Thursday, August 13, 2020

Overcoming Fear of the Unknown


(Holland State Park, Michigan)

In life, most of what lies before us is unknown. 

Sometimes in details. Sometimes in entirety. 

For example, Linda and I went grocery shopping today. I bought breakfast cereal. I intend to have this cereal for breakfast, tomorrow morning. Probably, that will happen. But something, unknown to me, may disrupt my plans. 

It could be minor, such as discovering the milk has gone sour. In that case, I'll figure something out. 
It could be a major interruption. Some serious situation, involving myself, or a friend, could occur. 

More dramatically, I could come face to face with a life-altering event. In either case, the future contains a whole lot of unknown.

Everyone encounters the unknown. The essence of unknown-ness is: out of our control. This reminds me of a bad joke I once heard. "Did you hear of the person who learned that 90% of all accidents occur within twenty-five miles of home?"


"They moved."

They moved, to take control of the unknown. Unfortunately, that won't work.

So, what can we do, if anything? How can we live facing the unknown tomorrows? The only answer is: faith.

Look, if faith isn't reality-based, then there is, precisely, nothing available to us. A person might use alcohol or substances to mask the fear of the unknown. Maybe we can just keep very busy and preoccupied, so that the uncertain future does not occupy our thoughts. But these are only band-aids. They are like spray painting the rust spot on your car or, more dramatically, like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Our only hope is the reality of someone, or something, we can trust in. One way the Bible speaks of this is: keep your eyes fixed on the promise of the "unseen city."

In Hebrews 11:8 we read:

By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going. By an act of faith he lived in the country promised him, lived as a stranger camping in tents. Isaac and Jacob did the same, living under the same promise. Abraham did it by keeping his eye on an unseen city with real, eternal foundations—the City designed and built by God.

Abraham did not have a map. No GPS, as we know it.

But, Abraham did have another kind of GPS. He had a God Positioning System. God was leading Abraham. Abraham, traveling without a map, had to discern the leading of God.

To do this, Abraham had to stay close to God. The closer to God, the more accurate the discernment. Discernment is a function of intimacy, of closeness, to God. Discernment is a vaccine that counteracts the fear of the unknown.

Abraham kept his eye on the "unseen city." This is where we are today. God's people, the Church, are being led to the unseen city. We do not know what tomorrow, or the days after every tomorrow, will bring. But we do know the One who is leading us. And our faith is based on a great promise.

This kind of faith is Psalm 23 stuff. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death...

...I will fear no evil.

And why not?

Because You are with me.

How practical is this? Does this "work?" For people, such as myself, and perhaps you, it makes all the difference. It is the response to nihilism, exhibited, for me, in the four thousand pages of journal entries I have kept since 1970. Those pages are a record of a life trusting in Jesus, imperfectly, and testifying to the reality of His guidance, through the innumerable unknowns I (and Linda) have faced.

These days are filled with unknowns.

Except to God.

I invite you to TRUST HIM.

(I write more extensively about how to lead church through the unknown in Leading the Presence-Driven Church.)