Telling Your Story: A Faith that Embraces Uncertainty

Telling Your Story: A Faith that Embraces Uncertainty May 2, 2013

Just back from my trip in Guam, I’m privileged to share this guest post by Jeremy Statton. He is an orthopedic surgeon and a writer. He blogs about Living Better Stories. You can follow him on Twitter or download a free copy of his eBook Grace Is.

On my first trip to San Francisco I tested my faith to see if my prayers could move mountains. But instead of land, I was trying to move fog.

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I had always dreamed of seeing the Golden Gate Bridge. The bridge is one of the greatest architectural achievements of the 20th century. Not only is it functional, it is beautiful. The only thing more amazing than the expanse it traverses is the golden, red hue of the bridge reflecting the sun.

On the first few days of the trip I was disappointed. The fog was thick and heavy and impenetrable. No matter how close I got or how much I changed my viewing angle, I couldn’t see it.

At times I caught glimpses of it. At one point the south pillar was visible. Then, as the fog shifted slowly, the large suspension cables came into view. But I never could see the entire bridge.

Eventually, on the last day of our trip, the fog lifted and I was able to see everything. And it was well worth the wait.

The Certainty of My Faith

I have been going to church my entire life. Blessed with parents of faith, they have passed it on to me.

Part of my life of faith included a determination to live the way I believed God wanted. My goals were simple. Do what God wants. Don’t do what God forbids.

I prayed before eating, even in public. I attended church every Sunday, often with a tie on. I always voted for the correct political party. I never cussed, and if I did, I never did it out loud.

Perhaps these are all good things. Perhaps they don’t matter. I don’t think it is worth debating.

But I do know, my faith focused on me and my life. It never challenged me to do more. It never asked me to step out of my comfort for the good of others. As long as my beliefs kept me safe, I kept believing them.

Eventually I would learn that faith has nothing to do with certainty.

The Uncertainty of Abraham’s Faith

Hebrews 11 tells us more about what it means to life a life of faith. Abraham is perhaps the best known example.

I have heard the story so many times, I simply accept what he did as fact. But have you ever stopped to think about what he was asked to do?

  • He was asked to leave everything he knew.
  • He was asked to pack some things up and leave everything else behind.
  • He was asked to act based on the idea that he would be the father of many, even though he and his wife were barren.
  • He was asked to travel across a foreign land full of strangers and enemies and different customs.
  • He was asked to go to a land that he had never seen and had no way of knowing if it really existed.

His faith wasn’t measured by what he did when life was predictable and good. It wasn’t measured by how he acted when he was safe at home or attending synagogue. It wasn’t measured by whether or not he kept the rules.

Abraham is called a man of faith because he stepped outside of comfort and into something hard.

Even when it was scary. Even when it seemed impossible. Even when it made no practical sense.

Living Our Own Stories of Faith

God has never spoken to me directly like he did Abraham.

But he speaks to all of us in different ways.

  • When we see someone in need, he speaks to us.
  • When we hear stories of atrocity and suffering, he speaks to us.
  • When we know there are people in other countries who don’t have clean water, he speaks to us.
  • When we see the widow down the street struggling to clean out her gutters, he speaks to us.
  • Whenever we see a dirty, hungry homeless person, he speaks to us.
  • When we are told that there are 147 million orphans in the world, he speaks to us.

Why don’t we do this work? Because this kind of faith creates uncertainty in our lives.

It is easier to sit in church. It is easier to emphasize rules that show how well we are doing. It is easier to point our fingers at those who don’t live up to our rules. It is easier to stay home and keep our families safe and hold on to all of our stuff that creates a sense of predictability.

And we trade our certain lives for the a life that could be, calling it faith.

Crossing the Bridge We Can’t See

Our lives are like the bridge shrouded in fog and uncertainty. But we need to cross it in faith.

Crossing means trusting that the bridge is enough to hold us up even though we can’t see all of it.

Crossing means letting go of the certainty we experience while standing on solid ground on the near side.

Crossing means leaving what we have now believing that what waits for us on the other side is far more valuable.

This type of life is anything but certain. It is scary. It is potentially dangerous. It could cost us our comfort. Our jobs. Our sleep. Maybe even our lives.

But it will be worth it. Even if it costs us everything.

God invites us to live this kind of life because he loves us. And I believe this is how we truly experience and know him.

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  • Great thoughts, Jeremy. “Eventually I would learn that faith has nothing to do with certainty.” My son and I were just talking about this idea yesterday!

  • Good words, Jeremy. I think we set ourselves up for failure when we assume that faith is absent of uncertainty (and we aren’t reading our Bibles very carefully!)

    • I agree. I think we read certainty into a lot where there is none because we want it to be there.