The choice before me seemed impossible. The risks, amplified by the pandemic, too high. The uncertainties too many. To say that I was in agony is no exaggeration. For months, it was all I could think about – weighing my family’s options in the face of incalculable unknowns. Whichever way we chose, the outcome had the potential to affect our family for the rest of our lives, and I was terrified of making the wrong decision.
Perhaps you’ve found yourself in a similar situation. In the midst of overwhelming political, social and personal uncertainty, how do we face the future? Not prone to taking inordinate risks, I prayed, sought advice, researched our options and prayed some more. Yet, as much as I longed for a bedrock answer on which to base our decision, in the end it came down to faith.
Not the snake-handling, faith-over-facts kind of faith that seeks to test the mercy of God. Nor the vague, fingers-crossed kind of faith based on the generalized belief that everything would turn out okay. Rather, I clung to the kind of faith that says, “Lord, I trust you. Even when the way is unclear and the outcome uncertain, I know that you are with me.”
This is the type of faith exemplified in Hebrews 11. Recounting the great deeds of ancient men and women who trusted God, the author repeatedly says that they accomplished these things, “by faith.” By faith Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. By faith Abraham left his home and traveled to a land that God had promised to give him. By faith his wife, Sarah, bore a child even though she was well past the normal age.
Such faith is not anchored in ignorance or abstract hope. It is anchored in God. In her most recent devotional, Facing the Future (JPV Press, 2020), author Elaine Starner outlines three steps for those overwhelmed by an unknown future. “Maybe you see little hope in your life right now,” she writes. “Maybe all that is in view on the horizon is an ominous gathering of storm clouds… May I suggest three things?”
First, Starner recommends reading Psalm 107, which recounts God’s faithfulness in the midst of trouble. “Whatever your circumstances are now, whatever situation is looming in your future and worrying you, He knows about it and cares about you having to walk through it,” Starner writes.
Second, “ask Him for help. Ask Him to strengthen your hope. Ask for peace and confidence. Ask for the comfort of knowing you are His child.” And third, Starner says, read God’s word. “Every time you sit down to read the Scriptures, you can ask [God] for a direct word. The Holy Spirit will connect you to the Father, and you’ll be comforted, encouraged, and helped.”
Following Starner’s advice, I read the Psalms. I begged God for help. And I asked the Holy Spirit to guide my family. Even though the outcome still felt uncertain, the way ahead gradually became clear. Now, looking back, I’m confident we made the right decision. And so, as we face a new year filled with incalculable unknowns, may we choose to walk forward in faith. May we trust the One who promises to go with us. And may God meet us there.
Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the award-winning memoir, Redeeming Ruth, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of mid-coast Maine. She is also the author of the children’s picture book The Backward Easter Egg Hunt and four other books celebrating the holidays in a way that builds children’s faith.