The Paralyzing Effects of Uncertainty


I remember as a child my mother pulling up to a stop sign on a slight hill in our big white Oldsmobile sedan. Mom was new to driving a car with a manual transmission. To the five of us kids in the backseat, she was driving fine. However, my Dad, sitting in the passenger’s seat knew the apprehension Mom was feeling. Stops on hills with manual transmission for a new driver can be very apprehensive causing worry, angst, and fear. “Will I roll back into the car behind me”, or “Will I release the clutch too quickly causing the car to lurch and stall. What if I stall the car and cause an accident.” The fear of not releasing the clutch while accelerating to move the car forward smoothly to a new driver brings on all these emotions. This is the paralysis of uncertainty and it is where Mom found herself on this particular morning.

The issue is not that people fear change so much as they fear the in-between. What is known is what is comfortable, even if it is not the healthiest of situations. Anything that brings uncertainty into our lives can be paralyzing. People are inclined to stay in the muck and mire of a bad situation rather than risk the unknown of the uncertainty. Not only today, but this was also true in the day of Moses as recorded in the book of Exodus.

God delivered the Israelite nation out of a life of torturing slavery, promising them a land flowing with milk and honey. They celebrated their delivery from slavery. Yet within one week they began to realize the uncertainty and fear of the unknown. They asked why they could not go back to what they knew – even though it was a horrible, captive life.

Why? Because they had not arrived at the new “Promised Land” yet. The entire nation was paralyzed by the uncertainty. It is that time between what we know and arriving at the promised land that we fear. The unknown brings an unsettled mind. It is the uncertainty of the journey and the vagueness of seeing the new reality that causes people to be trepid in accepting a new course.

Making a transition in your personal life or ministry organization requires patience and prayer. Transitions, change, and adjustments no matter to how big or small they may seem to the leaders, will seem insurmountable to some. Be patient, take your time. Introduce transitions slowly and gradually. Teach and equip everyone who is involved and every person who will be impacted about the needed transition, the coming changes, and the benefits of the transition. Listen to their concerns.

Even moving through transitions with patience and equipping, some will dig their heels in. That’s natural and okay. Proceed slowly, methodically, and prayerfully. Allow the Holy Spirit to set the timeline. Too often leaders move forward at their desired speed of transition setting up disastrous outcomes, destroying trust within the church.

As bringing home a newborn baby for the first time requires adjusting to new challenges and a new lifestyle, so transitioning to a church (or even your personal life) can be challenging and joyful at the same time. What will you implement in your life to assist you in identifying and moving through the paralysis of uncertainty? What can you implement in your life and ministry to assist others through their paralysis of uncertainty?

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