Uncertainty: Just What We Should Expect
Uncertainty isn’t the same as unfaithfulness. Far from it!
You are going to face tough questions about your faith. And even though you can find solid evidence for your faith, you aren’t going to find certainty. But is that really a problem?
Deuteronomy 29:29 tells us,
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
Living as creatures made in God’s image, we find a deep curiosity awakened within us, causing us to seek God for answers to those secret things that He knows and we don’t.
In Ecclesiastes 3:11, we read that God has placed a sense of eternity in our hearts. But this is coupled with the inability to fathom all God has done from beginning to end.
“He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”
Again, our curiosity ascends beyond our intellectual limits.
Paul speaks of knowing in part as if peering into a mirror’s image dimly, yet he also points hopefully to a day when we will know fully, just as we are fully known (1 Corinthians 13:9ff).
Likewise, after several people rejected Jesus after hearing difficult teachings, Jesus asked His closest disciples, “Do you want to go away as well?” Peter responded with, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
Did you catch in Peter’s response faith and knowledge working in unison?
What if the brokenness, questions, and deep curiosity of our lives could not only serve as an opportunity to cry out to God, but also as evidence that the biblical narrative is true?
After all, the Bible addresses the problem of pain and suffering throughout and doesn’t shy away from reminding us that our rebellion has brought about the overwhelming majority of suffering and brokenness we face.
Fallenness, brokenness, rebellion, doubt, and uncertainty are precisely what we would expect if the biblical portrait of us were true—made in God’s image yet broken, sinful yet hungry for the transcendent. Humans are, in the words of Christian philosopher Douglas Groothuis, “deposed royalty.”
The story of Scripture describes our situation with alarming precision.
The Shema is a Jewish prayer which begins with what Jesus considered the most important command God has given us. Here is the command as told by Jesus:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).
This command shows us that there must be multiple aspects of faith alongside our cognition—otherwise Jesus would have taught us to love God with only our minds. When we face tough questions and uncertainty, these realities provide us the opportunity to exercise our faith in matters of the heart, soul, and strength.
Being perpetually haunted by transcendent questions may serve as one of the best indicators that we are creatures fashioned after our Father’s likeness.
To the Corinthian church, Paul described how he “takes every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Here, we see the volitional layer of faith positively impacting the cognitive.
If we could close the cognitive gap on all questions, wouldn’t that eliminate the opportunity to lean on and love God in other facets of our lives—namely, our experiences, emotions, volitional will, and perhaps the faith of others?
Reducing faith to the intellect would implicitly alienate other aspects of faith.
In philosophical terms, we could speak of the excesses of both modernism and postmodernism. Modernism went too far in assuming we can have certainty about the world. Postmodernism overcompensated by suggesting that truth is just something we invent. What we need is a healthy balance of “critical realism,” avoiding hyper-modernism’s myth of certainty as well as hyper-postmodernism’s notion of truth as a construct.
We need a healthy balance of humble awareness that we can’t know everything coupled with a measure of confidence that we can know much about reality.
If the biblical narrative is true, then human uncertainty appears unavoidable. For if you or I could figure everything out with exhaustive, omniscient, “Cartesian” certainty, that would make you or me God.
As fallen creatures who bear God’s image, we exhibit qualities of curiosity, transcendence, and the moral recognition that something about our existence is broken. God’s story leaves room for questions, doubt, and uncertainty.
In fact, being perpetually haunted by transcendent questions may serve as one of the best indicators that we are creatures fashioned after our Father’s likeness!
May we take every thought captive in obedience to Jesus Christ as we strive to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.