the horror of certainty

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One of the things I’ve grown to love about the Christian faith is the counter intuitive way it approaches life. As someone who loves to reflect and to push against ideas, there’s something viscerally affirming about a tradition built on pushing against the norm. One that sees the way of the world and questions it. One that calls you give up your life to find it. One that calls us to give up the things of this world and pursue the Kingdom.

It makes me feel far less broken in the way I see things.

Ever since I began to lose the god of my youth, I have relentless questioned the God I have now found. I suppose in many ways I don’t want to go back to seeing God the same way I did.

One of the biggest pushes for leaving that god was a deep brokenness and an overwhelming sense of doubt. My old god just didn’t hold up. A god who didn’t seem to ‘work’ when I needed him most. One of the pieces of that old god I’ve noticed that has just evaporated is a god of certainty. One in complete control of everything providing me a deep sense of certainty over my life and its future.

Rather than find comfort and even peace in a God in complete control and who always has a plan, I now balk at the idea and begin to find it deeply troubling. The picture at the top, while hilarious to me every time I see it, shows a bit of what I think I’m starting to recoil at. Certainty comes from some kind of control, which is why a God in complete control provides certainty. But as the picture at the top so clearly articulates, that control beings to create a strange picture of God.

More and more I am wondering if certainty and God don’t mix.

More and more I am wondering if my desire for a God of certainty causes trade-offs in beliefs and understanding that cause so much more harm.

More and more I’m wondering if a need for certainty turns the loving God of bible into a malevolent monster.

I think our need for certainty, our deep desire to know what will happen or that someone is in control ultimately wreaks havoc on our lives. Bad things happen, we can all agree on that, but when we search for comfort in the control and certainty of God we push him into some really dark and ultimately evil actions.

Because our lives are dark and evil comes to us.

If we stay in a place of certainty where God is in complete control, we will slowly begin to ascribe to him horrors so that we feel comfortable in our certainty. Justifying on his behalf things we know to be wrong but trapped by our own internal needs. If God is causing them, we can find solace that God is doing it for a reason. There is a plan and purpose. It’s part of something bigger that will make it all worth while. That we won’t be given more than we can handle.

But that just isn’t the God that Jesus shows us. Those beliefs all carry a weight I didn’t understand until trauma came to my life. The need to view those as the actions of a loving God renders our experience in the moment invalid.

How can I honestly feel pain and work through my sorrow when I know what’s happened is for the best and this is what God wanted?

But change is hard. We’ve invested a lot in seeing our world, our lives, our story a specific way.

But His ability to redeem horror doesn’t speak to his involvement in its cause. Seeing him as the cause beings to show a God whose love isn’t enough bring us into relationship with him. One impotent to draw us to himself. It creates a God who abuses his power and manipulates us.

God doesn’t cause bad things to happen. He is grieved by the trauma and pain life causes you to experience. I think we can hold in tension the darkness of our experience and the light that comes out of that without having to reinterpret the darkness as good.

God didn’t give your partner cancer.

God didn’t spontaneously abort your child.

God didn’t give your parent Alzheimer’s

God didn’t cause your parent to abuse you.

This god in complete control, pulling the strings of our lives, is a monster. He’s an abuser, drawing us to himself with violence and fear. Threatening us with what could happen if we leave him. Torturing us to teach us lessons. Our hope and longing for certainty reframes God from a loving parent into a monster who would see fit to teach his child about perseverance by crippling them so they can spend their life fighting through physio to learn to walk.

When we however, are unsure and hold little as absolute I think we leave more space for God to show up on his terms. So often in places we never thought God would want to be.

That certainty stifles inquisition and reflection. It reinforces our past as always good and does little to draw us more into the person that following Christ could and probably should look like. Things are how they are supposed to be when we lean into the certainty and control of God. Leaving little room to partner with him for change or to even hope for change. It’s not just already sorted but desired by God.

Our certainty mutes our emotions and belittles our experience. How can I feel sorrow and pain, how do I reach out to God for comfort when he wills my pain? How do I go to my community for love when the answer is “it’s supposed to be like this”?

That’s the horror of certainty.

The beauty of uncertainty is the freedom to feel. The freedom to hope and desire with God a future that’s better. The ability to be a part of that change because you’ve meet God and choose to partner with him. You have agency in your future and a God partnering with you to make it happen. The opportunity to question and wrestle with our honest lived reality rather than forcing a narrative that just won’t fit. And it brings with it a God traumatized by our trauma with us rather than one causing it.

In much the same way we lose our life to find it, when we stop searching for a god of certainty because of the comfort we hope it will bring we realize how much a God in our uncertainty brings about the comfort we were always searching for.




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