Friday, November 18, 2011

Sure as the Tide

"Only fools are absolutely positive."

"Are you sure about that?"

"Absolutely positive!"

We laugh, but most of us do want certainty. Look at modern business contracts, virtually incomprehensible in their determination to cover every possible contingency. Look at all the merchandise marked "Satisfaction Guaranteed." Look at the malpractice lawsuits initiated over doctors' inability to cure the incurable.

And look at all the people, Christian and otherwise, who have worked out detailed maps for the end times and Second Coming--discouraged not a bit by the dismal track record of "prophets" in that area.

When it comes to seeking certainty, some people go far beyond the reasonable. In the most extreme cases, we get the homeowner who can't run to the store without checking twenty times to make sure every faucet is off and turning back halfway to the store to check again, the student who rewrites his class notes twenty times until they're completely typo- and smudge-free, and the person who spends half an hour washing her hands every time she touches anything that might conceivably carry germs. One noted psychology book, Freedom from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, carries the subtitle "A Personalized Recovery Program for Living with Uncertainty," acknowledging that the craving to be in control is at the heart of much of our misery--and also acknowledging that real certainty is impossible. If it were possible to prove things beyond a doubt, our society would be free of those who adamantly maintain that the moon landings were faked, the Holocaust was a hoax, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks were ordered by the U. S. government itself.

We can't even be 100 percent positive of God. Blasphemous? Not really. As noted Christian apologist Cliffe Knechtle has said, you can't even prove that your mother hasn't been waiting all these years for the right moment to poison you--and you can't prove, either, that God isn't a sociopath who faked the agony of the Crucifixion and will ultimately betray everyone's trust by casting them into hell. All we have to go on, with Mom or with God, is the word of the other and the evidence of past actions.

Which, given God's record, should be good enough. To date, the sun has risen every morning; and to date, those who trust  God have always received strength to carry on through hardship. Most of us outgrow the childishness of screaming "You don't love me!" when someone refuses to give us everything we want when we want it. We should outgrow this attitude with God also, lest we become like the Israelites in the wilderness who never stopped whining that God should supply everything before the desire even hit.

Those who are determined to doubt will always find an excuse. And ironically, those who are most determined to remove all uncertainty are also the likeliest to fall prey to the most irrational doubts. What we must do is admit that we cannot attain certainty by our own efforts--that only God has the omniscience to remove all uncertainty. Only then are we free to receive from Him the only real assurance there is:

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" (Heb. 11:1).

Sure as the tide rolls to the shore,
God is our Strength forevermore.

Sure as the birds return in spring,
God gives our hearts a song to sing.

Sure as the sun goes down each night,
Jesus will be our lasting Light.

Sure as a river flows downstream,
He, in our hearts, is Hope's bright beam.

Sure as spring leaves sprout on a tree,
God's love will rule eternally.

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