7 Tools You Need to Overcome Your Addiction to Certainty
—Things I Learned from My Year of Uncertainty

But I *Need* to Know!

We’re hardwired to desire certainty. We actually need to know certain things to keep ourselves alive.

But when we don’t know something we want to know, we often feel anxious or we make up our own stories to fill in the gaps.

Both these options of anxiety and storytelling can be dangerous. They can cause great pain and damage to ourselves and to our relationships.

A healthier approach when we really can’t know something is to gently release our demand to know. To fight against our addiction to certainty. And instead to embrace a greater tolerance for uncertainty until we can know (if ever).

It’s not easy. I know because I’ve been wrestling with it all year. UNCERTAINTY has been my One Word for 2021.

I’m still not fully at peace with uncertainty (and likely never will be). But I am a little closer to calling a truce with uncertainty than when I started.

7 Tools to Overcome Your Addiction to Certainty

Here are 7 tools I discovered are helpful in overcoming our addiction to certainty.

1. CULTIVATE YOUR CURIOSITY

Instead of idolizing the knowledge you’ve gathered to downplay uncertainty, cultivate your curiosity.

The best way to get smarter is to keep an open mind. Continue digging for the truth. You’ll never know everything. Say “I wonder” more than “I know.”

[More: When History Makes You Sick]

2. KEEP YOUR OPTIONS OPEN

Instead of insisting your original plan be perfect or scrap it all, trust that a new plan will pop up when yours goes awry.

Keep your options open. Plan B might even be a better plan. There is always someone or something else behind the next door. Even if it’s not who or what you expect. End a few more statements with “Maybe.”

[More: How Does It Feel to Be Alone?]

3. ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE VULNERABLE

Instead of closing every gap so you can protect yourself from the unknown, allow yourself to be vulnerable.

(Only to a degree, of course; use wisdom.) Opening up your heart to others can make you stronger in the midst of uncertainty. You are more than what you know. Take a risk with who you are.

[More: I Wasn’t Sure, But I Did It Anyway]

4. TAKE THE GRACE

Instead of hoarding everything for yourself so you won’t run out, stay open to needing and receiving grace.

Eventually you’ll be caught flat-footed with your own resources. Look for the gifts of grace that have been planted ahead just for you.

[More: Is This the One Thing We All Need?]

5. EXPECT RESURRECTION

Instead of dreading the uncertainty of death, anticipate resurrection.

Face the certainty of a thousand little deaths along the way. But look for the experience of a thousand and one little resurrections.

[More: 5 Ways to Deal with Your Thousand Little Deaths]

6. ACCEPT MYSTERY

Instead of thinking you have to figure out how God works, just accept that God does work.

Foster humility and drop the arrogance about what you think you know of God. Trust not your thoughts about God; trust God, the very mystery of all good things.

[More: When You’re Not Sure How God Works]

7. STAY IN THE MOMENT

Instead of seeking certainty for the future, embrace the certainty in this moment.

Whatever your time or place, God is working to bring out the good for you in this moment. Engage what you’re doing right now. Don’t jump too far ahead in your thoughts. Now is always the time where God acts; here is always the place where God lives.

[More: Let God Bring Out the Good in You Today]

Who Is Stronger Than What

In the end, are these 7 tools just trading certainty for one thing into certainty about another?

I don’t know. Maybe?

I’ve learned that in making peace with uncertainty, Who is stronger than What. It’s more comforting to trust in the existence of a loving God and God’s loving people than to trust only in your plans, assets, and intelligence.

It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make plans or collect assets or use your intelligence.

Just know that eventually some (all?) of your resources won’t work as scheduled. Instead, you’ll have more peace if you cultivate healthy relationships with other God-breathing human beings to walk you through the fog.

We’re never abandoned to figure things out alone. Humility and companionship are key components to making peace with uncertainty.

I still don’t like not knowing. But I must accept it for now.

I can’t wait for certainty to find happiness.

I can be confident in the gap. Not because of illusory guarantees, but because of God.

God is good. God is here. God is love.

We come from love. We are guided by love. We live in love.

I’m sure of this. Maybe that’s all I need to know.


Are you tempted to idolize certainty too? How comfortable are you with uncertainty? Share in the comments.

UNCERTAINTY segues perfectly into my One Word 2022. I didn’t see it coming. More on my new word in the next few days.

If you want companionship along your One Word journey for 2022, join us here for a monthly email, tips, and our private Facebook group.

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Here is a collage of quotes about UNCERTAINTY I shared throughout the year.

40 thoughts on “7 Tools You Need to Overcome Your Addiction to Certainty
—Things I Learned from My Year of Uncertainty

  1. Martha J Orlando

    Yes, Lisa, perhaps just knowing we’re loved by God is enough. We’re not expected to understand, but to believe.
    I’m glad your word truly made you think this year, and shaped your view of the days God has given you.
    Blessings!

  2. Barb Hegreberg

    I have sometimes been accused of being a control freak. I cannot imagine what embracing a year of “uncertainty” would do to/for me. I am encouraged by what you have accomplished. 👏👏👏👏👏

  3. Michele Morin

    That’s one powerful collage, Lisa, and you inspire me to go back over the year and reread old posts to remember all that PERSEVERE has taught me. One of the real weaknesses that comes with being a three is that orientation to the future that keeps me always facing forward and hardly ever looking back…

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Ha. You threes are definitely forward-looking folks! 🙂 We need your types. It has been helpful for me to look back over the year and see all the different ways that my word played out in my life. I definitely couldn’t have predicted it.

  4. Suzette Katopodes

    Lisa, your tips are on point, as always. I think #6 Accept Mystery is my favorite. Retirement and full-time caregiving came to me all at once and they’ve thrown me for a loop in recent months. If anything, it is teaching me humility and to trust God because He’s God. Thanks!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      That is definitely a lot of change in a short time, Suzette. Accepting the mystery of God in our lives is not an easy task. It is indeed a humbling thing to realize how dependent we are on God, even though much of the time we fail to recognize it.

    2. Denise Maryott

      When I retired 4 years ago I too was thrust into a caregiver role and I relied heavily on Jeremiah 29:11 to get through the trials I felt. Uncertainty seemed to be a daily thought and feeling.
      My One Word “Fear”was always with me until I started to “Let go and Let God”became my motto with “Faith over Fear.”
      With God you can do this.

  5. Aritha

    Vert good blogpost. Thank you so much. Like you say: “It’s more comforting to trust in the existence of a loving God and God’s loving people than to trust only in your plans, assets, and intelligence.”

    Praying God will helping me with this.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Aritha. I pray that for myself too. Placing all our heavy baggage onto God can feel risky at times, but I want to learn how to do it more quickly and more often.

  6. Maryleigh

    Expect Resurrection; Accept Mystery – Yes! So very much yes! I have not been an uncertainty fan – but God has been teaching me that to embrace it is to trust Him with the story! Such good encouragement you give to help us let go and give Him control! Merry Christmas, Lisa! ~ Maryleigh

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      It’s so comforting to know we can lean on the wisdom of God in every moment. If I can just stay put in that moment. 🙂 My mind tends to drift toward the future too often when I need to stay right where God has me instead.

  7. PaulaShort

    Lisa this >”A healthier approach when we really can’t know something is to gently release our demand to know. To fight against our addiction to certainty. And instead to embrace a greater tolerance for uncertainty until we can know (if ever).”
    You know I never thought of it that way. Addiction to certainty that’s a great insight. Releasing our demand to know and embracing tolerance for uncertainty until we can know seems hard and for me would I would have to learn discipline and practice. Wishing you a wonderful Christmas filled with His light and joy.
    Visiting from Instaencouragements

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      It has definitely been hard for me, Paula. I really like to know things. But there are far more things we can’t know than things we can know, and I want to make peace with that. The Lord has grown me in that a little more this year, but I still have a ways to go. Hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas too!

  8. JeanWise

    wow these wise words could be expanded into a book! I love the curiosity one yet got nervous about being vulnerable. Funny how when you listen to your heart, you see lessons in your reactions. BUT I NEED TO KNOW -so I can control. I know that is my base issue. Great summary of a powerful word of the year for you!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Maybe one day I’ll compile some of these One Word lessons into an ebook. But not today. 🙂 And yes, the “need to know” can be SO strong in us because we like to be able to have things under control. But there is SO little not in my control…tough lesson to learn (again and again).

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I struggle with staying in the moment too. I’m trying to do better about it. Some days are easier than others. I really want to do it better over the next several days of Christmas.

  9. Jerralea Winn Miller

    “Face the certainty of a thousand little deaths along the way. But look for the experience of a thousand and one little resurrections..” Yes! I never thought about it in this way before. Thank you for helping me turn my thinking around.

  10. Bev Rihtarchik

    Lisa,
    Wow! What a challenging word for 2021 — uncertainty. You have so many great nuggets of wisdom in this post. I need to work on developing my tolerance of uncertainty. And, “Who is stronger than What.” Amen! I don’t need to know exactly what lies ahead as long as I know Who journeys with me! Learning to lean not on my own understanding and embracing the mystery of God — also great tools.
    Blessings and Merry Christmas,
    Bev xx

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Developing my tolerance of uncertainty has been quite the arduous journey, Bev. But it’s been worth it. If anything, it’s proven that I have much further to go. 😉 But I am grateful though that it’s also proven that we can trust God to be with us through every uncertain thing that will come our way!

  11. Lois Flowers

    Wow, Lisa … you have learned a LOT from your word this year. I love the idea starting more sentences with “maybe” … it has a more humble ring to it, I think. Your list reminds me of the verse that talks about how we now see “through a glass darkly” … it’s hard not to be able to wipe away the fog, but you’re right … God is working, whether we can see it or not. Can’t wait to learn what your next word is!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Now I just have to remember the lessons I learned and keep practicing them. Like using “maybe” more often. 🙂 I love how God used our words this year in unexpected ways to teach us things we need to know. I’m exciting about 2022 as well.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m very good at filling in those “what if’s” too, Lauren. And usually my fill-ins lean toward a negative prediction. lol. It’s hard to just sit in the uncertainty and be content with that, but I’m trying. I love that your word was trust; it’s a perfect solution to uncertainty. 🙂

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