As Hurricane Irma prepares to bash the United States, here in Charlotte we’re wondering if it will be coming our way. As we wait for the answer, I’ve been intrigued by weather reports saying our region lies in the “Cone of Uncertainty.”
While modern meteorologists probably feel clever in using this term, it’s really no different than King Solomon wrote about over 2,000 years ago:
Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things (Ecclesiastes 11:5 NLT).
Then and now, the path of the wind is highly unpredictable. Even Jesus found it important to weigh in on this great mystery:
The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes (John 3:8).
As meteorologists apply the Cone of Uncertainty idea to the difficulty of projecting Irma’s destructive route, I feel prompted to write about another kind of Cone of Uncertainty. While the uncertainty about Irma’s path will be resolved within days, I’ve observed a bigger and more long-term issue that seems quite common today…
Some people seem to live their entire lives in a Cone of Uncertainty!
I’m not trying to be harsh, but you’ve probably met people like this. They’re continually uncertain about their standing with God, their career, their relationships, or what their priorities should be. And if they’re anything like my good friend Ron, they’re stuck in a Cone of Uncertainty in their dating life too.
So what does the Bible say about this? Lots.
Here are just a few random principles for your consideration:
- God wants us to live lives of peace rather than confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). His peace is supposed to transcend our circumstances and guide our decisions, even amid the storms of life (Philippians 4:6-7, Colossians 3:15).
- We must be careful not to claim certainty on subjects God hasn’t truly revealed yet. For example, Jesus made it clear that no one would be able to accurately forecast the day of His return—even though people continue to try. On one hand, He said we could observe the signs and know His return is near (Matthew 24:33). But on the other hand, He said we wouldn’t be able to know “the day and hour” (Matthew 24:36, 24:42). On this and many other issues, “we know in part and we prophesy in part” (1 Corinthians 13:9).
- When God allows us to experience a Cone of Uncertainty for a season, it provides an opportunity for us to trust Him. I love the statement Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego made to the king as they were being thrown into the fiery furnace. Although they were uncertain about the outcome of the trial they faced, they were absolutely certain of God’s love and faithfulness:
Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up (Daniel 3:16-18).
These three men were determined to trust the Lord, regardless of whether He delivered them and changed their difficult circumstances.
- There are some things we should be certain about. In today’s postmodern world, it’s fashionable to say there are no absolutes. People seem suspicious if you say you know anything for sure. The book of First John was written toward the end of the first century, amid some similar trends of uncertainty affecting the church. A new generation was arising that wasn’t as certain or dogmatic about things as the early apostles had been. No wonder John uses the word “know” 32 times in this book! In fact, he says he wrote the book “that you may KNOW that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).
So there’s no need to live in a Cone of Uncertainty about whether you’ve been born again and given eternal life. Nor do you ever need to doubt God’s love or His desire to bless you and meet your needs.
This issue came up recently when I was trying to encourage a friend who was going through a hard time. “Brother, the Bible says in Romans 8:31 that if God is for us, it doesn’t matter who is against us,” I reminded him.
I thought that would settle the matter, but it didn’t.
“How do I really know that God is for me, though?” he replied.
Yikes. I could tell this was going to be a much deeper conversation than I had expected. My friend was living in a Cone of Uncertainty on an issue of supreme importance.
But take a moment to apply this to your own life and ponder my friend’s question. How can we know for sure that God is FOR us?
I suppose I could write an entire book in response to this vital query, but for now this basic explanation will have to suffice:
YOU CAN KNOW FOR SURE THAT GOD IS FOR YOU,
BECAUSE HE SENT HIS SON TO DIE FOR YOU!
Shouldn’t that be enough of an answer?
But what if you’ve been living in sin, knowingly disobedient to the precepts in God’s Word? Is He STILL for you?
Once again, the answer is actually quite simple: Even if you’re living in the deepest sin imaginable, God is still for you—He’s for you to repent so He can release the fullness of His blessings in your life once again!
You see, no matter what your situation may be, your Heavenly Father is FOR you, not against you. If you are living in a pigpen, He’s FOR you to come home so He can throw you a party (Luke 15:11-32). If you’re a stuck-up religious person like the older brother in that story, He’s FOR you to humble yourself and enter into the joyous festivities He’s prepared.
What an incredible revelation! Either way, no matter what, God is FOR you. So why not leave the Cone of Uncertainty and join the party, already in progress?
This was terrific, Jim. It was just what I needed today. Thirteen days ago I had a biopsy done and am living within the “cone of uncertainty” of having cancer or not having cancer. The pathology report may take another week to get back. I do believe God is for me and trying not to let the evil one steal my joy over this physical problem. Also, we are living in the “cone of uncertainty” about where we are supposed to live. I am approaching retirement and we were recently led to sell our home here in the United States. There are lots of questions swirling about where we should live. Do we move abroad to help my in-laws? Do we move to my hometown? Do we move to another state? What should we do with all of our possessions? It it exciting to move into a new phase of life. But the BEST thing about all of this is to be reminded that God’s “got “all of this and He is totally FOR us. All prayers welcomed .
Thanks for sharing this, Jane. You will certainly be in my prayers, and I hope you’ll keep me posted. Several months ago, I went on a sabbatical to sort out a similar time of possible transitions. With one daughter in New Zealand, another in San Diego, a son in Charlotte, and friends and family in Ohio, where should I live, and what should my remaining purpose in life be? I think I’ve sorted that out now, but it was a tough process. Thanks for taking time to write and share this update.
“This I know; for God is for me.” Ps. 56:9