Bad news flashes in our social media feed and fills daily reports on television, cable stations, and the radio. Anxiety and full-blown panic bubble up in our minds and bodies. No escape. What can be done to reduce the stress and the insecurity of unknown future events?
As John Ortberg describes in his book, Soul Keeping (2014), our souls, our God connection, are made to seek a future. God set eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11) as a blessing and a curse because though we are driven beyond today, we cannot know the beginning to the end. So our hunger to de-mystify our future is natural and God-given, but humanly impossible. Sigh.
Growing in Knowing
Given our desire to know what is coming next, we can appreciate the books authored by The Apostle John. To counteract those trying to deceive Believers in his day and generally offer assurances to wobbly knees of faith, he says repeatedly that the purpose of his letters is so that we would know.
- Know the Truth about Jesus
- Know that God loves us
- Know that we will be like Him
- Know that we will have eternal life in Christ
- Know the will of God
- Know that we are saved by Christ’s sacrifice
- Know that we are in Him
- Know Him, Jesus Himself
John commonly uses two forms of to know in the Greek language, ginosko and oido. Whereas oido relates to knowing information, facts, the ways things are in the natural world, ginosko refers to knowing through personal experience or relationship. The difference is like this: We may know someone’s name at first introduction, but we come to know him over time and through continued encounters in a much deeper way.
We start out knowing about God and His Son Jesus through stories, information, historical accounts in the Bible and other books. But the knowing that we gain walking through life with God is what brings the peace, encouragement, and faith responses we need to survive the troubles of this world. Our relationship grows and gives us confidence in the scary times that God is still with us, caring and providing what we need. Amazing. Powerful.
The Jesus I Know
We lived overseas in Kabul, Afghanistan for seven years, returning to our home in 2012. Having popped out of our jobs to leave the U.S., we faced a reboot on many levels when coming back. I had worked full time in education for decades but hesitated to jump back in immediately. Seasoned missionaries recommended decompression and healing time for many months. Due to a difficult departure from a difficult place where I held high-level responsibilities, I needed focused renewal efforts.
I entered willingly into counseling therapy and debriefing retreats for overseas workers. For several weeks I followed up these efforts with long-time friends and spiritual mentors, meeting to talk and pray through reflective questions. These exercises helped me assimilate the pain and growth of the Kabul years and recall what I knew about Jesus’ love for me.
Some days I thought God had forgotten about me or that I was doing something wrong, not listening well, not being brave or not being diligent. At those times I pressed myself to reflect on my sweet history following Jesus. He never dumped me or left me to the side of life, so I lifted my chin and kept going.
As a counselor and life coach for many years, I recognize the challenge of transitions and the anxiety created by an unknown future. Waiting is hard. Not knowing is hard. What should we do when anxiety and panic rise in the clouds of uncertainty and even terror? What do I tell my clients and myself?
Prepare wisely in a general but beneficial manner. Exercise your mind and body, keep healthy and make right choices, and practice being in God’s presence. To avoid total self-focus, reach out to serve in reasonable, balanced measure with much prayer and consideration about each opportunity. Read and write and sit in solitude daily, allowing God to interject words of direction and encouragement, or maybe just sense His care and companionship. Share with trusted friends. Build resiliency. Believe in His faithfulness.
I follow my own advice. For the most part, I am content, although still waiting for more answers about my future. My preparation is part of the journey itself, so I am not just trying to get to a destination as the grand prize. I am living my future as well as looking for it, so I try to make the most of each day. In doing these activities, I come to know Him more and more, bringing release from anxiety, even with missing answers.
And finally, one day, all my efforts will be done for this earthly future and my real eternal future will come to me. My soul will have no more questions; the mystery will be solved. I will know completely.
Gail Goolsby, MA, MEd is a lifelong educator, including past leadership at an international school in Afghanistan. Gail and her pastor husband of 39 years live where the wind blows over the prairie in south Kansas. She counsels and coaches using God’s Word to help others learn to live well.