Living in unknowns. Something none of us particularly like. We like to know what’s coming, what the future holds, and be able to prepare for it. We like to plan and have timelines. Nobody likes open questions without answers, pending possibilities, or knowing that change is coming but not knowing exactly when or where or how it will impact us.
And yet we spend most of our time living in unknowns, don’t we? There’s always something about the future we don’t know and wish we did. Even in seasons when life seems fairly straightforward and we think we know the journey up ahead, all kinds of things can change at any time.
In one sense, we’re always living in unknowns. As James says,
“You do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” James 4:14.
So, what should we do?
1. Identify the unknowns.
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’.” James 4:13
It might seem like a strange place to start, but stop and think about it. How often do we make plans without a second thought? How many things do we take for granted, count on, and consider “sure things”, that aren’t?
I’m certainly guilty of it. Then, when things change and what I thought was guaranteed becomes an unknown, I get upset, as if somehow God let me down. But it was never a promise. It was my own wrong expectation.
Living in unknowns is possible when you accept that they are unknowns.
2. Remember who you are . . . and Who God is.
“You do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” James 4:14
Tomorrow is not promised to us. Each day is a gift. Our life is truly just a vapor, temporary, passing away. It’s so easy for us to get high and lofty and think that we are in control of our life. We have far too elevated a view of ourselves. We are nothing without Christ.
But we do have Christ. Our God is in control. He is sovereign, and He is good. His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts than our thoughts, and how wonderful that is!
Trusting God in unknowns is possible when you have a right view of yourself and of God.
3. Plan, but only “If the Lord wills”.
“You ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” James 4:15
Choose not to set your heart on your own plans, and accept that rarely does life go the way you thought it would. However, that doesn’t give you an excuse to sit back and “let life happen”. God calls us to live with purpose and intention. Planning, done rightly, is a good thing. Perhaps you don’t know everything, but obey what He has shown you.
So pray, and ask God to guide each step. Hold plans loosely, and ask God to change them as He wills. Trust in His sovereignty as you walk forward by faith.
“O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walk to direct his own steps.” Jeremiah 10:23
Planning in unknowns is possible when you make plans prayerfully and with open hands.
4. Humble yourself and do not boast.
“But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” James 4:16
Part of the challenge of the unknowns, at least for me, is pride. I want to look like I’m put together, have life figured out, confident in my plans. But God calls me to humility. To submit to God, draw near to Him, and allow Him to lift me up.
So we must embrace the unknowns as part of God’s plan for us. Humbly accept His plan as best. Trust in His love. Seek only for Him to be glorified. Rest in the knowledge that He is in control. Ask that He would “teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12.
Peace in unknowns is possible when you humbly submit your will to God and trust Him.
5. Put your faith to work and do good.
“Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” James 4:17
We can fret about the unknowns and live a life marked by worry and fear. Or we can joyfully move ahead and obey the many clear commands we have been given. He has “given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us.” 2 Peter 1:3 We have all that we need to obey and glorify Him today.
Live in the tension of this:
“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13
You are to work out, live out, what God is working in you. And He’s working in your unknowns, too. So trust and obey.
Living fully in unknowns is possible when you obey God and move forward in what you do know.
I know it’s not easy. But it’s worth doing. God is working in our waiting, sanctifying us. He will reveal His plans to us at just the right time. As a good friend reminded me just the other day, “God is never late, but rarely early”. We can trust Him, and His timing.
I’m living in the unknowns right along with you. My last few months have included a lot of change, and God has confirmed many things, but the future is in many ways still unknown. As the old song goes, “Many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand, but I know Who holds tomorrow, and I know Who holds my hand.” So let’s walk forward, knowing Who holds our tomorrows, and Who is holding our hands through whatever those tomorrows hold.
I will close with a favorite passage of mine, from Psalm 62:
My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.
Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” Psalm 62:5-8
Resting in Him,