Step into Uncertainty—My One Word for 2021

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.

“God Knows” by Minnie Louise Haskins (1875-1957)

Not THIS One, Please?

I don’t know why.

UNCERTAINTY kept coming to me for months as my potential One Word for 2021. I fought it. I wanted something more positive. Something more doable.

I circled around it with words like CURIOSITY or CHANGE or VULNERABILITY.

But each time, God would bring me back to UNCERTAINTY.

And so here I am. Uncertain about UNCERTAINTY.

Maybe it’s the perfect word for me after all.

“I don’t know”

I’ve definitely felt a lot of uncertainty the past year. Haven’t we all? The world doesn’t feel as safe as it once did. I’d like more answers, less questions. More security, less ambiguity.

But this is where we are. And uncertain is where I am.

I don’t know.

It’s a phrase I repeat a lot. And that I intend on repeating even more in 2021.

I’m looking for the good in not knowing. It’s in there somewhere. A certain value exists in knowing you don’t know.

  • Not knowing can breed humility.
  • It encourages new learning.
  • It lays a foundation for more trust.
  • It fosters dependence on God.

Month by Month, Walk Together

So as I step into this new year with an unwelcome word attached, I’ve made some goals. My monthly plan includes these ideas.

And I want more to trust God, not just my thoughts about God.

But I’ll hold these goals loosely.

Because what will happen next? . . . I don’t know.

My theme verses will be Proverbs 3:5-7. An abbreviated version from the Message is:

“Don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God!”

So here I go, walking into the darkness of uncertainty.

But I am certain I won’t be walking alone.

Thanks to Lesley for introducing me to the beautiful poem at the top of the page. It’s commonly known as “The Gate of the Year.” Lesley says it’s quite common in the UK, but it its new to me in the States. Read the full poem here, “God Knows.”

How comfortable are you with uncertainty? Do you have One Word for the year? Share your thoughts in the comments.

If you want to join our monthly accountability group for your own One Word, here’s what we’ll be doing. We already have an active group on Facebook you also can join.


62 thoughts on “Step into Uncertainty—My One Word for 2021

  1. bill (cycleguy)

    happy New Year Lisa! Well, after the uncertainty of the year in so many ways, and the uncertainty of the China virus in my own life, I realize there is only one thing which is certain: God never changes. Because of that I am willing to embrace uncertainty. I guess in reality I have to anyway. I tell people that about the weather. “Why complain? I can’t change it anyway.” I am working this morning on Eccl.3 where Solomon says, “He has made everything beautiful in His time.” I must trust in that or I will go crazy. Uncertainty is part of my everyday life since I never know what the day will bring nor what will be given or taken away. I pray 2021 brings you to a new level of trust and surety as you seek Him and His heart for you.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Hope you’ve recovered well from covid now, Bill. Sorry you had to deal with symptoms from it.

      You’re so right that God never changes. His love and grace and goodness is definitely a certainty I rely on!

  2. Sharon Hazel

    Uncertainty is an interesting word to focus on for the year, but so good that you are already seeing something of what God wants to say to you through reflecting on that word – thank you for sharing so openly 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I was even uncertain about how much to share about Uncertainty. 🙂 So thanks for understanding, Sharon. So much of life is uncertain, yet God remains constant. I was just reading this morning from Paul David Tripp: “Yes, our lives are out of our control, but that doesn’t mean they are out of control.” God’s got this.

  3. Linda Stoll

    I love that you’ve laid out a plan, a pathway, to go with your word, Lisa. I’ve never done that before and that’s probably why they’ve gone nowhere.

    I think I have a word – serendipity. Don’t have a clue what I’ll do with that but then that’s what’s serendipity is about! Discovering joyful things not expected, thought of, planned.

    I kind of like that …

    Meanwhile, thanks for keeping me on track in listening for what this looks like.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Serendipity definitely isn’t a word for planning around. 🙂 I love that, Linda. I’m not sure Uncertainty needs much planning either, but we’ll see what God chooses to do with my loose plans. I’m trying to keep an open hand with it.

      Looking forward to your book group with Don’t Overthink It. I’ve almost finished Part 1.

    2. Theresa Boedeker

      Love your word, Linda. Serendipity. It is such a fun word to say. In my early twenties I went to a Christian retreat and was assigned the room labeled serendipity. I had no idea what it meant, but as the other rooms were courage and grace and such, I figured it couldn’t be to bad. When I got home I looked up in the dictionary what it meant.

  4. Danita Sullivan

    My word(s) for the year are Grace and Mercy…because I need to live in the Grace of God I have been given and Extend the Mercy that God has given me to others!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Oh, such beautiful words, Danita! I’ve been reading “40 Days of Grace” and it brings peace to my soul. I want to go through it again during Lent because I always need reminders of God’s grace and mercy.

  5. Joanne Viola

    Uncertainty is certainly where we find ourselves at this time. May we run to God every day for He alone knows what each day certainly holds. Thank you for sharing about the One Word group as I just joined and look forward to bring there with you all. And … I, too, am re-reading Searching For Certainty 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I was reading “40 Days of Grace” this morning and Day 32 opened with this: “Since God writes your story, he knows what you’re facing and exactly what grace you’ll need to live his way.” So glad for that piece of certainty. I’m so glad you’re part of the group, Joanne! I’ll look forward to hearing the insights you’ll get from “Prevail” this year!

  6. Martha Jane Orlando

    Uncertainty is certainly an honest word to choose for 2021. We can never know it all, can we? And it does remind us to be humble before our God, trusting that He holds all our uncertainties in His hand.
    As I’ve mentioned, Lisa, my one word is “hope.” May we never lose it!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Combining our two words, I definitely hold on to Hope in the midst of Uncertainty. 🙂 So thankful that we don’t have to know it all; we can trust God who does!

  7. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    The future holds uncertainty,
    riddles in enigmas wrapped,
    tilt-switches run on mercury;
    in fickle balance we are trapped,
    bound and beholden to a fate
    that gibbers madly at the door,
    a monster we did not create
    that takes our all, demanding more.
    But, my friend, the sun will rise,
    and in the night will shine the moon,
    and after rain come rainbow’d skies
    and spring will have the flowers bloom
    for though we seem on shifting sand
    our steady Lord still rules this land.

  8. Lois Flowers

    You might be uncertain, Lisa, but I love how INTENTIONAL you are being when it comes to your new word for 2021. 🙂 In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers talks about how we can be “certain in uncertainty” when we are “uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God.” I’ve always appreciated his thoughts about this. Thanks again for organizing this community of word-of-the-year enthusiasts–I’m looking forward to reading more over the course of the year!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’ll have to look up more of that quote–such helpful words, Lois! Thanks for sharing it. I have a copy of that book somewhere, but of course Google will be a much quicker way for me to find that section. 🙂 I’m looking forward to seeing how God uses “Strength” in your life this year!

  9. Kim

    Oh, Lisa. What torment in choosing your word. I get your hesitation. But, we know with full confidence the certainty of the Lord, our only True Certainty. The uncertainty of our human-ness surrounds us constantly in this world. Oh, how we long for the certainty of heaven when all is at rest and at peace.

    A similarity of note with my word CONTEMPLATE. When we contemplate, we examine all uncertain sides of a thing until we find certainty. I believe I will be questioning the uncertainty of many things this year. I love the exploration of your word, grounded by the absolutely certainty of God. I look forward to hearing updates around your 2021 word.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      What a great way to connect our words, Kim! I love the thought of using CONTEMPLATE this year myself as I deal with UNCERTAINTY. Thanks for sharing your insight!

  10. Trudy

    I love that God is already teaching you the value of not knowing, Lisa. I look forward to more insights He is giving you. I love the Message version of the Proverbs verse. I need to remember it as I’m so prone to try to figure everything out on my own instead of running to Him! I had told you how my word changed from “listen” to “rest,” but I still had niggling doubts. I couldn’t even get myself to write a post about it. Then this morning God impressed my heart with a different word – GRACE – and the words flowed. Thank you for encouraging us to find a word to focus on and to keep up with it. Love and blessings to you!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I love your transition from listen to rest to grace! I’m glad that you’ve landed in a place that is right for the year. We all need extra helpings of grace again this year!!! Love you, friend!

  11. June

    I think what your word will teach you this year may surprise you because it’s clear that you remain certain of the one thing, the only thing that is certain: God. And that means that embracing the uncertainty = trusting Him. I can’t wait to see how He blesses you this year!

  12. Laurie

    Ooooh…uncertainty would be a scary word to choose for the year. I am looking forward to reading your thoughts on uncertainty. The past year certainly taught us more than we (maybe it’s just me?) wanted to know about uncertainty. Your word made me look up this quote from 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”

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yeah, Uncertainty is definitely not a comfortable word for me. 2020 was a whole year of it already so I’m not sure what God wants me to do with it in 2021, but we’ll see. Thanks for sharing that quote! I’ll add it to my collection. I’m trying to keep a file of things like that to look at throughout the year.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’d like to know if anyone else chose Uncertainty, Theresa. It would be fun to stay connected. But whether or not we choose the word, I know we’ll be all be living with a certain level of uncertainty again this year.

  13. Susan Nowell @ My Place to Yours

    I’d forgotten all about that ‘gate of the year’ poem. Not sure where I first read it, but it’s a great one! As for uncertainty, it’s definitely an unsettling word and easy to see why you tried to resist it. But God had other plans… and I’m CERTAIN he will reveal them in his time. Walking this unsettled path beside you in 2021.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I loved finding the remainder of that poem as well and even reading the background of its use through the years. So interesting! Looking forward to our parallel paths this year, Susan!

  14. Jeanne Takenaka

    Can I just be honest and admit I’m uncomfortable with uncertainty?? I like to know the plan, the way forward. I like to think (silly me) that I’m in control. Uncertainty sounds like it will be an amazing journey for you this year. Uncertainty requires trust. and that poem you shared seems to sum it up so well! I look forward to hearing more about this word’s impact on your life this year!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m definitely uncomfortable with uncertainty myself, Jeanne. I suspect that fact may be one reason God so strongly wanted me to deal with it head-on this year instead of walking around it like I would prefer to do. 😉 I appreciate the encouragement and the camaraderie that we’re all in this together with our words!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I will definitely need to rely on Hope too to get through a year of Uncertainty. 🙂 I chose Hope as my word a couple years back because I discovered that I could lapse too quickly into hopelessness (albeit temporarily) when things got dark. It was a fruitful year and one that I’m drawing on now. God is so faithful to provide us with the things we need when we need them.

  15. Donna

    Love your word, Lisa and your current goals for pursuing what God has for you through the word “uncertainty”. Was reading today a devotional regarding “joy” and how great joy often comes in the fire of trials (not what I wanted to hear regarding MY word for 2021). However the quote, “God speaks to us…through the regularity with which He disappoints our plans.” by Louis Evely, seemed appropriate to remember. For my goal as yours, is to trust God more. Here’s to hearing God speak through the uncertainty of our best laid “plans”.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I wonder if trust is one of those traits that can run through almost ALL our words? It definitely is one that I see in both of our choices of Uncertainty and Joy (and even in our 2020 words of Linger for me and Freedom for you). The quote by Louis Evely is a somewhat scary one. ha. But also one to remind me to hold my plans loosely (and I do love to make a good plan! ha).

  16. Yvonne Chase

    Uncertainty couldn’t be more perfect I mean look at what happened yesterday? Didn’t see any of that coming! Yikes! I’ll be walking right along with you certain that God will be with us in the midst of uncertainty. Thank God for Jesus!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Exactly, Yvonne. Yesterday was definitely a case-in-point about uncertainty. While I know God doesn’t promise to remove uncertainty from our lives, he does promise to be with us in it, and that’s what I count on. Blessings to you, friend, for your encouragement to me!

  17. Michele Morin

    I was saying to my husband just recently how frightened I am of church leaders who are sure they are always right. “Often wrong but never in doubt” is a scarier place to be than “uncertain. ” I look forward to hearing about your year.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Oh, this is such a good (and yes, scary) saying: “Often wrong but never in doubt,” regardless of the context. A little humility can go a long way. And a lot of humility can go even further. It still amazes me that Jesus, God incarnate, of all people was willing to humble himself. If he can do it, why can’t we? I’ve got a hunch that a year of uncertainty can teach me a thing or two about humility.

  18. Mary Rooney Armand

    Lisa, great insight as usual! At first, uncertainty seems negative but it really means out of our control. That leads to a greater trust in God. Thanks for provoking deep thoughts on this topic. Be blessed in your uncertainty!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I appreciate your insight, Mary. My goal isn’t to “solve” uncertainty but to learn to walk with God in it. You hit the nail on the head with your words of allowing it to lead to a greater trust in God. That’s what I want.

  19. Jean Wise

    Takes courage to step into this word but don’t you love it how these words of the year chase us! Uncertainty certainly fits the time we are in. You so inspire me to keep our words alive in us daily and monthly. Thanks for heading this wonderful practice and keeping it front and center for us!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Our words “chase” us. Great way to phrase it, Jean. That’s how I felt for sure with this word. I tried to outrun it but I couldn’t. 😉 God knows I have a bad knee. ha. And now with the craziness already developing this very week, I’m feeling more certain that Uncertainty is the right word for me. Can’t wait to see how GO plays out for you!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      It definitely is a crazy time. Stay safe over there in the UK and we’ll try to do likewise here. Lots of struggles on many fronts but I trust we’ll have the victory in the end if we can stay together (well, not literally together but 6-feet apart, ha).

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Just read your post too, Jane. You had a crazy week! Hope this week has begun with a little more certainty, but if I had to predict, I’d say probably not, based on 2020 and the first part of 2021. ha.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, definitely hoping for brighter days ahead. I do see light at the end of the tunnel, however dim. My elderly in-laws are scheduled to get covid vaccines this Wednesday!

  20. Karen Friday

    Lisa, such a vulnerable post and good insight. Our world absolutely seems more uncertain than ever. Yet, when we look at Scripture, the world and its ways have always been uncertain and unknown to those who lived in each time period of history and even now.

    I’ve often told the Lord this is the very issue I have concerns over with Hebrews 11:1…faith in those evidences of things not seen. All the people who make it into the chapter and the Hall of Faith, lived uncertain of many things, but still had faith and trusted in a God of certainty!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You’re right, Karen. If we really look into times past, we’d likely see far more uncertainty in their everyday lives than we can even imagine. I truly am thankful for the era we live in. Praying we’ll be as faithful as those saints of old.

  21. Beth Steffaniak

    I just heard a message the other day about this very word. The pastor replaced the idea of “doubt” in a poem he read with “uncertainty” and echoed a bit of what you’ve shared here, Lisa. I really like where God is leading you. I think you will grow stronger in your faith yet softer in your heart by focusing on this word. I think it’s a great choice! I’m still not sure if I’ll choose a one-word. But I’m taking in what others, like you, have said and it’s stirring things in my heart as well. Hugs to you, my friend!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Sounds like that would have been a great message for me to hear, Beth! I’ll have to watch for the word doubt this year as well, and substitute uncertainty where appropriate. I’m actually reading a book right now called Faith After Doubt, so there’s my first opportunity. 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, 2021 has started off with its fair share of uncertainty as well, not to be outdone by 2020. ha. I just read your list of “20 Things I Learned in 2020” and I’m grateful that we can carry many of those lessons with us into 2021.

  22. Shelley Whittaker

    I am not enjoying all of this uncertainty, but I guess there is not much I can do about it. For 2021 I think I will have zero expectations and just make the most of opportunities as they arrive. Stay safe x #AnythingGoes

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m trying to keep my expectations lower this year too, and just be grateful for the good that comes, as it comes. It may not always look like I’m expecting it to. 🙂

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