Good morning, everyone. For those of you who don’t know me, here are a few quickfire facts for you. I live in Cambridge, I love reading, baking, walking and, because I’m extra cool, grammar. I’m also afraid of pigeons and really don’t like odd numbers. But this morning I’m going to talk to you about something that really scares me, because I suspect it will resonate with some of you here. Uncertainty. One of my biggest fears is uncertainty. And over the past few years I’ve faced it again and again.
After I graduated I went from being an Oxford student to being unemployed. From something I was certain was good to the feeling of “What if that was the best of it, the best of me?” “What now?”. And in the years that followed came more questions: what job I should do, where should I get a job, then should I get married, where are we going to live, what is life going to look like? So you know, just little things. Perhaps some of you can identify with this: “Will I do well in my GCSEs or A Levels?” “Will I get to go to the university I want to?” Uncertainty is hard. It’s a nagging feeling of “What if?” “Will I be good enough?” It causes stress and anxiety and often there’s not much you can do about it in the present. It’s hard. And I’ve found it really hard.
And today I stand in front of you still pretty uncertain. I’m recently married and my husband and I are moving to London, a decision we made before either of us had jobs secured there. My husband is in the process of applying to train for ordination, to become a vicar in the Church of England. We don’t yet know if that will happen. And if it does, that brings a new set of questions: where will we live? What will it be like him having a job which is very much a lifestyle? What on earth will people expect of me as a vicar’s wife? Since writing this, I have also had to add this uncertainty: What is going to happen with corona virus? I have no desire to cause panic or add to anxiety but we must admit that the uncertainty around it all is scary.
Right, so far I’ve said uncertainty is one of my biggest fears, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. But here comes what, for me, is the good bit. As a Christian, I used to think I shouldn’t experience uncertainty – God has a plan for my life, everything will be fine, my path will be clear. People say that God works in mysterious ways. I certainly believe that can be true. But in my life God has worked in deeply frustrating ways. Because far from taking away my uncertainty, God has lovingly piled it on. I wish I could say I’ve been gracious throughout. Some days it has felt like I’m being dragged kicking and screaming “not this lesson again”. But he has been so loving. He has taught me that in the face of uncertainty, my fear in the face of feeling powerless to control a situation, I can trust him.
There are of course things that I can, and must do. If there are jobs to be applied to, I need to fill out the applications. If I want certainty about where we’re going to live, we’re going to have to take the time to house hunt. But in all of this, he is the one I must trust, and I can trust. We’re in Lent, a time of waiting for Easter, when Christians celebrate Jesus Christ being crucified and rising from the dead. And this is ultimately what gives me confidence in the face of uncertainty. As the passage from Romans we heard says (I’m paraphrasing) What could happen to us? If God himself gave up his own Son to die for us, to make us right with him, so that we could have eternal life with him. And if he raised his son from the dead to assure us that he’d achieved that. If those things, if God is for us, what could happen? Now don’t mishear me, I’m not naïve. I do not think this means that life will be easy breezy, nothing can touch me, all the uncertainty, difficulty, pain, grief that I will encounter in life and that I see around me is just water off a duck’s back. And nor does God. The passage speaks of “trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword”. Being a Christian does not mean being naïve, belittling real suffering or thinking I’m going to have an easy life without any uncertainty because God’s on my side. But it does mean that I can have that certainty that NOTHING can separate me from the love of God.
Whatever comes, I can have certainty about my value, my ultimate destination, certainty because of how God has demonstrated his love. And that is the good gospel we sang about. I would invite you, as we approach Easter, to consider it for yourself.