Learning to Live with Uncertainty
How to attain greater peace of mind in world filled with risk and insecurity.
There are those who love rules and order, who make quick decisions and like closure. For these people, uncertainty and risk are rather painful. On the other hand, there are those who thrive on uncertainty, who prefer to keep all their options open, who have a very difficult time with decision-making, with being forced to choose one thing (or person) over another. These are the types of personalities that find uncertainty easier to live with, that are better able to tolerate risk, that could choose jobs in areas like sales and entertainment where there are no “guaranteed” salaries. (They also need spouses who have some ability to tolerate the uncertainty as well!)
Whether it’s an innate character trait or not, we all need to learn to live with uncertainty. We can’t know the future. We don’t know how our decisions will play out. We aren’t told whether our actions will lead to success our failure, whether this relationship will last or fade. We want certainty because it offers up the illusion of control. And we don’t have it because the Almighty wants to spare us this illusion. He wants us to recognize that ultimately He’s in charge.
Only by truly recognizing – and deeply internalizing – the idea that He wants our best and that everything is for our good can we cope with the unknown. The Torah suggests that at the end of his life, our forefather Jacob was given a vision of the end of days. He was desirous of sharing this information with his children, the leaders of the tribes of Israel. The Almighty, however, prevented him from doing so.
I think there are a number of reasons for this. If the end of days was too distant, they may have felt depressed and unmotivated. If it was too soon, they may have felt excited and unmotivated! Those are real concerns. But on the deeper level, I think that only through uncertainty can we come to faith and trust in the Almighty.
I say this as someone who loves structure, rules and order. I say this as someone who is always desperate for closure. A friend in sales says that their motto is “Better a slow yes than a quick no.” I’m afraid that, psychologically anyway, I prefer the quick no. I say this as someone who makes quick decisions (some that I live to regret – did I really want that color paint in the bathroom?). But I also say this as someone who recognizes that I have some growing to do, particularly in this area. I also say this as someone who understands that faith and trust require letting go.
The future is in the Almighty’s hands. There is NOTHING I can do to change that, and acceptance of this fact coupled with recognition of His love and kindness can only lead to greater peace of mind. We delude ourselves into thinking that greater control will lead to greater calm. If I continue to work on recognizing the Almighty’s love and care for me, His investment in my future and my good, then I could learn to tolerate uncertainty – even with equanimity. That’s my goal because, in the end, I really have no choice.
We all have to learn to live with uncertainty and to trust in the Almighty. Some of us are born with personalities that make this particular aspect of our relationship with God a little easier, but it’s incumbent on all of us to discover the inner resources that allow us to accept the reality that we are not in full control. And run with it.