How Much Do We Need to Know?

Do You Want to Know?

If you could, would you want to know when you’ll die?

With the surge of COVID-19, maybe you’ve already contemplated the possibility of your own death or that of a family member or friend.

I often wonder if my death will be from Alzheimer’s. It’s how my mother died. It’s haunted me for years.

But would I take a test now to find out if I have Alzheimer’s? Probably not. I’d rather live with the uncertainty.

I’m not alone. A survey mentioned in Too Much Information states that 53% of respondents also said no, that they would not want to know if they will get Alzheimer’s.

How much do we really want to know?

Life Is Uncertain

I didn’t plan to read these two books at the same time. I didn’t even realize the significance of their pairing until almost after the fact.

But reading Too Much Information at the same time as Searching for Certainty was likely no coincidence.

And to make it even stranger, a few days after I began reading Searching for Certainty, I heard that its author Shelly Miller had just died after a short illness. Such a tragic loss to her family and our world. 

Life’s circumstances are certainly uncertain. There are more things we don’t know, can’t know, than things we do know.

And we have to learn to live with that uncertainty, like it or not.

In Too Much Information, the author Cass Sunstein says that:

“If we want to know whether and when people want to know, we have to focus on how people think that they will feel if they end up knowing.”

Would you want to know what your friends really think about you? Only 42% of those polled would want to know.

This Is Enough to Know

Sometimes it’s best that we don’t know everything up front.

Shelly writes in Searching for Certainty,

“In fear, we can miss the obvious—that your uncertainty is God’s opportunity to reveal his great love for you.”

God never said he’d give us explanations for all that happens. Nor did he guarantee certainty in our circumstances.

“God doesn’t promise safety and security; he promises that he will be with you.”

Shelly suggests we “reframe uncertainty through the lens of the certainty of God’s love.”

Life has shown us much uncertainty in 2020. It’s made me uncomfortable. I’ve wanted to know more—times, dates, answers.

But one thing is certain: God’s love is always with us. When we don’t know much else, we can know that.

And that might be the most important thing we ever need to know.

Would you rather know or not know information like when or how you’ll die? Share thoughts in the comments.

My thanks to Net Galley for the
review copies of these books

16 thoughts on “How Much Do We Need to Know?

  1. Theresa Boedeker

    What two interesting books to read at the same time. There are many things I don’t want to know. And yet I want certainty in some things. Neither is good or attainable. So I live in the in between. Like we all do.

  2. Martha Jane Orlando

    That God is with us, in all the uncertainty of life, is really all I need to know, Lisa. Like your mother, my father died from Alzheimer’s, but I’m refusing to be tested to see if I’m at risk. What good will that do in the long run but add worry and concern to the days I have on earth? I’ll leave that in God’s hands.

  3. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Don’t care how or when I dies,
    don’t really want to know.
    I’ll let it have its fun surprise
    as down the road I go.
    I’m assumin’ what’ll kill me
    is pancreatic cancer
    but some pissed-off hillbilly
    might have another answer
    that is more realistic,
    and, well, way more quick;
    I’d rather go ballistic,
    for I’m sick of being sick
    and it’s a better way of gettin’ dead
    than in some durn hospital bed.

  4. Lauren

    Hmm … as much as I struggle with uncertainty or ambiguity of any sort, I’d still have to say there are certain details I’m better off not knowing, particularly when it comes to the details of my own death. Shelly Miller’s book is already on my TBR list … think I’ll have to add Cass Sunstein’s to the list as well.

  5. Laurie

    I do struggle with uncertainty, especially now in the pandemic. The certainty of God’s love is a better focus of my energies. I do think I need to be more comfortable with uncertainty. Your post made me think of this quote by Madeleine L’Engle: “Those who believe they believe in God, but without passion in the heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God himself.”

  6. Lesley

    Generally I like certainty, but I agree there are some things we are better not knowing. I think I’m gradually learning to trust that God knows what he’s doing and I don’t have to know it all – it’s a journey! I like the idea of reframing our uncertainties through the certainty of God’s love.

  7. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Lisa, I’m so glad you are reading Shelly’s book. I knew her personally, and miss her more than I can say. I’ve read nearly everything she wrote. Shelly grew up where I live in St. Louis, but our childhoods couldn’t have been more starkly different. I grew up in the certainty of my parents’ love, and she did not. Yet God had His hands on Shelly from the time she was born, and ordered her steps and protected her from ultimate harm. He used those dire circumstances and deep uncertainties of her growing-up years to shape her into the beautiful woman she would become. Shelly was diagnosed with sarcoma, a deadly and fast-spreading cancer, for which she received extensive, grueling surgery. She remained certain of God’s love throughout this ordeal, and He actually strengthened her to do a book launch not long after her surgery. Can you imagine? As an author, myself, I can’t! Writing a book and its subsequent launch, frankly, are exhausting. And the cancer had returned on top of it! But God gave her courage and strength and ability to comfort *others* despite what she endured. We kept praying for a miracle, and she had the certainty that God could perform it. But she also knew He might not. Still, she loved Christ so much, and knew that either way, she had the certainty of His love and the certainty of being with Him eternally. And now, she is! I highly recommend the book.

    And to answer your question, yes, there are *certain* things I would not wish to know. But I want always to be certain of His love, care, grace, and provision.

    Bless you,

  8. mariel

    Lisa, I love this post and all your sweet words of review on these books. I am in the middle of shelly’s book right now and kept nodding through all that you said! I am going to order the other book. I have not heard of it before and it sounds really interesting! Thank you for sharing these!

  9. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Oh, I know Mariel (and your name reminds me of her daughter’s name, Murielle). I’m so glad you knew Shelly and of her wonderful ministry to so many. We may give thanks for her beautiful life and that she has left a treasury of writing and photos behind. She was such a dear, dear friend.

  10. Jean Wise

    great side by side books to discuss. Yes we live with too much information and options – no wonder we freeze at times and are indecisive. Interesting to read your blog post right after I ordered the health info through DNA link – possibly learning of a gene in my make up that isn’t good. Will be interesting to see how i react emotionally to this new info… LOL

  11. Donna Reidland

    I think God shows us what we need to know and what He knows we can handle. Partly because of His grace in not giving us too much and partly to help us learn to rely on Him. Thanks for sharing about these 2 books.

  12. Tea With Jennifer

    We can never really know as those genetic tests can only give a percentage never a certainty because so many things can happen or not happen to change that percentile.

    Our certainty is definitely in our relationship with our heavenly Father. Whatever our last days on earth will be He knows & He will be with us, as He is now.
    And in that I rest, otherwise we don’t live life in the precious moments He gives us in the here & now… 😀
    Bless you Lisa,

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