The Unpredictability of Life
“Nobody in the world could have predicted something like this.” So said Donald Trump, the one man on earth who probably has access to more information than anyone else on the planet. And he was right. Oh, epidemiologists and scientific historians – even Bill Gates in a now famous TED Talk from about four years ago – predicted that sometime, somewhere some sort of viral outbreak would occur. But that’s a far cry from specific knowledge of future things. The best we can do is watch trends, study patterns, identify tendencies and then tentatively project what we think might occur. How trustworthy are such prognostications? Just ask your local weatherman.
This is how God has arranged things here on earth. We are bound by time, so we are unable – in spite of scores of science fiction movies – to travel into the future and bring back information useful in the present. There are no crystal balls, Ouija boards, horoscopes, palm readers or channelers who can tell you what will happen tomorrow. We are riding such a roller coaster of information with the current pandemic that surely if someone knew the future they would have spoken up by now and made a fortune off it. The best we have are a handful of Congress people who made some, shall we say, fortuitous stock transactions, and they are in hot water with the SEC. Why? Because nobody is that good at reading tea leaves.
So, where does this leave us?
We belong to the One who DOES know the future. If we did know the future, what power would we have to alter it? How well do we do with altering the present? But God has shown us that, not only does He know the future, He can manipulate events so that His declarations about the future come to pass. The Old Testament is sprinkled with predictive prophecy about short, medium and long term events. When God states His intention, He is then bound by His own word and nature to fulfill it. If He fails, He is not God.
Consider, for example, God’s commission of Moses. God tells Moses: “Come now … and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt … I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain” (Ex 3:10, 12).
Israel’s eventual gathering at Mt. Sinai should have forever imprinted upon them God’s reality. As long as we stay connected to God, we have nothing to fear about an unknown future. He already knows it.
Invincibility is an illusion. Whenever a tragedy affects a community, the people always say the same thing: “I never thought this could happen in OUR town!” Well, why not? School or church shootings, fires, tornadoes and floods happen all over the U.S. But we cannot bear the conscious thought of disaster lurking around every corner. We would never drive, fly, attend worship, trust anyone or take our eyes off the Weather Channel if we expect the worst. So we suppress it and think about it as little as possible. This, I think, is at least part of the reason people are in shock when reality crashes down on them.
The harsh truth: We are fragile. On the one hand the human body is tough and can withstand a lot of damage and survive. On the other hand it can be compromised by an unseen virus or an injury in a vulnerable area. We are also susceptible to violence from others, natural forces and the general vicissitudes of life.
The way to deal with this is not to relegate it to the recesses of unconscious thought but accept it for what it is and lean on God for help. We are not immune from the corruption of the world. We will not be here forever; we are destined to die. Accept it, embrace it and prepare for it.
Focus on each day.
Those who come back from the brink of death talk about the blessing of being alive and enjoying each day. Sometimes it takes the unexpected to help us refocus on things that are truly important. I am alive today; I have health and food and a place to live; I have God above and His people at my side. What can I do with this day God has given me?
“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Mt 6:31-34). Life doesn’t have to be predictable if God is at the center of it.