As the sun brightens with every new dawn, our view of what the day will bring can dim. We often cannot see what the coming hours hold for us. Sure, we can fill our calendar down to every quarter hour, and our own intuition may sneak glimpses of what lies ahead. But when we strain to look beyond our immediate next few steps, the view never quite comes into focus as clear as we would like. No flashlight fires enough lumens to light up the future. The sun’s rays stop just short of what’s hidden on our path ahead.
Try as we might, we simply cannot predict what tomorrow will bring — let alone the next few moments. Uncertainty is certain. Or at least, so it seems to creatures like us.
‘Relax, Eat, Drink, Be Merry’
The Bible speaks some brutally honest words for the surety of our uncertainty. When Jesus addresses covetousness and greed in Luke 12:13–21, he directs our attention to the insecurity of our lives. In our Savior’s parable, the rich man firmly believes he knows what’s best for his future. He fools himself into thinking he has his act together and that he has only clear sailing ahead: “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry” (Luke 12:19). In other words, “I’ve made it. I can do what I want. I’ve got nothing to worry about.”
“But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’” (Luke 12:20). This rich man’s surplus of cash lured him into a deadly complacency. And that self-satisfaction caused him to forget that God never guarantees tomorrow. In the end, his nest egg amounted to nothing because he was “not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21).
Wealth may foot the bill for a mountain of toys and treats, but even the fattest portfolio can never buy more time. Uncertainty is certain, even when you think you have enough to cover life’s contingencies.
‘If the Lord Wills’
Echoing the wisdom of Proverbs 27:1, James insists that our very lives measure up to about the durability of a vapor:
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” — yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. (James 4:13–14)
Comparing the endurance of my life to particles that the gentlest breeze can obliterate doesn’t inspire much confidence in me. But that’s exactly the point. James continues,
Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:15)
If the Lord wills. If the God who numbers the hairs on our heads so desires (Matthew 10:30), then he will cause our hearts to pulse and our lungs to draw in breath as the next few seconds tick away. If the God who gives lift to each bird and who infuses every blade of grass with verdant hue so wishes (Matthew 6:26, 28–30), then he will give us sustenance for tomorrow. If the God who “has made his light to shine upon us” so wills (Psalm 118:27), then he will extend success to us as we endeavor to honor Jesus (Psalm 118:25).
But only if the Lord wills. Our lives resemble puffs of smoke that blow at the whims of the wind. Our very being in this world could vanish in an instant. James’s point, however, is not that we drift aimlessly and disappear, but that God himself undergirds everything we do. God governs every tomorrow. His plans stand with certainty (Proverbs 19:21). His purposes endure (Psalm 33:11). His counsel abides (Isaiah 46:10).
Uncertainty is certain — at least from our limited vantage point. But the durability of our Father’s plans, impenetrable as granite, is more than enough to allay whatever worries or fears our uncertainties dredge up.
Stability in Turbulent Times
Even in desperate times, our God proves stable. During Hezekiah’s reign, Sennacherib, king of Assyria, and his merciless army threatened to wipe out the people of Judah. Sennacherib taunted Hezekiah and the people, asking through his messengers, “On what are you trusting, that you endure the siege in Jerusalem?” (2 Chronicles 32:10). He continued to deride, “Has any of the gods of the nations ever delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? . . . Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?” (2 Kings 18:33, 35).
Assyria posed a dire threat. The military superpower had already decimated the northern kingdom (2 Kings 17:6–23). But no matter how desperate, no matter how woeful, no matter how distressing our circumstances appear, the Lord still reigns, and with him, we have a sure foundation. During the skirmish with Assyria, Isaiah proclaims,
The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high;
he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness,
and he will be the stability of your times,
abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge;
the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure. (Isaiah 33:5–6)
God himself is our stability. When the unknown twists and turns of life prove turbulent and shaky, God has promised to be your sure foundation.
To Hezekiah and Judah’s enemy, Assyria, God says,
Have you not heard
that I determined it long ago?
I planned from days of old
what now I bring to pass,
that you should turn fortified cities
into heaps of ruins . . . (2 Kings 19:25)
However near the enemies of God’s people approach, they draw only as close as our sovereign Lord allows. He determines all that comes to pass, and nothing is uncertain with him.
Your Father’s Good Pleasure
Of course, whatever victory Judah had didn’t last forever; they too were overtaken. But the fall of that temporary kingdom only advanced God’s plan for his eternal kingdom to break into our world through Jesus Christ. Now, we who know redemption and forgiveness in him stand surefooted in the “kingdom of [God’s] beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13).
We may never have the ability to see past our present moment, but we now belong in the kingdom whose Lord designs every second and stands with us at every step. From one perspective, uncertainty may still seem certain. But for all who lay their lives before King Jesus, uncertainty is just an illusion, a vapor that can cloud our vision for a little while, but then vanishes.
And so we can face every twist and turn in life, every foe and every failure, knowing that Jesus’s kingdom is unshakable. We can find hope in the seeming instability of our lives and know that our Father is well pleased to give us that very kingdom, in all its durability and permanence. We can find joy in whatever tumult this day brings because Jesus Christ is the stability of our times, today and every day.