When “I don’t know” is good


Does this ever happen to you?

I couldn’t decide what to eat for lunch. I was already hungry so I didn’t want to invest time in cooking. But nothing ready-made sounded good either. So I delayed.

And got hungrier. Maybe go get something? The drive didn’t seem worth it.

So I got even hungrier. And grouchier. Until I finally started eating junk food, whatever was in the pantry front and center.

Uncertainty Hurts

Being paralyzed by uncertainty can be painful. In small cases, it’s no big deal. (I could have missed lunch altogether and really been fine.)

But with bigger things, it chokes out true living.

I like to know my facts before I make a decision. Consider the options. I’m an information junkie, which is not always helpful when information is infinite. There’s simply not enough time to read every interesting book or watch every tutorial or gather all the opinions.

So what to do?

Welcome, Uncertainty

I’m on a yearlong quest to “Welcome life as God gives it.


For the month of May, I’m welcoming uncertainty. I’ve been pursuing it for awhile already.

It’s always good timing to make peace with uncertainty because there’s always uncertainty . . .

  • in our country’s future,
  • in our individual communities, churches, families,
  • and even within ourselves—our emotions, our health, our beliefs.

But uncertainty isn’t all bad.

The Good Side of Uncertainty

Uncertainty opens up room for . . .

  • Faith
  • Growth
  • Humility

When we’re uncertain, we’re more teachable, more tolerant, and more adaptable.

In our uncertainty, we give God something to work with.

We learn to trust that he’ll keep teaching us and making things right as long as we’ll keep showing up and moving along with him, even when we’re unsure.

Brené Brown says in The Gifts of Imperfection that when we’re anxious about uncertainty, repeat the serenity prayer to ourselves:


With that wisdom, we can accept that we’ll never have all the answers. And that’s okay.

  • Make decisions anyway.
  • Take risks anyway.
  • Do something anyway.

For lunch today I already know what I’ll be eating. I like the certainty. But for supper? It’s anybody’s guess.

* * *

How do you handle uncertainty? Please share in the comments.

21 thoughts on “When “I don’t know” is good

  1. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    This reminded me of a part of my past…

    When I was working on my doctorate, we were doing lab tests on concrete pilings wrapped in fiberglass to help them withstand earthquakes. The specimens were 20 feet long, two feet in diameter, and weighed around 10,000 pounds. They were suspended horizontally, and big rams suspended from a steel frame pushed and pulled from above. Around 200-250,000 pounds of force.

    Anyway, we’d done some ‘non-wrapped’ tests, and thought we knew what to expect. Except that the fiberglass did stuff we couldn’t foresee, and the failure mode was, to say the least, unpleasant (load, and it destabilized the rams, which was not good as they each cost about as much as a Ferarri).

    But being smart dudes, we thought we could modify the wrapping and make everything cool. So, with overweening confidence, we tried again.

    Same exact thing, only this time it was WORSE. Someone could have gotten killed when the second one said goodbye.

    The moral? I guess it’s that the more sure you are, the more wrong you can be.


    1. LisaNotes Post author

      That’s a great story, Andrew. I can’t really imagine doing lab tests on concrete pilings, but I can relate to being overconfident in my own knowledge about something, and having it backfire on me. Your moral is totally apropos: “The more sure you are, the more wrong you can be.” Thanks for taking time to visit and comment.

  2. Beth

    So true, Lisa. We must be accepting of the uncertainties in life. To try and figure them all out or control/answer them only shows how prideful and “out of control” we are. Very profound post, my friend! Hope you enjoy that certain lunch and have an exciting dinner adventure that doesn’t include junk food! 😉

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Nice point, Beth . . . when we try so hard to have all the answers, it only shows how “out of control” we truly are! (Not promising I won’t have junk food for supper, but hopefully I won’t be stressing about it this time. ha)

  3. saleslady371

    I was just talking to the Lord this morning about helping me with uncertainty. I know you are what He is using to teach me. I admire people who confidently plow ahead making decisions so easily; that has never been my style. Thank you for this post!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m glad the Lord has us on the same page, Mary. Making peace with uncertainty is a theme in my life the past several years so I’m always on the lookout when God sends words of direction my way on it.

  4. Somer

    Great insight. You are right uncertainty makes us humble. We are grounded because we know we could fall or get lost. It keeps us close to God. Lately I keep thinking of the idea of refuge and stronghold in the bible. Our call to make God those. That we must let him strongly hold us. We run to that hold in times of storm. But we are always supposed to. We always make wiser decisions in His hold. That is the blessing of uncertainty. We know we need him. Even though we always do. That simple quote is also so profound and glossed over because we have heard it so much. It is so unwise to try to do something to change something we can’t. I’ve suffered the consequences Many times. Thinking I could trust my idea to right a situation when I just made it worse!! Thanks for the reminder!!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You speak wisdom here, Somer. “We always make wiser decisions in His hold. That is the blessing of uncertainty. We know we need him.” It’s so easy to be aware of our need when we’re under distress, but yes, we need him ALL the time. And thankfully his presence is always with us, our stronghold, even when we’re not aware of it. We are very blessed.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I know, right? I saw a great Facebook status yesterday about how we freak out over the elections, but God can work through ANYBODY. Our trust is to be in our Lord.

  5. Mindy White

    I loved this “When we’re uncertain, we’re more teachable, more tolerant, and more adaptable.” We are saying Ok God here I am show me what to do or not to do, instead of pushing our own ideas. Sometimes I go by the saying when you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything. The situations usually seem to work their way out in one way or another.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, it’s too easy to just push our own ideas. I’ve been noticing how much more argumentative I am too when I think I just “know” what is right or wrong. I’m much more pleasant to be around when I accept that uncertainty in certain matters is not only okay, but preferable. 🙂

  6. Ana (@ANAWINSblog)

    Great reminders. Decision paralysis is real and hard to deal with sometimes. We felt that when we were looking at new rentals to move into. We just didn’t know what to do yet we still needed to do something. It’s good to know that God has it all worked out ahead of time when we do make decisions we struggle to make.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I totally agree with you, Ana–it’s a blessing to know that God goes before us and behind us with every decision we make. I love having that assurance! Hope it worked out well for you and your husband with your rental decision.

  7. Pam

    Lisa, you certainly reminded me of why I cannot stay on my calorie limit at lunch time. It is the exact experience you describe! Bam!! Thanks for that, but most definitely for this good word about uncertainty!!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Ha. We’re of like minds, Pam. I do much better when I decide what I’m going to eat BEFORE I get too hungry. It’s just not always possible, so that’s when I need to make better decisions in uncertainty. 🙂

  8. floyd

    Excellent advice. Especially the one about just moving forward anyway. That’s kinda my take on things. If we’re striving we’re going to make mistakes, but three steps forward and two back is better than none at all… I think.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m tracking with you, Floyd. I probably didn’t always feel that way, but as I’ve gotten older, I realize that the risk of doing nothing is often greater than the risk of potentially making a wrong move. Maybe I am getting braver after all. 🙂 Thanks for your encouragement to live life out loud.

  9. June

    Excellent post, Lisa! That part at the beginning about lunch – we could be twins, that is so me, lol! I’m an information junkie like you, and sometimes it’s hard to be okay with not knowing, lol. But I love what you pointed out as the Good Side of Uncertainty. Have a blessed week!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      The age of the internet is both a blessing and a curse to us information junkies, yes? I can get so easily distracted clicking from one thing to the next! But we have to let some things go unknown. 🙂 Oh well. Blessings to you too, June.

  10. Sarah Donegan

    Oh I crumble so easily. I just want to know what is going on and what is coming too. Nothing frustrates me like uncertainly, so I need to embrace it.
    Right there with you!

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