This Friday, October 11, I’ll find out whether or not I passed the Arizona Bar Exam. I’ll get to scan the alphabetized list of every name of every person who got the required score and if I see my name, I can become an attorney. It’s a moment that is the culmination of years of work and pain. The stress of studying for the bar was intense and real. There are 14 testable areas of law, each with their own vocabulary, dozens of rules, and even more exceptions to the rules. Last summer only 59% of takers passed. Failing wouldn’t be the end of the world – I can take the test again – but it would mean another grueling few months of study, this time while I’m working full time.
All this is to say that it would be very easy for me to worry about the results. And easy for me to think the results are a huge deal – an indicator of my value or worth. The uncertainty of it could eat at me and drive me crazy. But thankfully, God has helped me see it in a different light.
Uncertainty in life is a gift, teaching us to focus and rely on God. I think of the uncertainty behind what Paul says in Philipians 1: “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” When faced with the uncertainty of whether he would live or die in captivity, Paul saw that what mattered was not his own life but that God would be glorified in either outcome. Despite the grave uncertainty, Paul was certain that the kingdom of the heavens would march on with or without him in the flesh. Jesus said: “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
Anxieties and uncertainties are an opportunity to train our focus; to practicing willing God’s kingdom first and alone. Because there are things worse than uncertainties: certainties. Certainty that following God will be painful. Certainty that loving someone will hurt. Certainty of loss and grief. Even in the face of those certainties, we must will the kingdom, and not fall into the trap of our own desires.
So God has blessed me this week. Even as I get asked, repeatedly, about how anxious I am for the results, God has given me the opportunity to trust him and humble myself. Consider what uncertainties are in your life, and consider how much bigger the Kingdom is than your circumstances.