Ezer Equipped Newsletter | Where Is God in Uncertainty?
Welcome to the October 2021 edition of Ezer Equipped!
I am a creature of habit. I have rhythms and routines—like my morning routine—that are just part of my daily life. I get up at the same time; drink my coffee in the same cup; sit in the same spot; read one chapter of some faith-based book and one or two chapters of my Bible; and finally, I journal my prayers of confession, repentance, and petition. The transition to married life was hard for me because it disrupted decade-long routines. All of that came into clear view in the first year of our marriage while driving to my family reunion, which meets on the same Sunday of the same month in the same church every year for the last 95 years (what can I say? I guess it’s in my DNA?!). And every year, I drove the exact same route. But this particular year, my new husband drove and, unbeknownst to me at the time, took a different route. As soon as I realized that I would not see the same predictable scenery, I lost it—a full-blown nuclear meltdown of tears and emotion. My routines gave me a sense of security and comfort because they were certain. I could depend on them. But when a new variable (marriage) was introduced and these routines were disrupted, it revealed how desperately I depended on the ability to be in control of my life.
We’ve been in a prolonged season of uncertainty, where nothing in life feels secure or predictable or dependable anymore. We simply do not know what tomorrow will bring. It feels like a cosmic game of Jenga, where the whole structure is precariously balanced on one or two blocks and we are holding our breath, waiting for it to all come crashing down around us. Many of us live in a constant state of fear and impending doom. The illusion of control has been stripped away, and it's exposed where we’ve been propped up by a false sense of security through the predictable rhythms of life.
When faced with danger and threat, our bodies’ natural response is to go into fight, flight, or freeze mode. Perhaps that’s where many of us are now. Maybe you’re fighting to maintain or regain control over any area of your life—whether fighting to be right or to maintain ideologies or long-held beliefs. Maybe you are fighting to control the health and well-being of everyone around you. Perhaps you’re seeking assurances and answers through political pundits, medical providers, or arm-chair commentators. Maybe you’re overwhelmed and fleeing into alcohol, pornography, or binge-watching Netflix. Or maybe you’re frozen and have no idea whom to trust or what to think, believe, feel or do. Each individual responds to difficulty differently, but the prolonged difficulties have left us all anxious, distrusting, lonely, weary, cynical, and angry.
I think in light of our current season, the book of Job has much to offer us. Job endures a season of intense suffering. He loses everything—his children, his livelihood, his reputation, the respect of his peers, and his own health and well-being. The prolonged season of suffering leaves him reeling and questioning everything he knows to be true of who he is, who God is, and how God operates in the world. He wants relief. And he wants answers. And finally, after thirty-seven chapters of Job airing his grievances, defending his honor, and questioning God, and Job’s friends postulating about the reasons behind everything Job is suffering, the Lord decides it is time to speak. For five chapters, God tells Job and his friends who he is. He is the God who laid the foundations of the earth. He is the one to whom the lightning bolts report. It is he who gives the proud seas their borders, telling them, “Thus far you may go and no further.” He is the one who hunts for prey for lions and their cubs and the ravens when their young cry out for food. And he is the one who established the laws of the universe to regulate the earth.
Job was legitimately suffering. And it was right for him to grieve and lament. It was even understable to feel frail and afraid. But when God chose to answer Job and his friends, it wasn’t with why or what or when or how or even what now . . . it was WHO! If the last eighteen months have done anything in us, they have revealed the uncertainty and fragility of everything we’ve put our trust in. The assurances, security, and stability we are looking for don’t come in knowing why, finding answers, being right, being in control, or getting our way. God’s character is what provides us with confident hope, stability, and security in prolonged seasons of difficulty.
When our world feels out of control, the antidote to our fear is WHO God is.
- God is aware (omniscient). He knows everything. Nothing is hidden from his sight—no suffering, no evil schemes of man.
- God is present (omnipresent). He is everywhere. He is not bound by time or space.
- God is working (omnipotent). He is powerful and in control over ALL things. There is nothing and no one beyond his rule and reign.
Our lives may feel out of control. Our world may seem out of control. But our confidence is in our God who is in control. This month, we want you to invite God into your uncertainty—remembering that he sees it and knows it, he can do something about it, and he’s with you in it.
Grace Church Women’s Discipleship Advisor
This month, we will explore four passages of different men and women who were dealing with uncertainty and difficulty. Yet behind the scenes, God was aware, present, and working. Often our seen circumstances overshadow the unseen realities of God’s active presence in our lives. So as you read each passage, make note of the following:
- What circumstances is the person facing?
- How does each passage show that God was aware, God was present, and God was working?
- How do these passages comfort and steady you in the current circumstances beyond your control?
Hagar is in a bleak situation—with no ability to be in control of her own life or body. She’s a servant, given to her master’s husband to produce a child for her master. And then she is treated cruelly when she does become pregnant. So she runs away and finds herself pregnant, alone, and helpless with nowhere to go. And yet, it is at this moment God meets with her.
“Abram replied, ‘Look, she is your servant, so deal with her as you see fit.’ Then Sarai treated Hagar so harshly that she finally ran away.”
After three years of famine, the Widow of Zarephath is desperate. As she prepares what she thinks is her last meal, she meets Elijah who has been tucked away in a ravine and fed by the ravens God provided. God specifically tells Elijah to leave the ravine and find this widow. When Elijah asks her to share some of her food, she becomes unhinged. With these three words, “Don’t be afraid.” her life changes forever.
“But she said, ‘I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.’”
Surrounded by enemies on all sides, Elisha’s servant is in deep distress. But Elisha knows something his servant doesn’t—God is aware, present, and at work. And for a brief moment, God enables the servant to see what had previously been unseen.
“When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. ‘Oh, sir, what will we do now?’ the young man cried to Elisha.”
David is a man well-acquainted with uncertainty during challenging circumstances. From the very beginning, he is constantly pursued and threatened by enemies—those who want to conquer his kingdom and take his life. In this passage, God pulls back the veil and allows a glimpse of how he is working in the spiritual realm in ways often unknown to us.
“But after a while the Philistines returned and again spread out across the valley of Rephaim. And again David asked the Lord what to do.”
Remember The Promise of His Presence, EnCourage Podcast with Sharon Betters
In the broken places, the frustrating places, and in the disappointing places, you are not alone; God is with you. In this podcast, Sharon Betters encourages us to remember the promise of God’s presence.
Every time we see in Scripture where God calls on someone to do something hard, something way outside the box for them, what does he say? “Don’t be afraid; I will go with you.” He said it to Jacob and Isaac. He said it to Jeremiah . . . He said it to Joshua . . . God was calling Mary (the mother of Jesus) to an incredible place of unknowns, and he said, “Don’t be afraid; I will go with you.” And then, of course, what does Jesus say when he’s leaving the earth, “I will be with you always to the end of the earth.”
We encourage you to use these conversation starters as a means of self-reflection and for discussion within your community.
- Where have you experienced the most disruption and loss of control this past year?
- Emotions are indicators. They are like a check engine light on a car that invites us to be curious about what we are experiencing and why. Our emotions and how we respond in certain situations can tell us a lot about ourselves—what we love, what we fear, and what we long for. What are the primary emotions you have experienced during this time when things have felt out of control and you have felt the sting of uncertainty and loss?
- When we feel threatened, we have a response mechanism in our brains that assesses the situation and then decides to either fight, flight, or freeze. It’s a means of self-protection that is good and right in the face of danger. These are especially helpful survival mechanisms in traumatic situations. If you have a history of prior trauma, you may experience intense or distressing reactions to current stressors because they remind you of your past traumatic experiences. This is known as retraumatization. (If you believe that you or someone you love is experiencing this, please reach out to a community group leader, pastor, or counselor for support.) However, in the context of the ordinary unraveling that occurs in our daily lives, these responses can also become self-defeating and destructive.
A fight response may have you being combative, venting on social media, or looking for someone to blame. Or it may show up as a desire to be on the “right” side of every argument. You may look for answers, knowledge, or powerful people to align yourself with to help you feel stable. Pay attention to what you are being combative about and what aspects of your emotional life you are trying to protect.
A flight response may have you pulling away from others, avoiding conflict and connection. Or it may show up as over indulging in distractions to avoid dealing with the fear, disappointment, or frustration of this prolonged period of uncertainty. Pay attention to what you are pulling away from and what you are fleeing to as a means of self-protection.
A freeze response may have you feeling confused and unsure what to think, how to act, or what to feel. It may show up as weariness, an inability to think, or feeling indifferent and numb to all that’s going on. Pay attention to ways you feel stuck and unable to move or respond and what triggered those feelings as a means of self-preservation.
We don’t respond the same way in all situations. When the loss of control and uncertainty threatens you, which of these is your natural response? What situations provoke a different response? In the uncertainty you are facing, can you identify what is routinely being threatened and what you are fearful of losing?
- If fight, flight, and freeze are normal fear-based responses, then how might the knowledge that God is aware, present, and working de-escalate our bodies’ natural response and enable us to slow down and entrust our fear and uncertainty to the God who is aware, present, and working—instead of bolstering ourselves by gaining more knowledge, more clarity, more power, more comfort, or more connection. These are fragile substitutes. The only thing that can provide the security and stability we long for in the midst of loss and uncertainty is a deep and abiding trust in who God is.
Scripture warns us to not just be hearers of the Word but to be doers of it as well. All of life is repentance. What is a believable next step God is calling you to take in response to all you’ve learned? Pick one or two of the below steps to take.
- As you reflect on your natural responses to uncertainty, and the root cause, it's important that we intentionally entrust these things to God and repent of any unbelief in us that may be fueling our response. What keeps you from trusting God? What would repentance and obedience look like for you in these situations?
- Part of our struggle is that we forget to remember who God is. How can you actively remind yourself that God is aware, present, and working in your circumstances? Here are a few suggestions:
- Memorize Hebrews 13:5 in the Amplified Version: “I will never [under any circumstances] desert you [nor give you up nor leave you without support, nor will I in any degree leave you helpless], nor will I forsake or let you down or relax My hold on you [assuredly not]!”
- Print off one of these visual reminders or download one of these lockscreens (option 1 or option 2) for your phone as a reminder that God is aware, present, and working. Let these words become a prayer for you when you are searching for stability in the midst of uncertainty.
- Community is a vital part of our spiritual health. Whom have you empowered in your life to remind you of God’s active presence in the midst of uncertainty? Share with friends your struggle to believe these truths. Ask them to regularly remind you.
- In order for us to rely on God in times of uncertainty, we must be confident in whom we are entrusting ourselves to. Here are some additional resources for further study and reference: The Attributes of God—Visual Theology PDF, by Tim Challies and 13 Key Attributes of God’s Character.
None Like Him, book by Jen Wilkin
Knowledge of the Holy, book by A.W. Tozer