My life has been ruled by yes’s and no’s.
I’ve gone through seasons of always wanting to say YES because I never wanted to miss an opportunity. I’ve also gone through seasons of feeling like I needed to say NO because I wanted to guard my time and maintain my priorities.
The YES Stage
In an effort to be spontaneous, helpful and involved I started to try and say yes to everything.
Feel like volunteering this weekend? Yes!
Wanna do something tonight? Yes!
Can you help me move out my entire 6th floor apartment in a building with no elevators on the hottest day of the year? You bet I do!
The NO Stage
In an effort to be mature, driven and responsible I started to try and say no to everything.
Can you help me with this project? No sorry, I have to work.
Can you spare 3 hours to talk with me on the phone? I can’t, I have a prior commitment.
Wanna go to a midnight movie premier? No, I should study for my final tomorrow.
I have been finding how to balance the Yes and No seasons of life.
How to thrive in them even.
But this . . . this is a fresh struggle.
Lately, my life has been one colossal “I. Don’t. Know.”
I’ve been drowning in an ocean of these words.
. . .
Why do you think this is happening this way? I don’t know.
How are you going to do that? I really don’t know.
Do you want to do this? I don’t even know!
. . .
“I don’t know.”
Last week I found myself replacing this phrase with fluffy excuses
and fake pleasantries like, “It’s all in His hands” and “I’m praying about it.”
I started to speak the truth that my heart was roaring for me to admit outloud, but when the time came for bravery and transparency, I put on a humble smile and dishonestly said,
“It’s all just a part of His plan.”
ALL PART OF HIS PLAN?!
That’s not what I wanted to say! At all.
What I really wanted to
say cry shout was:
“I DON’T KNOW! Why do you expect me to know?
I have no clue. I am lost. I am confused.
I’m questioning everything and finding answers on nothing!
I DON’T KNOW!“
. . . But I didn’t say that.
. . .
Countless times I’ve caged those very words inside this restless heart and I’ve put on the mask that every faithful believer is supposed to wear – the mask that smiles back and tells everyone that I am consistently positive of what I am doing and that I am constantly comfortable with what God is working in me. Neither of these things are true.
What’s true for me right now?
My heart is clamoring for the presence of people who are brave enough to say these three words to me: I. Don’t. Know.
“Hannah, I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know how to answer that question for you. I don’t know why those terrible things are happening.”
And I need the presence of people who can look me in my soggy eyes after I’ve spilled my ocean of “I don’t know’s” onto their lap and say with love, “It’s okay.”
“Hannah, It’s okay to be unsure. It’s okay to not know.”
. . .
The problem is that somewhere along the way we have started to equate uncertainty with a lack of faith.
You call yourself a believer but you have these doubts?
You don’t know how to answer my questions about God?
You can’t tell me what you’re supposed to be doing with your life?
You must not have faith. You must not trust God. You must not be praying enough.
. . .
Many times I’ve asked my husband questions like the weird wife that I am.
- What do you think English sounds like to people who don’t speak it?
- Do you think the first person to use the word ‘moist’ hated it too?
- Do you believe that there could be life on other planets?
- What do you think Heaven will smell like?
I ask these questions not because I married a know-it-all, but because I want to entertain these thoughts with the person I love most. I don’t ask him because I think he knows for a fact or with certainty what Heaven really smells like.
He doesn’t know. And it’s okay.
But here is how he usually answers these questions:
“I don’t know, Hannah.”
And every time I want to say,
“I know you don’t know. It’s okay. I didn’t ask you what you KNOW. I asked you what you THINK. What you FEEL. What you BELIEVE in your heart. I don’t want you to know.”
I think we all need a reminder that believing is not knowing.
That having faith does not mean having certainty.
Somewhere along the way we have twisted what it means to believe and to have faith. Faith is not a fortune teller or an insurance policy to keep us positive of the future and in love with our cushy life. And it certainly doesn’t mean that we always have the right answer or walk the right path. Anyone who has followed Jesus for more than, oh I don’t know, 16 seconds, knows this is fully true.
When did faith suddenly start to mean having all the answers?
We have made faith and belief a gateway to things that Jesus never said we would have.
He said that by our faith we would be saved and forgiven. He said that our faith could move mountains. He even told the woman on the road with the blood issue that her faith had healed her. But he never said that faith in Him would erase our “I Don’t Know” moments. He never said that faith means having all the right answers at all the right times and never having to wait, sometimes painfully long, on Him.
Jesus didn’t say it. We invented it.
. . .
James wrote about faith in his epistle (Chapter 1:2-4).
He said that when we face trials we should rejoice.
Why? Because when our faith is tested, we learn to persevere.
He says that if we walk through the trials and the “I Don’t Knows”,
if we let perseverance finish its work in us,
we will be mature, complete, not lacking anything.
I wonder if the reason we have so many half-time Christians and far from radical believers is because they run away from the “I Don’t Know.” The trials come, the uncertainty begins to weigh on them, the doubts pressure them to move, and instead of persevering, they run.
Many people understand the word perseverance in this verse to mean “carry on, persist, stand your ground, forge ahead.” James must be saying that if we press on and make it through these trials then we can get to the answers on the other side, right?
The Greek word that James uses here doesn’t really mean “perseverance.”
What it actually means is PATIENCE.
James is saying that when trials and doubts come to shake our faith, we shouldn’t forge ahead, or carry on to find answers, or try to make our own way. We are to wait.
Wait on Him – patiently, steadfastly, consistently.
. . .
This season of I Don’t Know that I have found myself buried in has brought an army of new doubts, trials and uncertainty. As a notorious planner, every fiber of my being wants to steamroll through this time and make my own way. I want to have answers. I want to move forward and stop wasting time. I want to be able to look someone in the eyes and give them a “Yes” or a “No”.
But I’m fresh out of those answers right now.
All I know is that God has called me.
He has called me to be where I am, doing what I am doing, for this time.
He has called me to love people and be a radical example of His love on this earth.
And that, my friends, is all that matters.
Believing that He has called me is enough. More than enough.
So I wait.
Because I don’t need to know why.
I don’t need to know how He is going to use me or where He may send me.
I don’t even need to be able to put this calling into polished words in a coffee shop conversation.
Because my trust is not in my ability to speak my dreams and my calling to others.
My faith is not in the feeling of someone understanding what I am called to do.
My belief is not in someone agreeing with His words or confirming His leading.
My trust is in Him. My faith and my belief are in Him.
And that is enough.
I don’t know what is next for our Student Ministry.
I don’t know why he has given me such a burden for students or for the people of Haiti.
I don’t know how to explain to you the way that I feel.
I don’t know what the future will look like for our family.
I don’t know what God is doing.
And it’s okay.
I DON’T KNOW and IT’S OKAY
I don’t know what God is doing, but I know who He is.
I definitely don’t know what I am doing, but I know what He has spoken to me.
And those things are far more valuable to me than a “Yes” or a “No” will ever be.
Because I would rather waste away waiting in His presence and standing on His promises, than running away from him towards something else.
. . .
If you’re not in a season of “I Don’t Know” yet, trust me, your day will come. Some day your heart will be full of “I Don’t Knows”. And just like me you will shake your fists at God and beg Him to tell you what He is doing, where to go, or how to do something.
And then you will have to make a choice: run away or waste away.
I pray you choose to waste.
. . .
Here is my advice on what to do when you just don’t know:
- ADMIT IT
Admit to yourself and to others that you really don’t know.
Own it. Claim it. With Bravery.
And once you’ve admitted it, be brave enough to live like its okay.
Don’t walk in fear or defeat. Tell the truth about where you are and be okay with it. You don’t know. And its not because you don’t have faith or haven’t prayed about it. You don’t know and it is absolutely positively OKAY. Trust me, the people in your life will all let out a huge sigh of relief when they realize that you don’t have it all figured out because guess what?
They don’t either.
- DON’T ADOPT SOMEONE ELSE’S ‘KNOW
I’ve caught myself with my nose buried in a book or with watery eyes in front of a computer screen diving deep into someone else’s calling. And I’ve had to say, “Knock it off, Hannah! Their calling is not yours.“Stop adopting what someone else is doing because you are too chicken to sit in this place of waiting for more than 6 seconds. Quit looking for ways to fit what other people are doing into this time of uncertainty.Calling, purpose, passion – they are not to be taken out of fear or jealousy, but are meant to be received. When you take from someone else you run the risk of living your life with that counterfeit calling instead of receiving the real thing from God.
Their certainty is not your certainty. Their yes and their no are not yours.
The journey they are walking through is not yours to walk.
Don’t start pouring yourself into someone else’s “know” just because you don’t have your own. The Lord will use this time to mold you, direct you and set you on a stronger foundation than ever before. Don’t you dare run from it. Don’t you dare trade it.
- LIVE OUT WHAT YOU DO KNOW
You know who God is. You know His character.
You know the past that you have together.
In your season of “I don’t know” let these things be your anchor.
Live them out. Speak them out. Pray them over yourself. Take every “I don’t know” and boldly walk it to His throne and let Him handle it. And if you don’t know God well enough to be held by these truths, ask Him. Ask Him daily to reveal Himself to you – to show you the depths of his love and his character. Ask Him to remind you of the past times when He has shown himself true and trustworthy and recklessly good.
- INSTEAD OF RUNNING. . .WAIT
Don’t force it. Don’t forge ahead. Don’t make your own plans. Don’t run.Wait for the Lord
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.
Wait on the Lord.
Make your life one of steadfast and patient waiting on Him.
And when He speaks,
in the wind,
in the fire,
in a whisper,
to your heart,
through his Word,
Whenever and however He speaks,
be ready to run with all you have
into the YES He gives you.
Check out the song that has been our anthem
in this season of “I Don’t Know”:
Even Now, here’s my heart God.