Anxiety, Fear, and Expectation: How to Handle Life in an Unpredictable World

There aren’t many people who would argue with the fact that our world has gone a little crazy; in the last few weeks we’ve seen a devastating earthquake kill thousands, Baltimore citizens rioting and tearing up their own city, and ISIS continual execution of Believers.

These are just a few of the headlines that perhaps weeks or months ago we would have imagined nearly unthinkable. One glance at the news is evidence of the unpredictability that characterizes life-- drastic changes are sometimes only a moment away. 

Beyond what’s going on in our country and globally, in my own personal life this week there have been a few devastating tremors. Plans, hopes and dreams that once felt secure and firm suddenly proved to be volatile as situations beyond my control zapped me of both physical and emotional energy.

So, this morning when I read this quote by Oswald Chambers it hit me in a most profound way, “To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, not knowing what tomorrow may bring. This is generally expressed with a sigh of sadness, but it should be an expression of breathless expectation.”

I thought about how often when life suddenly becomes uncertain our reaction, even as Believers, is often better described as breathless fear. Or breathless anxiety. We allow situations to devastate our hearts even when we recognize the strength, power and ability of our God. It doesn’t make sense, if we truly believe all of the Sunday school stories, miracle after miracle, that our minds continue to anxiously fret. But, we do, don’t we?

Chambers continues with this thought, “We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God.” 

This week, perhaps even for the next few months, this is where I am. Plagued with uncertainty in the physical realm of life; yet understanding the challenge spiritually is to stay aware of the certainty of God’s character. I know He is good, and I know He promises that all things work for the good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28) And though I can only see a half inch in front of me, my gaze fixated on Jesus is far more important then anxious eyes searching for what’s next. 

After the death and resurrection two of His disciple were walking to Emmaus when Jesus suddenly appeared to them. After walking and discussing the recent occurrences  and prophetic scriptures for hours they sat down for dinner still not understanding who He was. But then, as Jesus broke bread the disciples eyes were opened and they finally recognized him. (Luke 24:31) The scriptures tell us “at that moment he disappeared!”

Can you even imagine? They finally have a breakthrough “aha moment” and poof-- he’s gone! When I read this passage I sometimes wonder why Jesus didn’t hang out for a little more Q & A. If I were one of the disciples I know I’d at the minimum have twenty burning questions to rapidly fire at him. 

In the same passage of Luke, Jesus appears to all the disciples one last time before ascending into heaven, this time for good. He promises the sending of the Holy Spirit that will fill them with power from heaven and tells them to stay put. (Luke 24:49) It’s important to recognize that Jesus didn’t tell them specifically when the Holy Spirit would arrive on the scene, He simply said “stay here until...” 

Honestly, “until” could have meant a few weeks, months, or even years. I would have likely wanted to ask Jesus a little more specifics about the timeline and what to expect, or rather how to know.  They didn’t question Jesus though. They just obeyed and went back to Jerusalem where they stayed in the temple and worshipped. Do you think the disciples had any clue how amazing the Holy Spirit would actually be? I’m not convinced they knew what to expect, but as I read this passage I think  their waiting looked a lot like this: breathless expectation

When we understand that God is for us, when we choose to believe it by faith when we can’t feel it, when we understand His ability to redeem and work good out of difficult situations-- when we taste and see that He is good, we can ditch the anxiety and fear. We can know with certainty the promise of His presence (Ps 139:7). We can know with certainty that He is ultimately in control (Proverbs 19:21). We can wait with breathless expectancy for His healing, provision, peace, guidance, and sufficiency.

“Leave everything to Him and it will be gloriously and graciously uncertain how He will come in-- but you can be certain He will come.” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest)