• Richard Parrish

Handling Uncertainty



Do you find it difficult to focus? Are you distracted? How’s your concentration? Are you struggling with work? Is your sleep disturbed?


And what about this question: Do you find yourself wanting to withdraw, desiring to be alone and away from people?


If you’re noticing any of the above, there is a strong probability you are acquainted with uncertainty. There may also be mental or emotional factors that produce some of these responses. However, each of the above questions—if answered in the affirmative—is a common byproduct of uncertainty.


Here I am, once again: Stuck and unclear in my thinking as to what I should do next.


It’s familiar territory. I’ve been here before. Although the problem is different, the well-worn cloak of uncertainty is not easy to shed.


Like the fierceness of a tornado blowing through my mind, confusing thoughts often create anxiety.


What’s one to do when your doubt trumps desire, despair stronger than hope, and fear greater than faith? How do we respond when vision is fading and wounded spirits bleeding? Where do we turn when we have more questions than answers?


You can count on uncertainty. Learn more here.


Some things in life will always be unpredictable. But they don’t need to be debilitating. Here are some things I’ve learned (and am learning).


Accept the reality that it’s not up to me to control everything.


Elior Moskowitz views the tendency to control as “Iceberg” beliefs—“I should never be uncertain,” or “Everything must stay the same.”⁠[1]


Change is inevitable. And with the change, there is always a degree of cautiousness, risk, and unpredictability. Although we are powerless to control the unknown, we are not helpless.


King David discovers hope amid uncertainty: “And now, O Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in you.⁠[2]


Sometimes the best we can do is to let go of the unrealistic and unhealthy assumption that we can control unpredictability. It’s more productive to return to the source of our hope.


Make sure your information is accurate.


It’s easy for me to react to inaccurate information. Rumors, gossip, and the opinions of others are not always reliable. Have you listened to media broadcasters and political prognosticators, lately?


False information always heightens our anxiety. But it’s not just the media and political sources whose information is often flawed.


The most dominant, loud voice in my head wants to tell me I’m insufficient, unworthy, incapable, and inadequate. These messages distract, discourage, and—left unattended—debilitate me. I’m not alone.


  • Moses tried more than once to convince God he was not the person for the job (Exodus 3:11; 4:1,10).

  • David’s despair encouraged his depression, which drove him to hope (Psalm 42:11).

  • Elijah was weary to the bone, discouraged, and frightened. Rest and refreshment were essential for him to fulfill his mission (1Kings 19:4-18).

  • Jonah had to relinquish his anger and acknowledge that humans are more valuable than a vine (Jonah 4:9-11).

  • Jeremiah discovers the truth of leadership. It’s not about acceptance, but faithfulness. Rejection goes with the territory. He expresses his uncertainty and frustration to God (Jeremiah 20:14, 18).


The point is, even great leaders must gain God’s perspective. God sees in these leaders—and in us—things that we cannot see. His truth is essential in informing our observations and desires.


We have assurance as God’s children of His faithfulness—even when life is unforeseeable (Psalm 40:10-11).


Refuse to isolate


I’m learning, together is better. To express my uncertainty with others opens me to the possibility of discovering insight.


Others have gone before me. I’m not the only person who knows the feeling of being perplexed. The experiences of others lend insight that shines a light on my decision making.


The book of Proverbs reminds us: “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom for the future.⁠[3]”


Extend compassion to your self.


I’m harder on myself than others are. It’s easy for me to allow others to struggle with uncertainty, and much more challenging to extend myself grace.


One way that helps me is to recall and recite God’s promises. I regularly remind myself:


“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.⁠[4]”

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you⁠[5]…”

“Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.[⁠6]

“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.⁠[7]

If like me, you are uncomfortable when things are not sure, we must remember: God is very present amid our uncertainty!

1 https://www.huffpost.com/entry/5-ways-to-handle-uncertai_b_13326476

2 The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Ps 39:7.

3 The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Pr 19:20.

4 The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), 1 Pe 5:7.

5 The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Ps 55:22.

6 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Heb 10:35.

7 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Je 29:11.