After an initial appointment with my family doctor, I found myself sitting in an unfamiliar office, explaining my symptoms to a neurologist. Completely stumped, he concluded, “Well, the first thing we’ll have to do is get in there and see what’s going on. I’m going to order and MRI of the brain. Are you claustrophobic?”
A brain scan was not what I was expecting.
I listened as intently as possible while he rattled off the details of the procedure, asking numerous times if I was claustrophobic and whether I was allergic to contrast dye, and telling me I couldn’t wear anything metal during the scan.
He held up a plastic model of the brain and explained possible diagnoses, none of which sounded pleasant.
Upon leaving his office with a brain scan scheduled for the following week, I did what any rational person would do: I went to the nearest food court and sat by myself with eight pieces of salmon avocado California rolls, chased by a chai latte from Panera. Because sushi and chai can calm any situation.
Then the waiting began.
They always say the waiting is the hardest part. I concur.
I had five days to wait until the actual scan, then another three days to wait for the results.
In the meantime, I swung like a pendulum back and forth between rational and irrational thoughts, and convinced myself that my symptoms had worsened dramatically in the hours since my neurology appointment.
Fear of the unknown is enough to make anybody crazy.
I thought back to my mom’s cancer diagnosis years earlier, and remembered the fear that nearly paralyzed me. It hadn’t done any good then, and it wouldn’t do any good now.
I had to resign myself to the Lord’s purposes, and simply trust.
This experience took place several weeks ago, and I’m thrilled to be able to report that the MRI scan was normal. Here are some lessons I gained in the process, which can apply during all times of uncertainty.
1) The Future is Fragile
With a single sentence, the neurologist changed my plans for the coming week and punctuated my future with a question mark. I felt the words of James land hard in the pit of my stomach: “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14).
Circumstances in life can change in an instant, with a word. Jobs can disappear overnight, homes can be wiped away by storms or fires. There are no guarantees in this life, except that we will all die sometime. We should therefore live with a somber and hallowed reverence for the frailty of life and all that is in it.
I once read the testimony of a woman whose husband died in the emergency room. She said, “The emergency ward is no place to sort out your theology.” Think about that. Don’t wait for an unexpected crisis to force you to figure out what you believe. Place your trust now in the One who holds all things together. “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7).
The future is fragile; it’s fleeting. Is your soul ready for whatever might come?
2) People are Pertinent
When I received the news about needing a brain scan, I only told a handful of people. I didn’t want to create an unnecessary cause for concern before I even knew whether anything was wrong or not. Yet the small group of people who did know were unbelievably supportive. I felt so loved and lifted up. So held.
Through this trial, I realized afresh that people are important. The body of Christ is important. As Christians, we need to live as though we’re one body — one in mind, one in spirit (Philippians 2:2). We rejoice when others rejoice and mourn when others mourn (Romans 12:15). A burden shared becomes a burden divided. Take time today to tell someone that you love them, that you prayed for them. Thank God for the people He has placed in your life to love and care for you.
3) Prayer is Powerful
If you’re a Christian, you likely already know the power of prayer. But sometimes it’s easy to fall into an apathy that reveals our lack of faith. Sometimes we get so used to praying the same things that we lose that sense of genuine expectancy, that fervent belief that God really will answer our prayers.
Experiencing this uncertainty with my health was like an open curtain that gave me a glimpse into the faith of others. I saw just how confident they were that our God would provide. Hearing their boldness and confidence helped to bolster my own faith, and to pray with more conviction for the Lord’s will to be done. Even when we go through times of great uncertainty, we can always turn to the one true rock, Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
4) Peace is Possible
I’ve experienced it a handful of times before, but it still surprises me. In the five days leading up to my scheduled MRI, I was nervous. Anxious. Acting like a hypochondriac, convincing myself that my symptoms were growing worse with every passing hour. Yet the morning that I woke up on the day of the scan, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace. I could literally feel that people were praying. Given my previous days of apprehension, it really was a “peace that passes understanding” (Philippians 4:7). If you’re struggling with anxiety over uncertainty in your life, cling to the promise of Isaiah 26:3 — “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”
5) God is Good
Although I was nervous about the actual scan and the outcome, I did have an inner peace about the overall destination of my soul. In the days leading up to the test, verses kept coming to mind which say, “the Lord has been good to me.” Then on two consecutive days, in two different contexts, the Lord drew my attention to the attribute of His goodness, even in the midst of hardship. One occasion was an entire sermon preached on Psalm 119:68 — “You are good, and what you do is good.” Let’s ask God to train our minds and hearts to rest in His goodness, even if we can’t see His immediate purposes.
6) Heaven is our Hope
In a world riddled with uncertainty, we need an anchor. As Christians, that anchor is Jesus Christ, and through Him, the hope of heaven. We may experience every manner of hardship here on earth, but nothing can take away the inheritance that is held secure for us in glory. When you find yourself flailing amidst the choppy waves of life, grab hold of the anchor. “Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2), and hold on to the hope that is eternal.
How have you seen His hand at work in times of uncertainty?
Kate Motaung grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan before spending ten years in Cape Town, South Africa. She is married to a South African and together they have three children. Kate is the author of the e-book, Letters to Grief, hosts the Five Minute Friday blog link-up, and has contributed to several other online publications. She blogs at Heading Home and can be found on Twitter @k8motaung.