Faith & Uncertainty

Uncertainty is one of the most complex things that we have to deal with. It provokes anxiety. If left unchecked, anxiety can cause us to act in ways which we’d prefer not to. The most common reaction is to turn away from the thing that makes us anxious. Often this involves denying that we feel anxious, instead rationalizing that we don’t really like the thing that we’re anxious about, or that we got distracted and just sort of forgot about it. Humans are remarkably skilled at coming up with explanations for why, even though it appears we’re afraid, we’re actually not.

But what about those people who face uncertainty with calm determination? They’re scared too, just like the rest of us. But when most of us shy away from the unknown, they march forward into it. They’re able to manage themselves in times of chaos. Their stability helps all of us. We can look to them to guide us through a crisis. While our brains are trying desperately to convince us that the unknown is nothing to fear, they’ve already ventured forth. After witnessing their courage, all we have to do is follow them; which is a lot easier than diving head first into who-knows-what.

The thing that makes these people different is faith, but not necessarily the religious kind. Faith, in most contexts, is a belief in a higher power that guides a person and protects them in times of trouble. Mostly, it’s connected to a particular religion. When a faithful person doesn’t know where else to turn for hope, they turn to their faith. If they’re successful, they’re rewarded with the belief that their faith will protect them from the dangers of the unknown.

The most important lesson is that faith is less about its source than its utility. It is something larger than the person that has the capacity to protect them from all reasonable dangers. This protection allows the individual to dive into the unknown (take a leap of faith). Importantly, it does not have to be connected to a religious or spiritual practice, though it often is.

If we think about things larger than ourselves that can offer protection (other than spirituality), there are many possible examples. A person could have faith in their family or community, knowing that regardless of what happens to them, they will be able to get help from their relations. A person could also have faith in science or commerce. Regardless of the situation that they find themselves in, that person would be able to use the scientific method to determine all the required information about their situation. Or, a person would be able to buy the supplies that they need, or earn money to be able to purchase the supplies. The important part of having faith is not that these ideas will always provide protection, it’s that a person believes that their faith will keep them safe.

The belief in safety, whether true or not, allows a person to face the unknown. It allows them to do things when they’re not sure of the outcome or dangers. Facing the unknown is a very uncomfortable position to be in, but one that comes up consistently. If a person knows only how to run from the unknown, they will miss out on so many of life’s opportunities. By finding faith, in whatever form, a person can explore the parts of the world that they don’t currently understand.

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