Learning to Live With Uncertainty

I am a part of a book group at my church. We are reading, “Holy Disunity: How What Separates Us Can Save Us,” by Layton Williams. One chapter of her book is called, “The Gift of Doubt.” She writes about doubt and how it impacts faith communities, but our conversation moved into the lack of certainty that has invaded our lives in this time of Covid 19. It is true that we have never been able to know the future or have the kind of control over our health we would like to have. There has always been a certain amount of unknowing that we have had to tolerate or ignore. But now, basic things that we used to be able to predict have become unpredictable. Will my daughter be attending school in the fall? Is it safe to go grocery shopping? When will we be able to worship as we used to? Just how does this virus spread and who is contagious when? When will we have a vaccine? We don’t know. Or at least we do not know anywhere near as much as we would like to know.

However, Layton Williams’ framing of things like “Doubt” and “Argument” as “gifts” caused us to think about how this time of unpredictability can be a time of spiritual growth for us. After all, learning to live with uncertainty would be helpful to all of us even in the best of circumstances. This is a time when uncertainty is heightened, but we understand that our old sense that we knew what tomorrow was going to look like was never true to reality. We have always pretended a certain degree of control in our lives. We experience unwelcome surprises in our health, jobs, family relationships, weather and more. Sometimes we can ameliorate our risks, but there has never been a scenario in which we truly know what tomorrow will bring. This is a source of great anxiety for us even in the best of times. In this time of coronavirus concerns, our pretending has even less credibility

Perhaps this time of heightened uncertainty can be a gift for us. Perhaps it will push us to learn to become more comfortable with not knowing our futures. We may become more comfortable with adapting to what comes our way when we get there. This can be a time to embrace our humanity, relieving ourselves of our need to pretend divinity, and learning to trust God as we turn the next corner. Once we give up our anxious struggle to know and to control, we might find we turn to prayer more often, express gratitude for the gifts of the present, and more easily find contentment with what tomorrow brings. Perhaps this time of uncertainty can also become a gift for us.