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Fast Forward: Embrace Uncertainty

A great plan, huh?!

Erwin writes what we can learn from Jonathan’s willingness to embrace uncertainty:

Jonathan was certain about some things, and at the same time he was able and willing to operate in the realm of uncertainty. He called out to his armor-bearer and said, “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf” (1 Samuel 14:6)…. This is what he was saying in plain English, “Let’s go and pick a fight. Maybe God will help.”

Jonathan understood that not everything was guaranteed, that you don’t wait until all the money is in the bank. There are some things that you can know and some things that you will not know. He went on to say, “Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.”

He had such a clear perspective on reality. What he knew for certain was that God was powerful enough to get the job done, that it didn’t matter if it was two of them against a thousand Philistines. His father’s apprehension to go to war with six hundred soldiers and only two weapons—that’s right, two swords—was reasonable, but not enough to excuse neglecting the purpose of God. And so if it was only Jonathan and his armor-bearer and only Jonathan with a sword, he would still move in line with God’s mission for them.

Here’s the problem: we do not like uncertainty!!

Are you familiar with the personality assessment called the Myers Briggs Temperament Indicator? Some of us love to come to closure. We love to come to judgments as soon as possible. This “J” type of person doesn’t feel comfortable without having a plan in place. A plan guides us and gives us the illusion of certainty.

Others of us are perceivers (“P”). We want as much information as possible before we have to make a decision. As a result, this crowd is more spontaneous, but they can also be indecisive. You’d think perceivers would love uncertainty. They don’t tend to like plans for sure because plans feel like a trap or shackles. They want freedom! The challenge for perceivers though: sometimes they get tired of feeling unsettled. They have a tendency to want to bounce from job to job and relationship to relationship and town to town looking for something ideal that never seems to come to pass.

Both of these types of personalities have strengths and weaknesses. Some of us do better with uncertainty, but deep down I think all of us want to know the right thing and want to be able to keep doing it.

Some of us have come to closure to soon on who we think God is in our lives and what God wants to do in our lives.

Some of us lack the courage to try something new, and some of us lack the character to stay where we are and make things better.

Here’s the thing: as much as we dislike uncertainty. Uncertainty is the space where we can grow to trust Jesus!

I have seen this true in my own life. Some of the times when I was closest to God seemed to have been those moments when God was moving us. I grew up in Dallas/Fort Worth (Hurst, Euless, Bedford from 6th grade until college). After going to Baylor, I married Debbie who was graduating from U.T. Arlington. Two months after getting married, we moved to Seattle.

Originally I had been offered a job to work with the college students and teenagers in a church plant. Just before we moved, we found out that we were still invited, but we wouldn’t be paid. There are so many miraculous moments in this story and so many really difficult challenges, but let me just say: we grew so much closer to God and to each other in the midst of the uncertainty.

A 96-year-old woman from the church where I was serving as the youth pastor in Waco had a niece in Seattle that let us move into her upstairs apartment for $75 a month, and I found a job the first day we arrived because our next door neighbor had just quit his delivery job and encouraged me to go down and see if they would hire me to replace him. Eventually the church hired me, and I went back to school to get my Masters degree.

Four years later: we moved to Los Angeles to volunteer at a church called Mosaic. Debbie had secured an unpaid internship for occupational therapy, so she couldn’t help with the bills. I didn’t have a job, but I assumed I would get one just as easily as I did in Seattle. 6 weeks later and down to very little in the bank, I was deeply discouraged. Finally, I got a job with a rental car company where I worked for 6 weeks before Mosaic asked me to become the youth pastor for $6000 per year. I started substitute teaching so I could make up the difference in what we needed to pay the bills, and I quit my job at the rental car company.

We had some amazing times in L.A., and we had some really difficult times. Looking back, we grew closer to God and to each other in the midst of the uncertainty.

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Dr. Eric Michael Bryant serves with Gateway Church in Austin as the team leader for Central and South Austin and as part of the teaching team. Eric previously served at Mosaic in Los Angeles and his books include Not Like Me: A Field Guide to a Influencing a Diverse World and A Fruitful Life: Becoming Who You Were Created To Be. Eric coaches church planters and campus pastors, teaches on Post Christian Ministry, and leads a cohort for a Doctorate of Ministry in Missional Effectiveness through Bethel Seminary where he earned his Doctorate of Ministry in Entrepreneurial Leadership.