So much of life is beyond our control. But we don’t think too much about that on a normal day.
When we start a new day we all realize—even if deep down inside— there is always uncertainty. We don’t really control the events of the day. Normal routines and set schedules not only help us get through life in a productive way but they also settle our souls. There is comfort in knowing what to expect.
Any good leadership coach will tell you leading well requires missional clarity and helping people know what to expect. And those things are essential in living well too. We all like a routine and a predictable future because they offer us the comfort of certainty.
But when circumstances change, and a fog settles in on the future, our lives tend to get unsettled. No one, not even the strongest among us, likes the feeling of being unsettled.
Having a soul that is not at peace because things around us are out of our control is hard to shake. This has especially been hard in the almost year that the COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged our nation and world, and words like “social distancing”, “self-isolation” and “self-quarantine” are repeated incessantly on the news and social media.
I don’t believe — in my lifetime — the entire world has battled the same enemy at the same time. But we are now. We all are praying, hoping and trusting that someone will discover a way of escape, a remedy.
We think the only remedy for an unsettled soul in these days is for someone to remove the uncertainty. But God reveals in His Word that there is another way to have a settled soul, even in the middle of uncertainty.
A SETTLED SOUL, EVEN IN UNCERTAINTY
I’ve been reading and listening to Philippians for the last few months, and I’ve noticed the settledness of Paul’s soul as he wrote this letter while under house arrest in Rome. He did not know how his arrest would end.
In chapter one, he shares the uncertainty of what awaited him—life or death. While he was confident that God would see him through this most challenging time, in reality, his future was just as unsettled as ours is today.
What has captivated my attention is the way Paul wrote – the resolve and peace that took up residence in his heart and breathed hope into every word of this short letter. It is truly remarkable. He found certainty in the middle of earth-shattering uncertainty.
But Paul wasn’t strong enough to possess this kind of resolve and peace on his own. He was indeed a strong man, but the confession of his own soul lets us know his settled soul was a gift.
Paul describes how he dealt with the circumstances of life as a secret:
“…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me,” (Philippians 4:11–13, ESV).
Paul said he was content “in whatever situation” that surrounded him. Paul had a secret that gave him the ability to be content and satisfied in any situation.
What’s the secret? I have good news; Paul’s secret is available to every believer. Paul found certainty in uncertainty through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
So, how does Paul’s “secret” become our own? Here are five truths to remember to have contentment in uncertain times:
1. The love of God gives us joy.
The unshakeable, unbreakable, eternal love of God gives us reason to rejoice in the Lord, even in unsettling times.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice,” (Philippians 4:4, ESV)
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? …No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (Romans 8:35, 37-39, ESV).
2. The presence of God gives us comfort.
“Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand,” (Philippians 4:5, ESV).
Even in prison Paul knew Jesus was with him, and He is with us as well. Remember David’s confession in Psalm 23:
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me,” (Psalm 23:1–4, ESV).
3. The sovereignty of God gives us security.
Worry and anxiety always show up when we feel like things are out of control. We don’t have to be in control or certain of how things will turn out in the future when we remember God is always in control.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose,” (Romans 8:28, ESV).
God is our rock, our anchor. Sometimes we don’t understand how great His strength is until we really need it.
Corrie ten Boom and her family were Dutch watchmakers. They helped Jews who were trying to escape Nazis persecution during World War II. While hiding Jews in their home, they were arrested and placed in the Ravensbrück concentration camp. Later Ten Boom wrote The Hiding Place, which details how God provided hope and help in the middle of horrific persecution.
After going through such horrific circumstances she wrote, “In order to realize the worth of the anchor we need to feel the stress of the storm.”
4. The promises of God give us peace.
Prayer is a gift, especially in times of uncertainty. To know God hears us when we pray, and to know He is able to see us through is settling to our souls. But when we pray God promises to give us peace, this isn’t peace in the future when our struggles are over, it is a present peace to watch over our hearts and minds.
“…in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 4:6–7, ESV)
We should pray honest prayers, knowing the Prince of Peace is our greatest help in uncertain days.
5. The truth of God gives us certainty.
In times of stress and uncertainty, the mind is the greatest battle ground. It seems the more uncertainty there is, the more we think about everything that could happen. Our minds take us to worse case scenarios, adding to our stress.
Paul reminds us to feed our thoughts with things that are true, honorable, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8-9). His encouragement to discipline our mind isn’t simply positive thinking, but rather, it is thinking that is rooted in and focused on God’s Word.
We can have certainty in uncertainty through our relationship with Jesus Christ. He is always enough to meet our needs (Philippians 4:19).
And as Ten Boom puts it, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
Published January 26, 2021