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Facing uncertainty 

Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  (Psalm 139:7-8, NIV)

Covid-19 has given us all a crash course in facing uncertainty.  For some it may be uncertainties about health, and for others their jobs. It may be that your summer holiday plans hang in the balance; you might even be a student coming to Cambridge in the autumn and not at all sure what to expect.  Many of us - church included - are trying to make autumn plans without much certainty about what the situation will look like.  We are flying in the fog.

Or you might be facing non-Covid uncertainties - sometimes very troubling ones - of various kinds.  Or the uncertainty of some agonising decision. 

At one level, uncertainty is a helpful reminder to us that we should not boast about tomorrow, as James tells us (James 4:13-16).  But a lot of uncertainty can also make us anxious.

In the Bible we meet people facing uncertainty.  Jacob doesn’t know how it’s going to go when he meets his previously-angry brother Esau after many years (Genesis 32).  Paul has the hefty uncertainty of not knowing whether his imprisonment will end in release or execution (Philippians 1:19-27).  King David leaves Jerusalem after his son Absalom’s rebellion, not knowing whether he will see the city again (2 Samuel 15:25-26).

It was also King David who wrote the beautiful Psalm 139, quoted above.  Allow me to pick out two great truths from the psalm which help us in uncertain times.

First, whatever happens, God is with us.  To David, He is inescapable!  Wherever David goes, God is there.  All of us who belong to Jesus can read or sing this psalm knowing that this is true for us, too.  However things work out, God will be with us.  I think this is an especially precious truth in the context of making decisions when we are uncertain.  We can easily get it into our heads that if we make the wrong choice He will somehow not be with us.  But He will!  

This does not mean that we shouldn’t decide carefully, but it does calm us as we make up our minds.  Do I accept that job or uni offer?  Whether we do or not, He will be with us.  Even if our choice isn’t the smartest.  (There is an approach to Christian guidance that gives the impression that we have to follow God’s perfect plan in all details, such as which job to take, if God is to stay with us; this Psalm debunks that.)

Secondly, there is no uncertainty for God.  All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be, writes David.  God knows the future, even though we don’t.  What to us is a series of uncertainties is to Him the outworking of His sovereign plans.  As we commit ourselves to Him, we can pray that He will indeed work in all things for the good of those who love him, just as He says He will (Romans 8:28).

This is my last blog before summer holidays, and I do hope you are able to get some rest and refreshment.

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Alasdair Paine, 31/07/2020