The Uncertainty of Faith

Ornan’s Threshing Floor

The Uncertainty of Faith

It amazes me how difficult and depressing life becomes when I insist on a complete understanding, unclouded by doubt, contradictions, or confusion. In our ‘wickapedia’ society, uncertainty is considered a curse — or at a minimum, a problem for the latest ‘app’ on my smart phone. But there is uncertainty that ‘Google’ cannot touch and a comforting acknowledgement of our limitations and fragile nature that brings a certain peace. When we apply math like logic to the human heart or test tube thinking to the complexity of our nature and relationship with God, we set ourselves up for the disappointment of unrealistic expectations.

I was asked the other day after service my position on creation vs. evolution. My answer was an enthusiastic ‘yes’. Confused, my inquisitor continued, ‘so which do you believe in?’ I responded, ‘absolutely’. No matter what your answer to this question, it is certain that it is a little like a Ford automobile explaining who Henry Ford was. Any answer will be woefully incomplete. I have an understanding of evolution and it is only a partial view. I have an understanding of Genesis and Creation and it also woefully inadequate. How could it be otherwise? I simply was not there for either or should I say both. Further it is short sighted to commit to one view wholly and dismiss the value and understandings of the other.

Later that day at home my wife mentioned to me that she felt sometimes that I do not listen to her.  I believe her exact words were, ‘really hear what I am saying’. So I got out my cell phone calendar and calculator app and set to work. “On this day we talked about this and that and look here on the 22nd, three separate conversations ranging in subjects from…..” It was then that the tennis racket went up the side of my head and thankfully so because I needed a wake up call. Human relationships do not have to make sense in order to be genuine, sincere and valuable. The human heart is far too complex for any math. When I abandon my desire for my wife to make sense to me, I empower her understanding of how she makes sense to herself. My lack of understanding of how she is feeling is no license to selfishly ignore those feelings.

So there we have it. It is ok to not know, to not get it. It is ok to live on both sides of a contradiction knowing that we do not have all the facts and even if we did, it is doubtful we could put them together accurately enough to see the whole picture. Geeze, I can barely get my checking account balanced, much less spot an error on the bank’s part. This is not stratling the fence but living on both sides of it. Emerson said, ‘a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds’. Ouch! Inconsistency is the norm in a broken world with broken people.

It is my view that living with conflicting views, uncertainty and doubt is part of faith. If I had no doubt why would I need faith? If I had everything all figured out and felt certain and confident, then why do I need God’s help? Seems to me He should be knocking on my door for a little advise. No, it is doubt that helps us understand that we are not Henry, we are the Ford. It is doubt that helps me love my wife and listen to her, really listen to her and keep my cell phone in my pocket. It is doubt that helps me embrace my own limitations and the constant denial which causes me to think that my understanding is the only understanding worth understanding.

This news is sometimes terrifying to me. As a control freak, I feel the need to know and control everyone and everything around me. This message also brings me great peace because it gives me license to surrender to faith, releasing me from the impractical need to be certain of everything. The expression, ‘let go and let God’ comes to mind. I hope there is no topic which holds no mystery for me to explore, no wonder as to its origin or ending. When we set our beliefs in stone we restrict our ability to explore them. I am free to consider all possibilities. Some I reject, some I embrace, most are somewhere in the middle ground where there is no “yes or no”, “white or black” or cell phone apps. A ground fertile with the imagination of faith.

1 Corinthians 13 speaks directly to this truth. It seems our knowledge was designed to be incomplete from the get-go. God designed us to live in a world filled with uncertainty that only faith, hope and love can fill, a love whose limits are only our hearts willingness to express, a love dripping with the certainty of the goodness of God.

For now we see through a glass darkly but then face to face: Now I know in part but then shall I know even as also I am known. Now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.


Ornan’s threshing floor is a selection of journal entries, sermon parts and pieces and writings by Stephen Carey, pastor of Main Street Mission.

Main Street Mission is a non-denominational Christian Inner-city outreach ministry located at 57 Manchester St. in Manchester, NH.

Please contact Steve with your thoughts and comments at