The Unknown

In the past, as I closed out one year and welcomed another, I would plan, set goals, and resolve.  And while I acknowledged a certain element of the unknown ahead of me and desired to “hold my plans loosely”, I generally felt confident that the story of the coming twelve months was mostly mine to write. However, 2020 shattered any illusion of predictability and control that I might have claimed. I imagine many people can say the same.

In 2020 the seemingly untouchable pillars of our American lives crumbled. Churches and businesses are shuttered, kids are not allowed to attend school, foreign borders are closed to us, gatherings in our own homes are illegal, and most human interactions occur with faces covered. Is there anyone who held last year’s New Year plans loosely enough to account for this? With this fuller understanding of how unknown the future truly is, how should we enter 2021? 

In the book of Exodus, we read the story of God’s spectacular rescue of the Israelites. He dramatically led them out of slavery, oppression, and cruelty, and into the vast unknown. His very presence guided them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, but within six weeks the Israelites were reminiscing about those good old days under Pharaoh’s brutal rule when they had all they wanted to eat (Exodus 16). The mystery of how God might provide for their basic needs had them longing for the comfort of their familiar bondage. Later in their journey, the uncertainty of how God would deliver the Promised Land into their possession made the Israelites doubtful, fearful, and again, longing for Egypt, the place of their enslavement.

“Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword… we should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”  

Numbers 14:3-4

The Israelites had a traumatic past and were living in a present where they were not always privy to the details of God’s provision, but their future was secure! God was with them, and He had promised them goodness and blessing, not because of who they were, but because of who He is. None of the obstacles they encountered surprised Him. They need only trust and obey Him, and He would supply their every need.

In a similar way, we have just exited a challenging and difficult year, and the details surrounding 2021 are tenuous and murky. The unknown chafes at my desire for control. But 2020 taught me that when the things I usually control are stripped away, I am left with God himself, and that is always enough. I don’t know the exact ways that God’s provision will find me this year, only that it will. He will supply all my needs (Philippians 4:19), He has given me everything I need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), and He is working all things for my good (Romans 8:28). 2020 was not a surprise to Him and 2021 holds nothing that has not been sifted through His gracious and loving hands. 

Psalm 119:105 says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” I don’t have a physical manifestation of God as the Israelites did, but I do have His Word and His Spirit. I imagine 2021 as an obscured path leading only God knows where. I will simply be putting one foot in front of the other, keeping my eyes on the One who holds the future, and my hand clasped in His. As the old gospel song says:

I don’t know about tomorrow

I just live for day to day

I don’t borrow from the sunshine

For its skies may turn to gray

I don’t worry o’er the future

For I know what Jesus said

And today I’ll walk beside Him

For He knows what lies ahead

Many things about tomorrow

I don’t seem to understand

But I know who holds tomorrow

And I know who holds my hand

Ira Stanphill

Kara is the wife of 20+ years to Caleb and the mother of 5, including 2 through the miracle of adoption. She and her family live on 8 acres, raising cows, goats, chickens, and turkeys, as well as a large garden. She is passionate about hospitality, mothering, the intersection of farm-life and faith, and finding beauty in the commonplace. She enjoys her classics bookclub, walking her country road, and traveling with her large family. She occasionally blogs at goodgiftsfarm.com, but you can keep up with her more regularly on Instagram @good_gifts_farm.