Nothing evokes feelings of uncertainty like driving in a blinding snowstorm. Unfortunately, my half-hour commute to work every day requires that I sometimes drive in those. One day I remember a storm blew up as the day went on so that by the time I had to drive home, the visibility was very poor, the main highway was closed, and the back road I had to take to get home had drifts in many places.
I remember feeling a tremendous amount of fear and uncertainty in those moments with a death-grip on the steering wheel and my spirit pounding out the constant prayer, “Jesus! Jesus!”
When we face uncertain times in our lives we can feel just like I did driving in that snowstorm with so many questions running through our heads: “Will I make it home safely? Where am I? What is going to be the result of this?”
Everyone faces uncertain times, and life as a ministry family lends itself to some unique uncertainties when we face congregational disapproval, votes, assessments, reviews, church politics, and relentless critics.
We’re facing some of those things currently in our own ministry life, and I have been wrestling with this question: “How can I have patience in the face of uncertainty?”
Ultimately, we can’t cope with anything in life as believers without connecting to the One who made us. With every breath comes a prayer in uncertain times. Just like I could only chant the name of Jesus, asking for His protection as I drove in that snowstorm, in the last few months of our ministry lives, at times all I could do was breathe out His name as we faced the pain of excruciating personal and public criticism and perusal.
We still don’t know the outcome of all the events, so I’m learning that besides prayer at every breath all I can do in uncertain times is go the next mile. In that snowstorm I had to look and drive and think about keeping on the road—even though I could only feel it and not see it much of the time! When we have uncertain moments in our lives, being faithful and patient to whatever task is before us without knowing the outcome of our circumstances will keep us grounded in His presence.
But what about when I don’t feel His presence? I’ve been there a lot in the last few months, and there have been moments when my head knowledge about God is not enough. I believe He is Sovereign. I believe He works all things out for His good and glory (see Romans 8:28-29), but at times I need to feel that presence because He feels so silent. I have learned that it’s okay to ask God to give us signs of His presence, even if it’s to ask for a sign that’s just enough for the next step. Why is that okay? Because He is mindful of our frame; He knows that we are dust (see Psalm 103:14). He will honour our desire for those signs of encouragement that we are on the right path though we feel we are beat down on every side.
When we feel beaten it is also easy to beat on ourselves. Job’s friends did a pretty good job of beating him up when he was suffering, and Job did it a bit to himself, too, as he tried to reconcile the fact of his suffering with the good God he blamelessly worshiped. I have had to learn in my recent times of uncertainty to stop beating myself up and trying to figure out if I could have avoided these circumstances.
I remember that just like in that snow storm, I didn’t have a choice–I had to drive to work; I had to get home. Things happen. Period. So often I torture myself going over things that have happened, thinking I might have been able to prevent it or I try to figure out if I did something wrong to deserve this, to bring it on myself. That comes from believing the lie that I am in control of my life and actually have the power to prevent things from happening.
There is no question that there are times when I am facing uncertain times because of direct consequences of choices I have made. But sometimes things just happen. That’s life, and just like Job we aren’t given any answer except this: God is God. We are not. Period.
It’s the only answer. It’s the best answer. And when you do finally see that blessed green sign with the white numbers reflecting your house number next to your driveway, you know He’s been with you. Regardless. Eventually the storm does die away and the sun shines again. Of that, you can be certain.
So be patient, even in uncertainty. The sun will shine again.
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