If we didn’t think life was uncertain before our national coronavirus shutdown, we do now. Before, we might have wondered if we’d like a new restaurant or whether we should buy a house. Now we’re unsure about our very lives and livelihoods.
That escalated, complex sense of uncertainty touches our souls deeply. We know the threat is real, but we don’t always have information or control. Our minds wander to worst outcomes. We justify worry as a form of control. And feeling unable to cope with the unknown can lead to depression and anxiety.
Can we escape uncertainty? Of course not. It’s part of being human in a fallen world. In fact, Proverbs 27:1 tells us that we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. However, we can learn to limit uncertainty’s negative impact.
Five habits to help you make peace with uncertainty
- Focus on what is certain. When uncertainty tries to bury you, put the Source of your certainty back in focus. “The awareness of God’s providence relieves us of both pride in our accomplishments and panic over uncertainty. In an increasingly unstable world, God’s people can rest securely in the providence of God, who faithfully pursues our good.” (Truth for Life,Intended for Good)
- Accept reality. Vietnam POW James Stockdale survived years of torture. But it wasn’t blind optimism that kept him going. As he told author Jim Collins, “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
- Give yourself time to acclimate. When mountaineers battle effects of low oxygen, they stop and get used to the new altitude before climbing higher. You should, too: When you face uncertainty, make time to rest and prepare. It’s not an excuse for procrastination or indecision. Instead, it’s a chance to be honest with yourself and God, and to pray humbly for His strength and guidance.
- Gradually increase exposure to uncertainty. Uncertainty doesn’t mean disaster. So try saying yes when a new friend invites you to join their Zoom get-together. Go to the food bank even if you feel embarrassed. Choose to lay your head on the pillow each night without having any answers. “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8, ESV).
- Be confident of your future. Author Carol Kent says, “When we trust that [God] is in sovereign control of our hard place, we can press into a grace place where there is rest, peace, and a different kind of contentment — a satisfaction not based on financial security or physical comfort, a serenity that can only be experienced when our focus is on a life beyond this one.”
For more on dealing with uncertainty, listen to Focus on the Family’s broadcast with Lee Strobel: “Trusting God in Worrisome Times” (Part I and Part II) — and another with Dr. Gregory Jantz: “Dealing With Anxiety and Depression During the Coronavirus.”