Uncertainty isn’t always bad

Saturday as I sat down to write, the blinking cursor seemed to taunt me as I typed a sentence and deleted it. Typed another sentence and deleted. I began thinking ahead to possibilities for this month’s column the week after I submitted last month’s and yet, there I sat with the blank page and the blinking cursor—only a tabbed indent to show any progress.

Sometimes my column topic reveals itself with force. Sometimes, like this month, my deadline approaches and the piece doesn’t come together until the last minute. I’ve been writing Lipstick & Pearls long enough that I’ve learned to go with the process. I pray often. I listen. I learn. I research. I observe. I think. And then I write. But even though I’ve done this for a while, when crunch time hits and I don’t have a topic, I still get a little nervous and a tad impatient while I wait.

It was only as I sat at my computer watching the cursor fade in and out that I realized perhaps the purpose behind not knowing is for me to write from this place of uncertainty.

I’d guess for most of us, we’re operating out of a similar sense of uncertainty right now.

If you’re like me, within the uncertainty, decision-making seems both stunted and amplified. Perhaps that seems like an impossibility. How can something be both stunted and amplified? I guess it’s like anything else: sadness can exist at the same time as happiness; heartache can co-exist with joy; fear can mingle with courage. And uncertainty magnifies decisions and stunts the process at the same time.

It’s in times like these that we might wish we had a lens into the future. But we don’t, so we use the information we have at hand and make the best decisions we can. And then we take another step forward. When we aren’t bound by uncertainty, those things seem to come naturally. We choose. We move. We choose. We move. But in times of trial, that very process comes with difficulty.

If you’ve been reading my column for a length of time, or know me in person, you’ll know I’m not a stranger to uncertainty, to suffering. My life has been marked by adversity since my biological father walked out of my life when I was 1. The waves kept coming: the death of my younger brother when I was a teen; medical struggles with our firstborn; miscarriages; depression; trauma. I used to suffer with a stiff upper lip—and I made sure to stuff as many feelings as I could. I didn’t know how to suffer well, so I tried to avoid uncertainty, and if I couldn’t avoid it, I would hide it. With that as my only strategy, the pile under the rug grew into a mountain.

But God.

If we were sitting together and chatting, those are the words I’d say when my story starts to get unbearable. I know my story is heavy because it eventually became unbearable to me, too. There came a point where I couldn’t deal with its weight anymore. I couldn’t pretend I was fine. I couldn’t continue to move forward in faith with a big chip on my shoulder.

Everything felt uncertain.

But God.

My circumstances didn’t change, but I sure did. My perspective is different. I’m renewed from within, with a strength I never mustered back when people told me I was “strong.” It’s a strength not my own, yet born in my weakness—another of those impossibilities.

I recently finished a book called “The Scars that have Shaped Me” by Vaneetha Rendall Risner. In one of the concluding chapters she writes:

“But it is in the asking, even begging, for deliverance, and in the subsequent waiting for it, that we get sustaining grace, the grace to press on in the blazing heat. And this grace is accompanied by the intimate presence of the living God. So when I am sustained but not delivered, God is inviting me to see the miracle I have received. It is a more precious answer to prayer than I ever realized.”

That chapter helped me realize that being sustained in uncertainty is a miracle, a miracle I’ve been experiencing for a long time. While there are a couple moments of direct deliverance in my story, it’s mostly been a process of me learning to depend on God’s daily sustaining grace amid uncertainty and trial. I have learned not to disdain suffering. I have learned (and I am still learning) to consider it all joy. I am learning to trust in the process—His process, not mine. And impossibly, this certainty had its root in uncertainty.

Sometimes manna comes when you least expect it.