"Do now, do now, what you will wish to have done when your moment comes to die." [St. Angela Merici]

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Confused or Uncertain—Knowing the Difference Makes a Difference

By Micky Wolf

Christians familiar with the life of Jesus know God is not a God of confusion. [1 Corinthians 14:33] In listening to folks over time, I have discovered an interesting dilemma: if we do not understand the difference between being confused and being uncertain, we may expend an extraordinary amount of time and energy spinning our spiritual wheels, which inevitably, affects our overall health and well being. 

Generally speaking, to be confused is to be perplexed or disoriented. On the other hand, to be uncertain is to perceive a lack of specific knowledge. 

It is safe to safe to say we clearly don’t wish to spend much of our time confused—perplexed or disoriented—how could we ever hope to make wise decisions or behave lovingly if we’re unsure of our thoughts, feelings, emotions, and spiritual state?

On the other hand, being uncertain—lacking specific knowledge—doesn’t seem to be much of an improvement. Or does it? The answer is a resounding yes and here’s why: when we choose to embrace uncertainty we step into living a life of confidence and trust in He who is greater than I. [1 John 4:4]

Step #1—Recognize the clues which attend each state

When we are confused we tend to have a jumble of thoughts rambling around in our heads. Little seems to make sense. We lack focus, direction, or purpose. Equally, our feelings and emotions are askew. We can be irritable, to the point of being angry or cruel in our words and actions. For others, feelings may manifest as sullenness or relentless negativity. We are in a funk and tend not to care who knows it.

Lacking specific knowledge—being uncertain from a Christ-centered perspective—is a different matter all together. When it comes to sorting out situations, circumstance, and making decisions, we are less concerned with worldly knowledge and more interested in God-sense. In the absence of facts or details, we rest in the assurance God knows and understands far more than we do in any given moment. 

A general peacefulness often accompanies the person who is at rest in God’s knowing rather than one who is relying primarily on the human intellect. Those at peace with uncertainty may appear to be more quiet or withdrawn emotionally and intellectually, even in the midst a group. But don’t be too quick to assume their demeanor is indicative of a lack of interest or participation, quite the contrary. Being at peace with uncertainty provides the clean canvas of the heart upon which God can write and speak of the greatest insights and mysteries.

Step #2Minimize confusion, grow in uncertainty

Once we recognize uncertainty is something to embrace rather than fear or deny we begin to surrender more fully to the Good that is God.  While it is true the characteristics of being uncertain may seem to bear resemblance to the mental and emotional state of confusion, the similarities stop there. 

Getting comfortable with being uncertain is often an indication we have let go of several things: our need to know, our need to manage or be in control of any real or imagined details; our need to rely on the knowledge of others to provide us with the answer.

Step#3—Lack of knowledge in God’s economy

Our human nature desires many things which are in opposition to what God desires, which is not to imply our human nature is to be despised or understood as relentlessly sinful or evil. It is simply accepting the reality we prefer being comfortable—physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. 

The more we have become dependent on knowledge to help maintain comfort, the more susceptible we are to confusion—being perplexed or disoriented—when things don’t go as we had planned. Once unsettled, we set out with vigor and determination to make up what we perceive to be lacking.

God views lack from an entirely different perspective:

so as to give you a future of hope. When you call me,
and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. [Jeremiah 29:11-12]

yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?
Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?* [Matthew 6:26-27]

Uncertainty—in harmony with reason and will  

Embracing a heart-attitude of contentment with being uncertain does not mean we abandon reason, will, or the intellect God gave us. What it does mean is we understand the importance of utilizing His gifts of reason and will as integral to being peacefully uncertain. 

When we choose to step out in confidence—trusting in He who is greater than I—we flourish, free of the fear that fuels our need to know, and of the need to control. Unfettered, we experience God in all His wonder and glory with each new vista on the unfolding path. Surrendering my will to His allows me to respond to the slightest movement of His spirit. I am more fully equipped to walk in the way He has set before me rather one of my own design and doing. 

To be a person of uncertainty is to be a person dependent upon God. And in that Truth, we can trust the entirety of all that we are, and of all that we hope to be and become.

Do I know the difference between being confused and being uncertain?

How do feel when I am confused? Uncertain?

What does lack mean to me? Disorienting? Perplexing?

What do I need from God to live in peace with uncertainty?

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