The title, None of us knows how long this will be, could be the latest newspaper headline. However, it was believed to have been written when Jerusalem was under Babylonian attack in about 586 BC. The Psalmist is expressing his uncertainty when he writes, “We are given no signs from God; no prophets are left, and none of us knows how long this will be” (Psalm chapter 74 verse 9 NIV).
Today we face the uncertainty of living through a pandemic and none of us knows how long our current situation will continue. Some people are content to go about their lives in a restricted way while others are becoming increasingly angry and frustrated.
Uncertainty can make us angry
Most of us don’t like uncertainty. We expect shops to open at regular hours and public transport to take us where we want to go. We assume that we will get to appointments with the minimum of fuss. We don’t like being delayed or inconvenienced and when we are, we feel irritated.
Anger comes from having our goals blocked. Our goal might be as simple as getting to work on time, buying regular supplies, meeting up with friends and family. Yet in our current situation, even these simple things may be blocked and we feel a growing sense of annoyance.
Uncertainty reminds us that we aren’t in control
Uncertainty is good for us because it reminds us that we aren’t in control of most things in our lives. We regularly make plans for tomorrow, for our next holiday, for our retirement as if we have control over our future. But none of our plans may come to pass. Not only can’t we control a medical emergency, but we also can’t control the economic climate or even the weather. In fact, we’re so dependant on God we cannot even take our next breath unless he allows us to do so. It’s in uncertainty, we realise we aren’t as powerful and as self-sufficient as we’d like to think.
James writes to his fellow believers, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that’” (James chapter 4 verses 13 to 15).
Our lives are like a mist and when you are in the middle of a pandemic, this reality is confronting.
Uncertainty is meant to teach us to trust God
God is the only one we can trust in times of uncertainty. He is the only one who knows how long the pandemic will be with us. We will find comfort in our faith if we remember that God is not only sovereign, but he is also good. God has good outcomes in mind. Not necessarily outcomes that will bring us the most ease, but outcomes that will bring us the most good.
God is wanting to make us more Christ-like. When Jesus was on earth he lived with a great deal of uncertainty. One time, he planned to stay at a Samaritan village but had to move on to another (Luke chapter 9 verses 52 to 56). Many times, he didn’t know where he would lay his head at night (Luke chapter 9 verse 58). He didn’t know when he would find time to mourn the death of his cousin (Matthew chapter 14 verses 12 to 14). Yet he continued with his God-appointed task. When his plans were blocked, he simply moved on to the next village, the next opportunity, the next person to teach about the kingdom.
As he told Nicodemus, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John chapter 3 verse 8).
If you’re feeling angry about your goals being blocked during this current situation, consider whether your goals are worth getting angry about. Perhaps change your goal to something that is within your control, such as, to be the best version of yourself.
God is calling us to be more Christ-like and to learn to live with uncertainty.
Susan Barnes has been involved in pastoral ministry for over twenty years with her husband, Ross. They are now semi-retired and enjoy supporting a number of churches in north-east Victoria. You can find more of Susan’s articles at: https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/susan-barnes.html