Sitting in the Space of Not Knowing
Seeing the pain in my friend’s eyes made my heart ache. In her situation, she struggles to feel like her life has purpose and direction in the context of the restored gospel. My challenges are not the same as hers, but I, like many others, have also struggled with the same underlying questions:
Where do I fit in? Is God’s plan of happiness possible for me?
I’ve experienced times where the situation at hand feels at odds with God’s direction or His promises, making it impossible to see how they could ever be fulfilled. Like when I felt prompted to enter a relationship, believing it would work out, and it didn’t after all. Or when my mother, as she battled cancer, was promised in a priesthood blessing that she would be healed, but she passed away a short time later.
I think we as humans crave certainty and control. When we encounter complex issues and situations—more general ones like polygamy or priesthood restrictions, or intensely personal ones like having same-sex attraction or dealing with a devastating divorce or death—we want to make sense of them. We want to know why it’s happening and how everything is going to work out. In the absence of a clear explanation, we or others may invent one.
The truth is, sometimes we have to grapple with ambiguity. As much as we want Him to, God does not always give us neat explanations that tie up in a bow. He is His own interpreter; He reveals Himself in His own way and in His own time, line upon line.
There are a few insights that have come as I’ve navigated times of uncertainty.
1. What I do know helps me have the patience to grapple with what I don’t.
Since my mom passed away, I’ve often reflected on Nephi’s exchange with the angel when the angel asks, “Knowest thou the condescension of God?”
After what I imagine was a moment of profound reflection, Nephi responds, “I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things” (1 Nephi 11:16–17).
This knowledge—that God loves His children—does not take away the pain of our uncertainty or make everything all right. Instead, this knowledge gives us the courage to be uncomfortable enough long enough to feel our way through the sometimes long and painful process of coming to understanding.
2. I can’t go around the uncertainty to get to understanding; I have to go through.
Dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty is hard. It can be painful and messy, but there’s no way around it. We have to go through it to gain peace and understanding.
I sat in my room and stared out the window. Despite my best efforts, my recent relationship had ended. Why did I have to go through that? I had tried so hard. I felt like it was right and that I needed to move forward. And while I had learned some important lessons, I wondered if the pain I caused myself and others in the process was necessary. Somehow I should have known better than to try in the first place, I thought.
And then this thought: I couldn’t. I couldn’t have known better. It is because of the process I went through that I gained the understanding I had. As uncomfortable as it is, the process has power, and it is faith in God’s promises that helps us make it through.
3. God will come through in the end.
In moments of intense struggle, sometimes I look up and cry out, “God, I don’t know. I don’t know how my life is going to work out. But you do. Help me keep going. Help me have patience until I can understand.”
I have realized that God will not deny any of us the opportunity to have a personal experience with Jesus Christ. Life gets real. But the Atonement is real too. In crucibles of doubt and uncertainty, we have the opportunity to seek the Savior the most earnestly, the most sincerely, and come to know on a profound level how the Atonement applies to us personally. When we come unto Christ, He will come to us.
In Isaiah 49:23, God is speaking to His covenant people about the time when His promises will be fulfilled. The Lord tells them, “And thou shalt know that I am the Lord: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.”
In times of ambiguity and uncertainty, I will keep my covenants and wait for Him. He will come. His promises will be fulfilled. I will see Him and know Him “even as also I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). And I will not be ashamed that I waited for Him.
Ariel Szuch is a writer who originally hails from Boise, Idaho. She loves to read, write, dance, sing, and spend time with her family. She serves as a Sunday School teacher and choir director in her ward.