The following was posted as “Gracious Uncertainty,” the daily reading (April 29) at My Utmost for His Highest (I made my own paragraph divisions). My Rector at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Dave Robinson, sent this to me. When you preach 12 minute homilies you’ve got extra time for passing on nice things like this.
The text for these reflections is 1 John 3:2, …it has not yet been revealed what we shall be…
Our natural inclination is to be so precise—trying always to forecast accurately what will happen next—that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing. We think that we must reach some predetermined goal, but that is not the nature of the spiritual life. The nature of the spiritual life is that we are certain in our uncertainty.
Consequently, we do not put down roots. Our common sense says, “Well, what if I were in that circumstance?” We cannot presume to see ourselves in any circumstance in which we have never been.
Certainty is the mark of the commonsense life—gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, not knowing what tomorrow may bring. This is generally expressed with a sigh of sadness, but it should be an expression of breathless expectation.
We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God.
As soon as we abandon ourselves to God and do the task He has placed closest to us, He begins to fill our lives with surprises.
When we become simply a promoter or a defender of a particular belief, something within us dies. That is not believing God—it is only believing our belief about Him.
Jesus said, “. . . unless you . . . become as little children . . .” (Matthew 18:3). The spiritual life is the life of a child. We are not uncertain of God, just uncertain of what He is going to do next.
If our certainty is only in our beliefs, we develop a sense of self-righteousness, become overly critical, and are limited by the view that our beliefs are complete and settled. But when we have the right relationship with God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy.
Jesus said, “. . . believe also in Me” (John 14:1), not, “Believe certain things about Me”. Leave everything to Him and it will be gloriously and graciously uncertain how He will come in—but you can be certain that He will come. Remain faithful to Him.
Two points ring true for me. First is that not knowing is not simply something we must put up with, but a necessary means of spiritual growth. Second is the connection between an unmoveable certainty in our beliefs about God and the self-righteousness that invariably results from that posture.
I have to confess, I’ve never read much of Oswald Chambers. Maybe I should.