Last week my brother and I finally saw the latest Spider-Man movie. We had only watched the previous one a couple weeks prior.
“Maybe we should wait until closer to when the third one comes out before we see this one,” my brother suggested as we drove to the theater. I told him I couldn’t wait that long. Besides, we were already almost there.
A couple hours later, we walked out of the theater with the movie’s cliffhanger ending echoing in our minds. “See, we should have waited,” my brother said. We’ll have to wait a year to find out what’s next for Miles Morales.
Feel the tension?
Authors and script writers use tension and suspense to keep audiences engaged. They know we’re wired to want resolution, to know what happens next. Tension leaves us feeling on edge, maybe even uncomfortable, as we think through all the possible scenarios — most of them not so great.
We feel tension over the unknowns in real life, too. Wherever we are, wherever we thought we’d be, there’s something — in fact, countless things — we don’t know about our own futures. That’s just how it works.
Ever thought about why God doesn’t tell us what happens next in our lives? We can guess: Maybe because we’d live in fear of the hard things coming our way. Or because we’d grow impatient waiting for the exciting things around the bend. Or maybe God keeps the future in the dark to remind us of our own limitations and to push us to rely on Him.
Regardless of why God keeps the future unknown, it’s a simple fact: We don’t know what happens next in our own stories. How do we handle that tension of not knowing how anything will play out?
A man after God’s own heart — sometimes
Earlier this year I attended a Bible study on 1 Samuel, which is really more about David than Samuel. Several stories in 1 Samuel show less than flattering episodes in David’s life. In 1 Samuel 30, David lives behind enemy lines, presumably in a shrewd move to stay safe from King Saul’s murderous intentions, but despite earlier commands from God to stay in Israel. Now, as the Philistines line up against Israel to fight, David and his men prepare to join them.
But the Philistine commanders refuse to let David follow them into battle. David and his men return to their homes after a multi-day trek to find that Amalekite warriors have swept through their city and burned it, taking all their wives and children captive.
This may have been David’s lowest point. He was in enemy territory as enemy soldiers prepared to fight his own countrymen. After years of waiting for God to bring about David’s promised reign as king, David was still on the run from King Saul. And now his wives and children were gone. His grieving men wanted to kill him.
David had made at least a few unwise decisions that got him into this mess. But now, he made the right choice. “But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God,” the writer records, adding that he sought God’s guidance over what he should do next. God told David to pursue the kidnappers. “So David set out.”
When David and his men first discovered the ruins of their smoldering city, he didn’t know what would happen next. How did he deal with the tension? First, David turned to God. Then he took action.
Three things to remember
We all have more unknowns than knowns in our futures. Next time we feel the tension of the unknown, here are a few things to remind ourselves. This is one way to strengthen ourselves in our God, as David did.
God is in control of all of this. All of it! If He can direct birds to feed His prophets and send storms to guide His evangelists, there is no circumstance in our lives that is outside His plan and guidance.
God’s got me. He knows my fears and longings, and infinitely more importantly, He cares. Knowing that God sees me and knows what’s in my heart helps me through.
Everything will be OK someday. Sometimes the things we fear do come true. Sometimes the things we long for never happen. But ultimately, those of us in Christ know that our final home is heaven. One day, every tear will be wiped away by God himself, and all our earthbound griefs and fears will be forgotten.
Pray and work
“I do know that waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts,” Elisabeth Elliot wrote in “Passion and Purity.”
In that waiting, we’re often called to action, too. But how do we move forward when we feel the tension of uncertainty? Like David, remind yourself what is true. Then seek the Lord and act. Elliot often quoted an old poem that still holds true for us:
“Fear not tomorrows, child of the King; trust them with Jesus, do the next thing.”
Copyright 2023 Lauren Dunn. All rights reserved.