The Discomfort of Uncertainty . . .
and what you can do about it
Uncertainty is a difficult place to be; it’s uncomfortable, disconcerting and even frightening. When situations in life demand our choice and action, it’s often hard to know what to do. I had to make this type of decision as a newlywed. I needed to trade cars as the one I had was in rough mechanical shape. My husband and I didn’t have a lot of money; we were in new jobs and trying to pay off college loans. We went to several used car dealers and found two possibilities. One car was just under the price we wanted to pay but it had more mileage than we wanted. The other car was much nicer, and more expensive but was well under the mileage. I remember, even 30 years later, the deep uncertainty I had. We had prayed before we shopped that God would direct us and, in this case, He chose not to. Uncertainty!
There is a plethora of negative feelings involved in the state of uncertainty. Much of these feelings result from indecision because we realize, at least at some level, that the person who decides will have to take the responsibility for the outcome. When we stop and consider this, it’s tempting to try anything to avoid making certain decisions. To calm uncertainty, and dodge responsibility (we think), we sometimes give up our power of decision in two ways:
1. We might give our power of decision to someone else.
When we face uncertainty, there are many ways to manipulate others into making our decisions for us. We might use phrases like, “What would you do if…” or “If you were me….” We may not even realize that we are trying to lay a decision we need to make at the feet of others but we are. What it comes down to is, if the choice turns out to be a bad one, we are not at fault; someone else decided for us.
2. We give up our power of decision to “fate” by making no decision.
Since living in uncertainty is so uncomfortable, if we have no one to consult, we may choose to not do anything. The problem with this choice is two-fold. First, not doing anything is a decision and, two, the situation does not go away.
I think it’s important here to mention one other thing concerning uncertainty and choices. Many times, we know deep in our gut what we should do and fear interferes with making that choice.
We need to battle uncertainty and take responsibility of our own lives because, we will reap the consequences of our choices.
Knowing that we must take responsibility for our choices, how do we battle uncertainty? There are two resources and one caution to aid in making an informed decision so you can move out of the uncomfortable realm of uncertainty.
- Seek council from people knowledgeable in the area you are wrestling with.
As Christians, our first place of council is from God’s word. There are many places in the Bible where God urges us to come to Him for guidance in the uncertainties of life. He knows our thoughts and fears, even the secrets we may try and hide. Psalm 44:21 says God doesn’t want us to be afraid of Him, instead, Hebrews 4:26 encourages us to come boldly to the throne of grace. James 1:5 (NIV) tells us that, If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. Uncertainty, for Christians, need not be a continual habit or state of living.
When you seek council from people, consult those who have experienced similar issue. This is not the same as asking someone to make your decision for you; it is tapping into their experience to make a more informed decision.
2. When uncertainty comes your way, writing can be a helpful tool.
After consulting with others and pondering the data, you can benefit from taking notes on what you have discovered. The old-fashioned idea of writing the pros and cons of the circumstances surrounding your uncertainty can reveal ideas and perspectives that you hadn’t considered. Journaling about your uncertainty and the thoughts that accompany it can also provide insight into your situation and what to do next. Writing is a pressure valve for many people, allowing you to relieve the stress and see things more clearly.
3. Avoid making a quick decision in uncertainty just so you will be done with it.
Because uncertainty is an uncomfortable place, it may tempt you to make a quick decision thinking, any decision is better than no decision. Though I have been tempted by this thought many times; there are few circumstances when this works well. Most of the time, it doesn’t. If you wouldn’t want the flip of a coin to determine what you should do while living in uncertainty, do not just make a quick decision to be done with it.