A line in Becoming Mrs. Lewis stopped me in my tracks this week. When C.S. Lewis’ wife receives a terminal diagnosis and laments the hopelessness of their circumstance, he says to her, “It is not hopeless. It is uncertain, and this is the cross God always gives us in life, uncertainty. But it is not hopeless.”
While no stranger to carrying and navigating uncertainty, before reading that, I hadn’t thought to count it among the God-given resources at my disposal. Yet looking back, I see uncertainty as a formative tool God has used to shape some of the sturdiest, surest corners of my life. It’s a resource that, when stewarded intentionally, has led me to places I never thought I was brave enough to go.
If you’re wrestling with uncertainty on any level today, don’t fight it. It’s not a giant to be slayed; it’s a gift to steward. Here are five ways to get started.
1. Check your math.
If your expectation is to be 100% certain about the opportunities God is placing before you, you’ll never experience anything new. I tell people all the time, “60% is good enough. The other 40% is faith. Deal with it. The disciples did.”
Likewise, if your expectation is to be in 100% agreement with the mission, vision and priorities of your local church, your child’s school or your company’s policies, you’ll never be the kind of contributor those spaces need you to be. But can you get on board with 75% and trust your leaders with the remaining 25%? Becoming an intentional steward of uncertainty requires that you try.
2. Trust Your Gut
The Holy Spirit controls your conscience. Trust it. When opportunities, ideas, approaches, or situations don’t seem right, trust that feeling. When they do, press into that intuition. Still not sure? Run whatever it is you’re uncertain about through this filter:
Does it line up with what God said? Dig into the Bible and see. Allow God’s word to teach you, reveal sin, correct you, and guide you.
Are you being led by love or pushed by guilt or fear? God’s spirit will never lead you to commit to something out of guilt or fear. He always leads with love. He won’t shame or scare you into anything.
When the opportunity presented itself three years ago for my husband to pastor a new church in Phoenix or stay where we were in Las Vegas, we had three viable options on the table. We came this close to saying yes to one church out of guilt and nearly as close to saying yes to a second out of fear. We weren’t sure about the third, maybe 60%, but we felt more led toward it than shoved at it. Once we realized guilt and fear were pushing us around, it became clear where we needed to go.
3. Call for Backup
Jesus’ first followers never did things alone. They were always in community with other people, helping each other discern what they believed, what opportunities to pursue and which to avoid. When stewarding uncertainty, don’t go it alone. Invite a select group of trusted people into your discernment process and then watch the dust go clear.
4. Do the Next Thing
It’s a fool’s errand to get ahead of yourself. Doing so only leads to overwhelm, worry and fear, which all lead to paralysis and never doing a darn thing. When faced with uncertainty, resist the temptation to project too far ahead. Instead, take the first step, then the next. Fill out the application. Go on the date. Read the book. Call for more information. Set the meeting. Wait for the test result. Visit the campus. Extend the invitation. Ask around about a counselor.
In 2008, when I sensed God calling our family to adopt a baby from Ethiopia, we were maybe 40% sure we’d heard him correctly. To get to 60%, we started doing one thing at a time. Step 1 was to Google the name of the adoption agency our neighbors’ used and request an information packet. Step 2 was to read it and watch the welcome video. Step 3? Decide on a country to adopt from. Step 4? Skimp on groceries for a few weeks to save the $200 it cost to apply to the program. On and on it went. For two years.
If I had known at Step 1 that there would easily be 300 more we’d have to take to bring our daughter home, there’s no way we would’ve gone through with it. But because we committed, in the haze of uncertainty, to doing the next thing, and only the next thing, I sit here today certain we heard God correctly all those years ago.
5. Be okay with getting it wrong.
Whether it’s an opportunity you pursue, a parenting style you adopt, a theological side you come down on, or a relationship you enter into, you will occasionally get it wrong—sometimes very wrong. When this happens, remember: God is a God of grace and will use your missteps to teach you how to better discern his voice the next time. He won’t let you miss your own future. He is too good and too taken with your potential to keep you from the life he planned for you long ago.
Rest today in the certainty of that.