The Gift of Uncertainty

Sunday, July 10, 2022
Pastor Deb Kielsmeier  

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-9, 12-16

This is the last week in our summer sermon series on Faith and Doubt. We have looked at what we mean by Faith. It is more about trust in God than it an intellectual belief. And we looked at the reality of doubt in our own lives. Even the most spiritual among us have questions at times. The saints we read about in the bible also had doubts, expressing dismay when God seemed far off or inattentive– AND YET, and yet… God is forever faithful.

Today we are looking at the gift of uncertainty. The Gift of Uncertainty.

But before we begin, I have a question for you.  Ready?

How many of you believe that I have a 100-dollar bill in my shoe?

If you think I do, honk your horn, or raise your hand.

Our scripture passage says, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

So, according to that definition, those of you who honked or raised your hands, you have faith. Faith that I have 100 dollars in my shoe.

Okay, Ready to have your faith destroyed? Viola!

Now that you can see the 100-dollar bill, you no longer have faith, but you have CERTAINTY.

Well, unless you want a closer inspection of this bill. I would pass it around, but…

The point is –When something is certain, you don’t really need much faith. Faith and certainty are like oil and water.

But if you are like me – you’ll take certainty in life over uncertainty any day.

An unexpected job loss, a broken relationship, an illness, or the loss of a loved one can shake us to the core. What seemed rock solid can slip away and suddenly we’re confronted with uncharted territory that we had not planned.

We’ve known a bit about uncertainty here at Augustana this past year, with the pandemic and the transition of our lead pastor. And when uncertainty increases, our anxiety tends to increase. Have you noticed? We prefer answers and guarantees and to be in control rather than at loose ends.

Pastor Eric Elner writes

To many, if not most people, uncertainty seems more like a curse than a gift. When we cannot see the endpoint of our journey, or the path ahead is not clearly marked, we get nervous. If we don’t have rock-solid assurances that everything will be O.K. and that the path ahead is safe, we tend to dig our heels in.[1]

In our scripture reading from Hebrews we read:

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going.

God called Abraham to venture out into a foreign land but never told him the details. Can you imagine – packing up and neighbors asking: “Where are you going?” “I don’t know – but I trust that God knows.” Talk about uncertainty.

This eleventh chapter of Hebrews goes on to name 16 heroes of the faith. Life was far from predictable for these men and women. They also struggled and questioned.  Some were mistreated and many died without seeing the complete fulfillment of God’s promises.  Yet, they trusted that God was faithful. And amidst the uncertainty, their faith grew strong.

But these faithful saints did not go from uncertainty to certainty, Rather They moved from uncertainty to a deeper trust (Repeat.)

Anybody here enjoy reading murder mysteries?

I am about four books into a series written by William Kent Krueger featuring Sherriff Cork O’Connor and set in northern Minnesota… and I am loving it.

Now, imagine sitting down with a good thriller only to find out that it is completely predictable, no mystery. No surprises. The hero knows exactly what will happen and what to do at every turn. BOOOORING.

What a dud of a storyline.

When there is no uncertainty, the adventure of life is gone.

But not only that, stepping out in faith and trusting is central not only in our relationship with God, but also with each another. Because love is built upon trust, not certainty.

John Ortberg writes: “We all think we want certainty. But we don’t. What we really want is trust, wisely placed. Trust is better than certainty because it honors the freedom of persons and makes possible growth and intimacy that certainty alone could never produce.”[2]

You may have heard the quote:

“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.”

If faith is primarily trust.  Then the opposite of faith is not doubt but fear. The opposite of faith is not doubt, but fear.

When we fear the unknown it can keep us from stretching or trying new things.

Some of you love the thrill of adventure and have gone zip lining or rappelled down a mountain side. Or for the foolhardier, even hang glided off a mountain or sky dived from an airplane. Okay, my heart is racing just thinking of that one.

If you have, you know about what is often called a leap of faith. There is this point when fears and doubts are racing like squirrels through your head… BUT, if you really want to go through with it, if you want to fly, to soar – you step off the platform or out of the airplane. You take the leap and trust. And believe me, you KNOW you are alive.

Can you imagine if Abraham never took that step? Or if Mary said no to God? Saying yes to God in the midst of uncertainty is hard, but though it doors are opened, new insights are gained, and our trust in God grows.

You may remember a season of great uncertainty in your life when your plans were shattered, and you could not see beyond the upheaval or heartbreak.  But now, looking back, you can see and even thank God for the unexpected growth and blessings that came from that time. New relationships, new insights, new miracles in your life that you would never have otherwise known.

And so, today, let us thank God for gift of uncertainty! For It is in taking that step of faith and trusting God to catch us that we grow, embrace the fullness of life, and find God’s promises are true.


[1] Elnes, Eric. Gifts of the Dark Wood, Seven Blessings for Soulful Skeptics and Other Wanderers. Abingdon Press (Nashville, 2015).

[2] Ortberg, John. Faith and Doubt. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008. 137.

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