Living with Uncertainty

We crave certainty. We may like to think of ourselves as free spirits, ready to set off for outer Mongolia at the drop of a hat, but most of us, most of the time, prefer to know where we’ll sleep at night, where our next meal is coming from, that our legs and lungs will work predictably. Living with uncertainty is not, for most of us, a choice we would wish to make, yet most of our ‘certainties’ are nothing of the sort. We are, all of us, only a heartbeat away from eternity.

I think that is why Benedict urges us to ‘keep death daily before our eyes’. He is not being morbid or encouraging glumness. On the contrary, he wants us to recognize that every moment of life is a gift, even when hard or difficult. We are not in control, however much we like to think we are or want to be, so what is the point of worrying ourselves (literally) sick about things? It is not only riches but anxiety that chokes the growth of the Kingdom within us. With Lent just a few days away, perhaps we could start thinking about our Lenten resolutions as a way to recapture awareness of living daily by the mercy of God. That will involve more than giving up marmalade or some other delicacy. It will mean living with uncertainty.


18 thoughts on “Living with Uncertainty”

  1. In the midst of life we have death! Not sure who said or wrote it, but it’s perhaps the truest words spoken by man (apart from Jesus) and we ignore it at the peril of our souls.

    Lots of times in scripture we are reminded that we’ll never know when the end will be, so be alert, keep the lamps burning and be prepared.

    In some ways we deny our mortality, knowing that it’s inevitable, but we don’t want to think about it.

    Life is for living to its full, but always having in mind it’s purpose, for the purposes and Glory of God. If we can manage that, we have nothing to fear from death.

  2. Few days ago cardinal Ravasi posted the following quote:
    Few are the evils with no remedy: despair more than hope brings victims.
    An easy and outright sentence which I am trying to keep in mind together with the sentence of the Pope Giovanni Paolo II : “Do not be afraid, open wide the doors to Christ”

    It is very helpful for me to hear your voice, it helps me summarize and strengthen my roots.


  3. This makes so much sense for me in my daily work with people being treated for cancer. Many find that the experience of this disease and the long, unpredictable process of treatment takes them to a place where they learn to live with uncertainty as their new reality. Many, in fact, find this to be a strange sort of gift – a chance to live in a very different way.
    Thank you for these wise thoughts.

  4. I so readily forget that it’s God in whose hand our next breath is. My brother-in-law’s fall showed me how quickly life can change. I’ve been wondering how to make Lent special this year and had thought rather than just “giving up” I could add something just for fun each week. That’s another thing I so quickly forget, that Jesus, who was invited to celebrations, might not expect me to make my life all seriousness and denial.

  5. For exactly the same reason the native americans have a saying “today is a good day to die”
    The Buddhists also have teachings on embracing the uncertainty of change.
    Strange how the same ideas/thoughts/concepts occur across such diverse traditions.

    • Is it really strange? The Love which is at the heart of everything and which we dare to name as God and whom we are privileged to know in the person of Jesus Christ is manifested in so many ways . . . different times, different cultures, but always the same God.

  6. I like your suggestion for Lent. It could be quite a wonderful practice for me as it would fit with the Welcoming Prayer which I am learning.
    Otherwise, I very much like the Compline prayer which I use as a night mantra: Lord, grant me a peaceful night and a happy death 🙂
    Thank you for this post.

  7. Dear sister,
    I live with so many serious health conditions that I live always ‘on the edge’ and I agree entirely with what you say. Every moment is to be savoured. Each moment should be attended to, in case it be the last. When we are young and fit, we tend to think we are immortal, but no one is. We all die and therefore it is so very important to value the days and hours that we so have.

  8. Having loved and been loved, twice, having had a job which was both satisfying and interesting and having had robust health for most of my (long) life, I have been incredibly lucky. I am aware that I met my second wife late in our lives and I approach every day conscious of our remaining time and I try to make the most of it, for her and for myself. I find myself giving thanks on a daily basis.

  9. Almost two years ago I had a heart attack totally out of the blue. Apart from family history, there was no reason to have it. It was a great blessing because I learned so much from it about unpredicatbility, control, asking for and accepting help, embracing my limitations and that, of course, I can trust God. It changed my life. It hasn’t always been easy to live with the changes but I knew – when I was being reasonable – that it was a blessed time of growth.

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