joy in uncertainty

Uncertainty is stressful. I hate not knowing how things are going to pan out. Certainty offers me a sense of peace in knowing that I’m on the right track. That I’m on any track at all really.

This anxiety stems from a fear of the unknown. Fear that things will get worse, fear that I won’t make the right decisions, fear of stagnation and failure. How can I instead be joyful?

We’re called to always be joyful in God. It’s easy for us to be joyful when everything else in our lives is stable and comfortable and predictable. But how much harder is it to sustain that joy when our lives are seemingly in chaos?

If our joy is that unstable, is it really even joy?

There’s a clear distinction between joy and happiness. Happiness is fleeting, it’s affected by our ever-changing circumstances and is in a constant ebb and flow with our other emotions. Joy, however, is characterized by its unchanging, unwavering nature. Joy comes from knowing God, and he is never changing.

Staying joyful amidst uncertainty exudes a confident, transcendent peace in God’s sovereignty. We have no need to worry about provision, abandonment, failure, because God’s got us. But more so than that, joy in uncertainty can be even more than that. A trustful anticipation of what God has next in store for us. Excitement.

Because if we truly believe that God has our back. If we trust that amidst all of this chaos and uncertainty, that God has a plan for us. That he never fails us. Shouldn’t we live with a joy characterized by an excitement for what we has next in store for us?

If we have a bad day at school, and our parents want to cheer us up, and tell us to get in the car we’re going somewhere special. Our sour feelings of that day don’t just disappear, but they’re slowly replaced by feelings of anticipation and excitement and joy for what is to come. Because we know these feelings are temporary, and we trust our parents to provide for us, to keep their promise.

How much more can we trust our eternal, abundantly loving Creator than our imperfect (but oh so lovable) parents?

Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Matthew 7:9-11 English Standard Version (ESV)

11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11 English Standard Version (ESV)

Looking back, there hasn’t been one time in my life where God has failed me. Where I’ve been lost in uncertainty and doubt and God didn’t rescue me. I look back after the struggle, and think, “why did I worry so much?”

When will I start breaking the habit? To be joyful regardless of my circumstances. To ground my trust in the unknown. To look towards with childlike anticipation for what my Father has in store for me.

Josh Swanson