"I was twenty-eight years old when a bleak thought occurred to me: "What if nothing happens?" --Steve Martin, reflecting on his fears of never making it as a comedian.
"There is nothing upon earth which is not stamped with the mark of instability and uncertainty. All the good things that money can buy are but for a moment: they either leave us or we are obligated to leave them...tell me not of your happiness if it daily hangs on the uncertainties of earth." -- J.C. Ryle
an uncertain start
“What in the world am I doing here?” It was 3am, on my first night in New York City, and that question reverberated through my head. I was laying on the tile floor of my empty Brooklyn bedroom, trying to fall asleep. I had landed a few hours earlier, alone in the city, with just a few months of savings and an idea to start a cleaning business. The uncertainty felt overwhelming. Would I get any customers? Would I make any friends? Would I make it before my money ran out? I drifted off to sleep as sirens and shooting filled the air.
You’re twenties, no matter what your story, are full of uncertainty. Will you find a job that fits your gifts? Will you marry the right person? Will your life turn out the way you want? These big, life-defining questions aren’t easy, and you’ll often feel stuck, unsure of how to go forward. Other times you’ll feel lost, unsure of where the path even is. And sometimes you despair, wondering if you’ll ever get answers?
uncertainty is unavoidable
Because these are the big questions of life, the answers are revealed slowly, and uncertainty becomes a permanent part of your twenties. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, since it’s a natural byproduct of good options: having lots of potential jobs to do, places to live, and people to marry. The problem with uncertainty, however, comes with how you respond to it. We usually fill the void between where we are and the unknowns ahead with worry, anxiously wondering: will I ever get these things that seem so important?
The problems with this approach though, is that uncertainty never goes away, it just morphs into different unknowns. When the questions you're facing now get solved, you will encounter another new wave of questions, often even more complex. This never-ending nature of uncertainty causes many to live in a state of anxiety, unsure of how to enjoy the present without worrying over the unknowns of the future.
society's answer to uncertainty
And so we spend our lives chasing certainty. Society says to look for it through money, thinking a big bank account equals protection. Society says to look for it by avoiding risk, thinking isolation can create safety. And society says to look for it through good degrees and jobs, thinking the right credentials will guarantee the right result. And so we all search for something, trying to set our lives on a piece of bedrock.
Society's answers might give us a feeling of control over our lives, but they don't actually address the underlying reasons for uncertainty. So uncertainty bubbles under the surface for years, until it burst into our lives, reminding us through disappointment, brokenness, and hurt that we're not in control. At this point, many people either throw up their hands in hopelessness, or they double-down on their preferred methods of perceived control.
the only answer to uncertainty
But when you get to the end of your strength, you'll find that the only lasting answer to the uncertainty of life is the certainty of God. In order to fully face the future yet avoid the paralyzing effects of anxiety, you have to trust in a God bigger than yourself. If you don't have an all-knowing and all-powerful God in charge of your life and working for your best, you'll force yourself into that role, taking on a burden you can't carry. You'll then use good things like work, self-improvement, and planning to obsess over your future.
So how do you connect your uncertainties to God's certainty? It happens through faith, which lets you transfer your unknowns onto Him. In this broken world, the opposite of uncertainty is never certainty, but rather faith in God's character and promises to you. That's the foundational question you have to wrestle with: in the midst of all of the unknowns, will you believe that God is both all-powerful and all-good? Many believe in one or the other, but biblical faith embraces both.
Faith in this God will let you weather the confusion, disappointments, and hardships that'll come in life. Faith allows you not just to tolerate the unknowns of the future, but to appreciate them, since they're the spots where God will most intimately act in your life. When I look back at my first year in New York City, God drew me closer to Him by forcing me to trust Him to meet my most basic needs. And He did. That doesn’t mean I don’t still struggle with uncertainty, but God’s faithfulness in the past lets me quit obsessing over having every question answered, and instead lets me embrace God’s journey for today.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6