I’m sitting in a coffee shop on a cool morning with my fingers wrapped around a warm cup of coffee. The air smells like nutmeg and the leaves outside are just starting to turn, signs of the season.
“I just want to know the right answer,” I say to my friend.
She nods in understanding. We are both in a time of not-knowing and it’s uncomfortable. We are checklist, color-inside-the-lines, follow-the-plan types. When life gets tricky, we read a book or listen to a podcast. We look for someone to tell us what to do. We are fans of clarity, certainty, of steady earth beneath our feet. But life doesn’t always work that way.
Lately I’ve been rewatching movies where I know the ending while creating art (I use that term loosely) in a color-by-number book. Because at the end of the day when it feels like I’m guessing all the time, I just want to know what I’m supposed to do and how everything is going to turn out.
Maybe you’re in this kind of season too. Perhaps a dream slipped out of your hands and shattered into a thousand shards at your feet. It could be that someone you thought would stay has chosen to go. The company might be doing lay-offs or your kids could be making inexplicable choices. Maybe the places that used to feel familiar — like church or your dinner table — now seem like a foreign land.
To be human is to live with uncertainty and change. So what are we to do? It seems the whisper of God to my heart in this season is this: Let go of how you think things are supposed to be. This is the gap we feel, isn’t it? We have expectations for how life will go, the ways people will behave, what the future will hold. We cling to those with clenched fists until our fingers and souls ache.
I remember sitting in a counselor’s office in my early twenties. She drew two parallel lines and pointed to the upper one. “These are your expectations, Holley.” Then she pointed to the lower line. “This is reality. Until you let go of your expectations, you’re always going to struggle.”
I didn’t like what she said then and I don’t like it now. But it has the ring of truth to it. Jesus said, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
In other words, here on earth our expectations aren’t going to be met. We’re not always going to find the right answer. We may not know what to do. But there’s a bigger reality that remains unchanging. There’s a God who is writing a story that isn’t finished yet.
It’s not a checklist.
It’s not a report.
It’s not a spreadsheet.
It’s a story.
And the best stories aren’t neat and tidy. They’re not predictable. Things don’t always turn out the way we thought they would. But we keep turning the pages because we believe the author is taking us somewhere good. We think we want certainty, but all the magic is in the mystery.
When I walked out of the coffee shop that day, I still wanted the right answer. I probably always will. But I’m discovering something else I want even more: The holy courage to embrace an untamed, beautiful story beyond my expectations.
Are you in a season of uncertainty that’s increasing your anxiety? Holley’s new devotional book, What Your Mind Needs for Anxious Moments, shares encouragement and truth to calm your heart along with practical strategies to help you keep moving forward. Download the first 3 devotions for FREE here.