In times of fear and uncertainty, we tend to reach for time-tested and well-worn truths that bring us comfort and assurance. I think many of our favorite Bible verses fit this scenario. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters.”
So far, so good, right? When we get to feeling off-balance, we reach for what helps us find our center of gravity. And in our faith, this can involve beloved Scriptures.
But here’s where we can get into trouble. When we’re flooded with fears or ambushed by anxieties, we tend to search for comfort in what is most familiar. In such a restricted frame of mind, we can easily fall prey to our prejudices and biases, seeing what we already wanted to see or falling prey to the manipulations of others. When fear and anxiety are “driving the bus,” we can get sucked into what I’ve come to call Certainty Projects.
Certainty Projects offer false assurance based on reducing complex and multi-sided realities into oversimplified verities, all-or-nothing dichotomies, or clear “good guys” and “bad guys.” Consider the fears that some books are built upon and how they proffer certainty with titles like: Three Steps to a Great Marriage, Five Secrets To Raising Great Kids, Seven Sure-Fire Ways to Achieve Financial Security. To be sure, there’s nothing wrong with pursuing a solid marriage, or seeking to raise good kids, or saving for retirement. But what’s often on offer is actually a Certainly Project that in reality cannot be reduced to three, five, or seven easy steps. In our fear and anxiety, we’d love to believe that someone has it all figured out, that one book can give us the solution we crave, which makes us susceptible to faux quick fixes that don’t work in reality. If anyone offers you three steps to deal with anything that terrifies you, you should immediately suspect you’re being offered the fool’s gold of a Certainty Project.
When it comes to our Christian faith, we understand with Hebrews 11:1 that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” We certainly have our assurances and convictions, but our faith was never meant to be a Certainty Project that works out like a simple mathematical equation. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.” As we live in this new year, may we walk confidently, trusting steadily in Jesus, while at the same time refusing to buy into Certainty Projects that have everything to do with managing our fears and little to do with placing our faith in the Lord.