Living With Uncertainty

moby dick

Perhaps a very little thought will now enable you to account for those repeated whaling disasters – some few of which are casually chronicled – of this man or that man being taken out of the boat by the line, and lost. For, when the line is darting out, to be seated then in the boat, is like being seated in the midst of the manifold whizzings of a steam-engine in full play, when every flying beam, and shaft, and wheel, is grazing you. It is worse; for you cannot sit motionless in the heart of these perils, because the boat is rocking like a cradle, and you are pitched one way and the other, without the slightest warning…

…But why say more? All men live enveloped in whale-lines. All are born with halters round their necks; but it is only when caught in the swift, sudden turn of death, that mortals realize the silent, subtle, ever-present perils of life. And if you be a philosopher, though seated in the whale-boat, you would not at heart feel one whit more of terror, than though seated before your evening fire with a poker, and not a harpoon, by your side.

– Herman Melville, Moby Dick

 Years ago, I ran across this quote in a medical journal and it’s stuck with me. For a long time I had it taped to my desk. It’s spot on – life is uncertain. One day you’re on top of the world, the next day your world is falling apart. You can never be sure of what’s coming next. There is no certainty.

It’s a difficult message to accept. We like to know, to be sure. We carefully plan the future. We want to be in control of our destiny. We may even convince ourselves that we can actually do that, at least until something happens. Perhaps a job disappears. Or a spouse disappears. Maybe the stock market crashes and a fortune disappears. Sometimes it’s our health that leaves us, maybe even to the point of death.

I’ve been experiencing minor job-related uncertainty lately and it’s been a little trying. But, honestly, it’s nothing compared to the struggles of many of my friends. Marriages, finances and lives are in the balance. Some will pull through and some won’t. My current problems are small. Yet sudden reversals of fortune are common in life, and suffering is to be expected. Everything can be taken away in the blink of an eye. You never know.

How should we deal with that?  Being continually anxious, or alternately, being stoical and suppressing our emotions, are not good answers. How can we get peace and joy amid the uncertainty?  I’m trying two strategies. First, really living with it. Reminding myself of it. Being more grateful for what I have and being mindful that I have no “right” to anything. Money, health, relationships, and all good things are blessings from God. They are gifts, not entitlements.

Second, reminding myself that there is one who is 100% reliable, one who never fails. Certainty exists in God. Jesus will lose none of whom the Father has given him. “Got Jesus?” is the wrong question. The right one is, “Does Jesus got you?”

In life, Jesus is the only certainty we get. The good news is he’s also the only certainty we need.


And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.     Romans 8:38-39 NLT


  1. Good thoughts, Pete. Oh how easy it is to rely on ourselves and our resources to meet our needs. We are tricked to believe that our puny resources and intellect can keep us safe, when truly our lives are in His hands. I am reminded of Isaiah 30:15-18. The Hebrews had the same misconceptions: “For thus the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said, “In repentance and rest you will be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength.”But you were not willing, And you said, “No, for we will flee on horses, “Therefore you shall flee!” And we will ride on swift horses, “Therefore those who pursue you shall be swift. One thousand will flee at the threat of one man; You will flee at the threat of five, Until you are left as a flag on a mountain top And as a signal on a hill. Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him.” May we look to Christ to meet our every need and be diligent to complete the things for which we are responsible.