Living with Certain Uncertainties
By Shiloh Gideon-Sjostrom
“See you later,” my friend said.
“God willing,” I responded.
She turned around and gave me a strange look before leaving.
I had repeated the “God willing” response to good-bye the way I had done all my life. That happened more than twenty-five years ago. I had just moved to the United States from India to attend college. It didn’t take me long to realize phrases like “God willing” or “If the Lord wills” are not really used in everyday language in the U.S. But phrases like that are quite common in many parts of the world where people are used to living with certain uncertainties.
I’ve been thinking about uncertainty a lot lately. You see, in India and many other countries, uncertainties are an everyday occurrence. While social media has changed how we look at life, uncertainties are still sort of hidden in the West. In India, I would never dream of telling someone it takes me twenty-two minutes to get to work or that our church service will be exactly seventy-five minutes long. Time is flexible and uncertainties are the realities of life. And life happens in the open. In crowded Indian streets, wedding parties travel in loud procession and so do funerals. Laughter, dancing, mourning, or weeping happened in plain view of everyone. I grew up knowing that life is uncertain. I don’t mean uncertain as in the inconvenience I may feel because traffic caused me to take twice as long to get somewhere. I mean real uncertainty.
COVID-19 has upended our sense of certainty. And this time has unearthed something in me I know the Lord wants to teach me again. After twenty-five years in the States, I have largely forgotten how to live with everyday uncertainties. I remember my parents praying before leaving the house and entrusting even the most basic of errands to Jesus. I want that sort of dependence again. I need it!
And what hope we have in Jesus! There are some things that we can hold on to with full confidence. Living with the uncertainties of the world while always keeping the certainty of our promised eternity with Jesus is liberating. It’s the perspective that makes the things of this earth grow strangely dim!
So, will I see you later? I don’t know. God willing, I’ll see you on this side of eternity. And if not, I’ll see you in heaven, though I suspect you and I will have no time for anyone because we will be caught up gazing on the beauty of the Lord in utter awe and wonder.