The Intrinsic Value of Uncertainty

uncertainty

Uncertainty carries a fearful, anxious connotation in its popular meaning. Often treated as a signaling a lack of confidence, it is to be planned out of existence and be avoided at all costs. At the very least, uncertainty causes us to feel uncomfortable. We often have a hard time living without resolution in the events of our lives.

Yet, uncertainty is an essential ingredient required to release the spirit of adventure within us. By definition an adventure takes a person into the unknown. The unexpected can happen at any moment. Living in the space of uncertainty causes us to become fully alive.

Four ways uncertainty contributes to the essence of adventure

Uncertainty keeps us alert. In a wilderness setting, we must continually look for the signs that forecast a change in the environment. We must discern what those signs describe and prepare to face what they foreshadow.

Uncertainty keeps us vulnerable. When on an adventure in the out-of-doors, we are not in control of our environment. We must be willing and able to adapt continuously. Weather conditions and the fluctuations in terrain exist with unrelenting certainty. We must be willing to change to accommodate them.

Uncertainty keeps us humble. The wilderness allows no certain outcome for which we can take credit. Favorable environmental conditions allow us to accomplish our feats. The wilderness challenges us at every level, yet we do not conquer any aspect of it.Whatever we seek to conquer lies strictly within ourselves.

Uncertainty requires that we make our own way. On any adventure, we must numerous decisions that will take us in one direction or another, decisions that have real consequences. The penalty for indecisiveness ranges from inconvenience to injury, from discomfort to death. We will need wisdom in order to navigate our journey.

Control

Uncertainty is often characterized by questions like: “What will happen next?”, “What do we do now?”, “How will this all end up.?” These questions are driven by our desire to want to know the outcome of our journey at the beginning of any experience. Most life experiences, though, do not give us the opportunity to know the outcome; hence, we must live with uncertainty.

To compensate for this reality we often seek to establishing control over an experience. Control is our attempt to protect ourselves from what we imagine may be a negative outcome of an experience, or to try to ensure a positive outcome. Some control is necessary, even a good thing, if it’s aim is to ensure the safety of the participants within the experience. However, control exerted to manipulate an outcome will necessarily compromise the experience and stall, or prevent, any gains in personal growth we might acquire from it.

Seeking to control the behavior of others or allowing others to control our behavior increases the scale of manipulation. The only appropriate method of control within an experience is the exertion of self-control.

In Christ

Uncertainty within any experience begs the question of who is in control. Do we want to be in control, or do we want others to be in control, or do we allow God to be in control? Often the line of thinking goes like this: I want to be in control because I’m afraid of what might happen if I release my control; or, I want you to be in control because I’m not sure what I want to do.”

The first two options carry which them a heavy burden of fear and anxiety. (This is the source of the reaction to uncertainty that I mentioned at the beginning of this post.) Fear and anxiety are the opposite of love — they are spirits that build strongholds in our minds, preventing us from opening ourselves up to connect with other people, preventing us from embracing the opportunity to become vulnerable and take on an attitude of humility in any situation that presents uncertainty.

Our challenge, as disciples of Christ, is to let God be in control. We have constant opportunity to establish a stronghold of security within the knowledge that His love for us is more certain than any experience we will ever have on this earth. From this place of certainty, we can navigate any uncertainty that we encounter in this adventure we call life. Like David, we will be able to say, without reservation, in the face of any uncertainty:

My heart is glad and My glory rejoices;

My flesh also will dwell securely.

For You will not abandon my soul (Ps. 16:9-10, NASB).

How do you find yourself responding to uncertainty lately?

Photo Credit: Blake Patterson, https://flic.kr/p/9YCktd
Note: Werner Heisenberg (1901-1976) was a Nobel Prize winning physicist who helped establish the theory of quantum mechanics with his Uncertainty Principle, describing the fact that no one can ever predict the exact location of electrons within an orbital of an atom. I couldn’t resist the clever expression of this principle through Blake’s photo.

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