I hate to write my last Troub article for the school year on something as ambiguous and inconclusive as “uncertainty,” yet I think it may be the most fitting topic for this time of year.
Whether you are a graduating senior, a freshman who is trying to declare a major or somewhere in between, I think the end of a school year can often pose a lot of unknowns.
Many of us are trying to find work for the summer, many are trying to figure out how we will have time to complete all of our final assignments and projects, and some of us are bigs struggling to figure out how to get through the remainder of formation with our littles in time for inductions (not that I speak from experience).
Whatever a student’s uncertainties may be, I think we can all relate to trying to navigate the uncertainty of discerning what God’s will is for our lives.
This is such a recurring theme at Franciscan that I think it can be easy to fall into a habit of “discerning” any and every thing that happens to us and constantly keeping vigilant watch for how God may be speaking to us.
I acknowledge that God is always present and that he is everywhere, and I believe we can encounter him in an infinite number of ways. However, if we are so consumed with trying to figure out what God is doing, then we don’t give him a chance to actually do it.
If we are picking apart every piece of our day and thinking, “That could be a sign!” or “What is God’s will for me as I eat this ham sandwich?”, we end up missing things. We end up eating the ham sandwich but not even tasting it. Why a ham sandwich? Don’t ask me. And never underestimate the value of a ham sandwich.
But my point is that we end up going through our days and letting things pass us by because we are so wrapped up in “discerning” their outcomes that we aren’t present enough to fully experience them.
Of course I am not advocating for not actively trying to hear God and follow his will. We should be aware and watchful for how God may be speaking to us throughout the day. However, I do claim that discernment and analysis are not the same things.
Also, discerning that which is uncertain should not be such a vigilant and intense process that it steals our joy. That would make no sense, because joy is often a key indicator of personal vocation.
But we’re not just talking about vocations here, we are talking about uncertainty in general. Uncertainty is something that we often just can’t figure out, no matter how hard we try. We must let it “unfold,” and that is often so frustrating!
However, would we really prefer to have it any other way? How exciting would it be to live a life in which you know what lies behind every corner and every unopened door?
So, if we can at least concede that uncertainty is something that God allows and uses for our good, then how do we cope with it?
As I stated at the beginning of this article, uncertainty is inherently very inconclusive. I tried writing a list of possible ways to cope with it, and a good friend of mine stopped me in my tracks and told me that perhaps “instructions” are simply not the answer.
Uncertainty is the most frightening, I think, when it is linked in our minds to failure. If we choose to believe that, even if we fail, things will be OK, then we can enter the uncertainty with less fear.
My wise friend told me that “taking off some of the pressure” can be very helpful in the face of uncertainty. We can relieve some of this pressure by accepting that whatever is uncertain in our lives is not something that we can control, and it is not something that we have to carry on our own.
Seeking the support of others and calling out to God in our uncertainty will lessen the power that the uncertainty has over us.
Where are you putting pressure on yourself in these last few weeks of the semester? What unknowns in your life are currently bringing you fear? Whatever uncertainty you currently feel, rest assured that you are not alone, and ask the Holy Spirit to give you the ability to have peace, even amidst the ambiguity.
Psalm 18:6: “But in my distress I cried out to the LORD; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears.”
Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”