uncertainty.