Resting in Uncertainty

I’m not sure about you, but I’ve noticed a wave of uncertainty swirling about. Within the last few weeks, I’ve heard uncertainty preached on, read an article in print, listened to a podcast and caught a blog online.   None by my own searching.  As I interact with others, murmurs of concern for our world are spoken, a low grade unrest revealed. In the United States, the election of our next president is a few weeks away. With two candidates who are causing quite a stir, the outcome is weighing on many. Hateful dictators are looming. Terrorism is lurking. Civil discord is reemerging. Beyond the uncertainty of the world, uncertainties in our personal lives are continuous. Recently, for me, this uncertainty has arrived as phone calls about illness, new leadership at my children’s school and the church I give time to slowly working towards life-giving change. What are we to do with our uncertainty?

During times like these, worry is a reflex. Denial comes naturally. Becoming consumed by information so we are “in the know” comes second nature. We are masters of control, masters of denying, masters of knowing. But, is there a healthier way to deal with our uncertainty? Maybe it’s to take a look at what we think we are certain about. What we believe we fully grasp. I was struck by a line penned by author Christine Valters-Paintner in the current journal, Weavings. She writes, “Consider the possibility that the next time you feel absolutely certain about something, you will whisper the possibility that “I don’t know” and see what happens when you open to something bigger than your own imagining, a vision that moves beyond tension and holds the fullness of things.” Is it possible when we are certain we know the truth, the right belief, the correct way, we still do not know? Could this unknowing open us to a wider understanding of ourselves and others? Could opening to uncertainty in our certainty help to to hold the uncertain in a tender way?

Usually, “Trust God” is mentioned in the face of uncertainty. Truthfully, I’ve struggled with this phrase. “Trust God” is spoken as if there is simple formula to follow.  Or, if I doubt and struggle, I’m not trusting God enough. However, I’m beginning to see “Trust God” in a new way. “Trusting God” is not dismissing the struggle I face. But rather, “Trust God” offers me a possibility to linger in the depths of unknowing. When I whisper “I don’t know” in the face of certainty and in the midst of uncertainty, I say “yes” to God. Whispering “I don’t know” in my certainty humbles my being. Resting in uncertainty is the place where grief ebbs and flows, where emotions pour out without judgement. This space offers gracious time to sit with uncertainty, believing God is beside me, helping me through the struggle. Maybe, in both certainty and uncertainty, I begin to see the wider expanse of humanity, the small part I play and the mysterious God who redeems all.

The Unraveling Toward Love by Christine Valters Paintner, Weavings Journal Aug/Sep/Oct 2016

Further Exploration:

Podcast: Robcast, Episode 114, Pete Rollins on God Part Four
Book: The Idolatry of God: Breaking Our Addiction to Certainty and Satisfaction by Peter Rollins
Blog: Seth Godin on Teaching Certainty


  1. Sheila Van Dyke

    We humans want to KNOW! And when we can’t…there comes what you call our
    uncertainty or even our worry. If I do all I can to settle the worry and then as you
    say, turn to God in prayer, and do it wholeheartedly then there is some kind of rest…
    and often comes an answer…

    We do tend to think of our world stage as the most difficult but i we look back through history, there have been much worse times. Why must there be wars is a question
    we don’t know the answer to but they never seem to cease. They were in the Bible and maybe are a constant reminder that we must look out for others…next door and
    far away…to have a part in making a better life for all Gods people…

  2. This reminds me of something my grandmother always said. ” ‘I don’t know’ is also an answer.

  3. […] week, I wrote about resting in uncertainty in restless times. I began to think about Scripture as the source we can look to remind ourselves […]

  4. […] She, when fraught with fear, did not flee Instead, questioned the mystery, pondered the “I don’t know” […]

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