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From Certainty to Uncertainty: How Facing Your Fears Can Lead To Life Worth Living

Lessons from the Exodus Story and Virginia Satir's Wisdom

We all want certainty in our lives. We demand it and there's a good reason we do. We want to know there are just some things in life that you can count on. It becomes very obvious when something we've always counted on is suddenly gone. 

My dog is one of those things. I had two golden retrievers and now I have one. They are sisters, Georgia and Dakota. Now we just have Georgia. It happened so quickly, Dakota collapsed getting out of the car in the parking lot of the vet. One hour later I was saying goodbye. A tumor on her heart took her life. 

Dakota and Georgia

There's a lot of things in life we want to know are certain. Simple things like knowing where the forks are in the drawer or more important things like knowing your spouse loves you. And when the certainty is removed, we either go to the dishwasher to look for the fork or we go to the counselor to look for our marriage. 

You may be facing some uncertainty today and if you are I'm truly sorry to hear that. My hope is that this post will give you some encouragement and of course some food for thought. 

You might be stuck in a bad job or a bad relationship or no relationships at all. When my dog died, I didn't have a choice on that change. It was thrust upon me and my whole family. There's another kind of certainty though that prevents us from getting what we want. That's the kind that keeps us stuck for fear of the unknown. We want certainty so bad sometimes that we will remain in a less than ideal situation. That's why I love this quote from Virginia Satir, a well-known American author and therapist widely regarded as the "Mother of Family Therapy". 

"Some people prefer the certainty of misery to the misery of uncertainty"

Virginia Satir

You may be wondering if you should quit that job, quit that relationship, quit on life, or if you're a little more adventurous you might be considering taking that new job, starting that new relationship, or starting your new life together. Either way what you want is certainty. 

If that's you, this post is for you too. 

What the bible teaches us about certainty

I've been reading and studying the Exodus story. You know the story. God told Moses to free the Israelites. Moses told God find someone else. Why? Moses was certain it would be a disaster and uncertain he could do it. Is God asking you to do something? Some people say they never hear from God, but I think they may not understand how this whole God talking to me thing actually works. Did Moses hear God, or did he just recognize things needed to change around here? 

Remember how to think about God as being the highest good. Looking around Moses said, "This ain't good!" (He has a Texas accent as I read the bible). That fact called to him and kept calling to him. You might say it bugged him. Just like Jiminy Cricket often bugged Pinnochio in the Disney story. 

That's kind of how God talks to me. He's the bug in my conscience. He keeps tapping away even though I'm certain what he's saying is going to be a disaster and I'm completely uncertain I can do it. 

So finally, Moses musters up the courage and says to Pharaoh, "Let my people go!" a bunch of times and finally Pharaoh agrees so they all head out of Egypt. 

Here's where the first wild thing happens (as if plagues weren't wild enough). They cross the Red Sea (ok that was a wild thing too, but not my point). They say to Moses in Exodus 14. 

"And they said to Moses, 'Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.'"

Israelites after crossing the Red Sea

Think about this for a moment. They would prefer the certainty of misery over the misery of uncertainty right here. It's clear as a bell. They were slaves for crying out loud. Slaves for 400 years. That's longer than we had slavery in America by 150 years.

So here's point #2. Point 1 was the quote from Ms. Satir in case you missed it.

When you leave certainty you don't go to the Promise Land

You go to the desert. In order to get to the Promise Land, the bible is teaching us a lesson here, you don't go from certainty to certainty. You go from certainty to uncertainty and it's a desert. You might be in the desert right now. What did the Israelites do in the desert? Well let's read on. 

They got the 10 commandments and a half dozen other things we could talk about but here's the main point in relation to certainty. They complained and rebelled against God (and Moses), often expressing their desire to return to Egypt and their former lives as slaves. Man, that's a strong desire for certainty, are you feeling that pull to go back to the way things were? When we are in the desert three things can happen, stay were you are, go back, or go forward. Can you see how we often forget about the misery of our past, remembering the good old days when we were slaves building bricks? Now we're stuck eating the same thing every day, manna. Not recognizing God's provision in our lives. 

So, this next point we have to jump to Numbers in the bible. In the book of Numbers, the Israelites complained to Moses because they were tired of eating manna every day, and they wanted some meat. So Moses goes to God and says, "Hey God, these guys want some meat. What's the deal?"

God agrees to give them some meat. But then, just to mess with them a little bit, God sends in a whole bunch of poisonous snakes. The Israelites start getting bitten by the poisonous snakes and freak out. So, they asked Moses to head back up the mountain and tell God, "How bout you call off the poisonous snakes!" So, Moses goes back up the mountain to God to explain the snakes are kind of a problem and what happens? 

This is where most people think God is mean. God doesn't call off the snakes. He actually sends in more poisonous snakes! Why? 

You get stronger and braver in the desert

Up on the mountain God didn't grant Moses request to remove the snakes. Just like he's not removing them from your life right now. He's more interested in you becoming stronger than he is in your remaining a victim. The way out of victimhood is through the desert and facing your fears head on. You may be staring down cancer right now. You may be staring down loneliness or depression right now. You might be thinking the world is going to hell in a hand basket. You might be thinking, "Who am I Lord? What can I do about this? Why me?" 

I felt this way when I narrowly avoided personal bankruptcy in 2010. I feel this way now wondering why the hell am I writing a blog that nobody will read, but I can't stop this Jiminy Cricket in my head that's bugging me to just write. So, what does God tell Moses to do? 

God instructed Moses to make a bronze serpent and put it on a pole. Anyone who had been bitten by a snake could look at the bronze serpent and be healed. Why did God through Moses decide on this as the highest good? 

You have to face your fears to get to the Promise Land

God wants us to face our fears to make us stronger, but the Israelites had a different idea. They were tired of facing their fears and wanted God to make their journey safer. However, God had a different plan in mind, and as we see in the story of the poisonous snakes, sometimes the healing comes from facing our fears head-on.

The key to healing and progress is learning to respect the things that scare you. Instead of running from them, stare down your fears like you would a snake, and look at them in a new way. 

Re-spect. There's two parts to this word. Re: to do it again. Spect: inspect. Look at it again in a new way. You have every right to be angry, upset, scared, terrified, and want to go back to your old certain self. You can play the victim. But how helpful is that really?

Stare down your cancer. Stare down your loneliness. Stare down your bankruptcy. You are not your cancer. You are not your loneliness. You are not your financial condition. Stare it down and learn to deal with it. This is what you must do with your challenges in life. Don't let them define you; confront them and deal with them head on. Even if it's scary, you have the power to overcome.

It's natural to want to eliminate the sources of our fear and uncertainty, but that's not always possible. In order to navigate through life's challenges, we must learn to face our fears head on. The story of Exodus teaches us that the best help we can offer is not to eliminate the snakes in someone's life, but to be there with them as they face those challenges. It's like being thrown into a pool without knowing how to swim - we need friends who are willing to jump in and help us learn, not just those who want to eliminate the pool altogether. 

The best help comes from those who are willing to jump in with you

We can often feel like small children thrown into a pool without knowing how to swim, desperately seeking the edge of the pool where we can find a sense of certainty. However, this pool can be terrifying when we don't know how to swim. We may wish that the pool wasn't there, but the reality is that it is, and we find ourselves struggling in the middle of it, feeling like we're drowning. Instead of trying to remove the pool or picketing it, we need to learn how to swim in this new environment. We must find supportive friends who will jump in and help us, rather than simply sitting on the sidelines and saying, "Poor you. We should get rid of pools."

In the Exodus story, Moses didn't remove the snakes; he helped the Israelites face them. Similarly, we need to face the "snakes" in our lives, whether they are in our personal relationships, our government, or other institutions. It's important to acknowledge that there will always be snakes, even in the Garden of Eden and the Promise Land.

But there's one snake that's more dangerous and harder to deal with than all the other snakes and it's why it's in the Garden of Eden and in the Promise Land.

The most dangerous snake is the one that lives in your head

Just like the pool, there is a snake that lives in our heads. It's the most dangerous snake of all, as it can prevent us from achieving our goals and reaching the Promise Land. The Bible tells us to face our fears and confront the snakes in our lives, whether they're external or internal. We need to acknowledge the three voices in our heads, one telling us we can do it, one telling us not to bother, and one deciding which to listen to. Instead of avoiding or suppressing our fears, we need to confront them head-on and choose the voice that empowers us.

Remember that God is not punishing you. He's on your side and wants you to choose the path that makes you stronger and braver. He's created you in his image to be resilient and capable of overcoming any obstacle. The journey to the Promise Land is a long one, but with the right mindset and support from friends, we can learn to swim in the pool and overcome the snakes in our heads. 

After acknowledging that the journey to the Promise Land is a long one, and that with the right mindset and support we can overcome the obstacles in our way, it's important to remember that Moses never entered the Promise Land, even though he saw it.

Moses never entered the Promise Land

While this fact may be depressing, there is a different way to look at it from a heavenly perspective. You may not make it. That's often a fact and the bible is acknowledging that fact. But there's a different way to look at this fact. A heavenly perspective on an earthly circumstance. I share this because we all need certainty and what could be more certain than this? 

When we view our circumstances from a heavenly perspective, we recognize that we are called to important and lasting things in this life. We are not called to small things in this life. We are called too big things. Important things. Things that last. This is why the bible says to store your treasure in heaven where rust and moths won't destroy it. What does that mean? 

Our calling is not just for ourselves but also for the benefit of others, and people are watching us as we pursue it. The world is watching you, or more concretely those in your world are watching you. You can go through the desert bitter and angry, or you can go through the desert with faith, hope, and love. It is one of the voices in your head right now. Which voice will you chose?

We must choose what we pay attention to and which voices we listen to, as this will impact how we respond to the challenges we face. Your greatest calling, your greatest adventure, your greatest challenge is part of your story.

It can be easy to feel sorry for ourselves and lose motivation, but we must realize that motivation ultimately comes from within. Only you get to choose what to pay attention to. Only you get to chose the voice you listen to. Only you get to decide how to respond and where to cast you eyes. When we focus on God's love, we become blinded to distractions and become wiser, stronger, and braver. This is why God is so blinding - he helps us put the blinders on. God is love. Love is blind; we can't see the weakness. When you stare at God you can't see anything else. Your snakes don't go away. You just get wiser, stronger, and braver.

Moses calling was something huge that bugged him, it was not selfish, it was for his family, his friends, his tribe, his nation. It was bigger than himself. It was for the good of others and the glory of God. In other words he was aiming at the highest good. He fought with ungrateful people who didn't understand. He listened to the wisdom of his father-in-law, he accepted help when his arms were too weary. He faced his snakes and his story lives on far beyond his wildest imagination. 

Have you ever wonder, what really motivated Moses to continue? Maybe you're tired of fighting. Maybe you've lost the will to go on. That's normal, but here's the secret hidden inside the Exodus story for those who have ears to hear and eyes to see.

Your highest calling gives you the highest motivation

Think for a minute about a time when you were just completely lost in a project or relationship and time just flew by. A time when you realized, man I can't believe how time flies. When you are working toward something like that you don't need to be motivated, you are motivated. That intrinsic motivation pulls you through time faster than you realize. It is that type of motivation I am speaking about.

So let's go back to the Exodus story.

Moses led Israel out of slavery facing unbelievable uncertainty. He never saw the Promise Land that was promised to his forefathers. They never saw it either. The bible is trying to explain that when you aim for the highest good, it works for you, your future self, your family, your future family, your neighbors, your future neighbors. The Jiminy Cricket in your ear that bugs you, the voice that aims for the highest good is none other than JC, Jesus Christ, God incarnate, the Holy Spirit whispering in a still small voice, bugging you saying, "You see this? I know you do. I know you can't do this alone. But you can with me by your side!" 

There is no certainty in our own abilities. There's no certainty that you will walk into the promise land. The certainty is that if you live your life for the good of others and the glory of God, if you will face your fears, and grow stronger in the desert, you will live a life worth living and you will touch the lives of others. Moses is our example, the Israelites are our example, when you walk through the desert you will be remembered as a person worth imitating and honoring and isn't that a treasure in heaven worth storing. 

Share your thoughts

In conclusion, facing our fears and embracing uncertainty is not an easy journey, but it is one that is worth taking. We must remember that we are not alone on this journey. We need the support and encouragement of others to help us through the difficult times. By connecting with others and sharing our experiences and insights, we can learn and grow together. So, I encourage you to share your thoughts in the comments below and continue the conversation. Let's support each other on our journey through the desert and towards the Promise Land. 

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