Sunday 19 April 2015

The God of the "Unknowns"

After a long hiatus, today at service I felt like God whispered to me to write this post. I don't think it'll be a very long one, but I don't know. As the Spirit leads. (Okay after reviewing it, I guess it'll be long, as usual ^^) In this post, when I mention God of the "Unknowns", these "unknowns" would refer to things in the future; things that have yet to happen or things we don't know and are unsure about. This can include transitions to new lifestations, or making an important decision or facing a new situation for the first time. You get the gist. Essentially, "unknowns" are anything that invokes feeling of anxiety, uncertainty and makes you feel like the future is murky. So here I'm talking about the emotions involved in these situations as well as the rational elements. There are many verses that talk about these and address our fears and concerns about them, such as:

Ecclesiastes 3:22 NIV - So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot. For who can bring them to see what will happen after them? 

James 4:13-17 NIV - Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.

Romans 8:28 NIV - And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. 

I fully agree with what these verses say and they are the basis of my trust in God. They are God's covenant with me and the promises that I have come to fully believe and hung on to in times of uncertainty. What I really want to write about today is really how I rationalize with myself (using such verses to supplement my logic) that at the end of the day the "unknowns" are actually a gift in themselves!


Many of our concerns with the "unknowns" (I will use this term again and again to refer to all those stuff, since we all grapple with different aspects of them.) originate from our fears and emotions. In one of my NUS modules, I learnt that this is an aspect of culture - Uncertainty Avoidance. (Geert Hofstede in his 1980 book, 'Culture's Consequences'). Singapore's score is stated to be not very high but I'm not sure of the recency of this particular poll. Either way, uncertainty avoidance is defined as 
"a society’s tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity. It indicates to what extent a culture programs its members to feel either uncomfortable or comfortable in unstructured situations. Unstructured situations are novel, unknown, surprising, and different from usual. Uncertainty avoiding cultures try to minimize the possibility of such situations by strict laws and rules, safety and security measures..."
I would think our Singaporean culture somehow has quite significant an effect on our personal uncertainty avoidance level. On top of that, our individual personality, values, thinking process and so on would also affect that. Frankly, I have been blessed to have many qualities that make me naturally favorably disposed to "unknowns". It is my wish that as I share my thought process with you, it'll help you to consolidate what promises and assurance that God has given us through these verses.

#1 The "unknowns" are FUN.
I know some of you are probably thinking: Sean = crazyboy91. What use is fun? It's impractical; not biblical; not important; I don't like "fun stuff" and so on. Well, when I say fun, I mean fun. What's fun for you is not fun for me. Painting nails is not fun for me, but it is for you; Dota is fun for me, but not for you. So when I say fun, it means FUN for YOU. And how do you know it's fun before you tried it? You don't, but God created you, so He knows you and what is fun for you. (and that's a fact btw) And before you go off linking God's fun with stuff like SpongueBob Squarepants, I want you to think about some other slightly more challenging childhood games you played before. Tetris, Neopets, Runescape, Sudoku, war/mass games, be it physical or mental activity; all these are fun AND challenging at the same time right? Senseless fun is like watching Spongebob Squarepants. But no, God loves you way more that. He wants you to have meaningful and purposeful fun that leaves you with a sense of accomplishment. 

Ecclesiastes 3:13 NIV - That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil - this is the gift of God.

I interpret pleasure = fun from this verse. The Hebrew word means desirable, satisfaction, goodness. Toil in Hebrew is just... toil. Fun is really vital in life. They help you forget the current realities and look towards the future. It's like when you're feeling somewhat down and you hear something really funny over the radio; it just perks you up. Also, important stuff which are not fun also seems somewhat mundane or hard to swallow doesn't it? A 90-120 mins lecture is too dry, but a joke or two in between helps you remember stuff. Lastly, having fun makes the difficult moments pass faster. When you're enjoying your favorite activities, time seems to just fly by right? Similarly. So I really believe that having fun in your life allows God to have your way in you more. 

Frankly, in my life, just like yours, there are so many "unknowns" that have driven me nuts. Unabashedly, because I am in university, these has often come in the form of not knowing how an exam paper/assignment/submission will turn out. Sometimes, it's about whether people I have been outreaching to/discipling will respond favorably. Sometimes, it's about what my career options will be, how I spend my summer break; how do I stand-up for my faith against non-Christians; how people will look at me when I trust in God's word and do something unconventional. Just as many times I have felt these way and still chose to trust in God's leading and promises, just as many times I see effects that blew my mind: I had LOADS of fun/satisfaction/desires and dreams come to pass. Imagine "unknowns" don't exist. Imagine they all became friendly and change to "knowns". Would you feel satisfied doing this kind of paper??

No way right. Likewise, "unknowns" must exist for things to become truly meaningful fun. Else it's just like ------------------------------->
(Nothing wrong with senseless fun but if you do this for days and days there's no way it'll be fun right?)

On the other hand, I understand that some "unknowns", if they happen, would not be "fun" in anyway.What fun is it to have a loved one pass away or undergo trials and tribulations? What fun is there to see people (including yourself) suffer? And here I want to say that "fun" is not always derived from the circumstances/context directly. In fact, I think the word "fun" is not appropriate here. But whatever the word we use, I would encourage you to look at reality and see God. Much as He is a fun God, He doesn't do things for fun. He does things for you. So don't frown and write Him off just because what He does did not seem "fun" to you in anyway. He wants to meet your needs in the way only He can, sometimes through the use of very specific negative circumstances. Let Him.

#2 The "unknowns" allow us to dream.
I'm sure all of us have dreams, either right now or in the past. What are dreams? One of the definition of a dream is a cherished ambition/aspiration.The "unknowns" are what stand in between us and our dreams. If we know EXACTLY how we are going to get there, is that a a dream, or a goal? I know often they are used interchangeably, but here I want to focus on the absurdity and impossibility of dreams. Goals are often what we work towards in certainty; we know how to get there, but a dream is something only God can grant and bring us to. Without the "unknowns", we can simply walk towards our dreams-turned-goals. How do we dream then? Just like with fun, some of you may think this is impractical; you rather not have the emotional roller coaster treatment; you have very little tolerance for uncertainty. My honest reply is: "Get a life." A life without dreams is mechanical. (But I'm sure that there are some robots in human skin walking around in this world!) What brings you truly alive? I dare not say that all of you will say the same thing, but I'm sure that many would say things that imply pursuing a passion/dream and naturally, to see it come to pass. 

John 10:10 NIV - The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, i have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

And I believe that the God who came to give us life and to make us alive would not rid us of all dreams. He may remove the current one and give us the one He intended us to spend our whole life pursuing. But surely He knows our heart and soul better than ourselves; He knows dreams (pursuing or fulfilled) are essential to living, in the long run, (aren't there times when you "don't know what your purpose is"?). I don't have a bible verse for this, but it seems to be the case for many people I know and myself included. This is the God I know.

Furthermore, for God to give us His dreams for us and make His dreams our dreams, it takes a process. There are things in your life you grow to like right. They call this "acquired taste" in foods and a love-hate relationship in studies and BGR. The common story: 

'I hate this subject/module very much, but after some time I actually kind of quite like it.' 
'I really didn't like this person at the start but after sometime we kind of... you know, got together.'
'I hate capsicums, till I became a farmer.' 

Whatever. These "unknowns" prepare us for these dreams. If we knew at the start what God desires for us, we will either 1) run towards it or 2) run away from it. The former is great, isn't it? (assuming you KNOW how to run there correctly) But the latter is especially dangerous. We may end up running away from it and into hell in our folly. I know this in my life and I truly regret it. In recent times, due to some circumstances I ended up asking God if there is a specific something that He wants to put in my life in the future. And for the first time in my life I sense such a different and grave response from God - I wasn't supposed to even venture into this area until much much later; it felt like I've threaded on forbidden ground. And it's kind of too late now. I don't know why it happened or how come God didn't stop me until then, but all I know is that this is done. Now I'm not so sure whether I'll run towards it or from it. Truthfully, I am unable to move AT ALL, because I'm simply not sure about whether I want that or not. I'm not sure how this would ultimately affect my dreams or my future. Yet I pray that you would not end up where I am, because God wants to lead you and groom you till He can give you a dream that you would make your own. He wants you to desire your dream's pursuit and passing willingly and committedly, in His timing, not stuck.

Currently, I have a dear dear dear wish about using Dota to serve God. Because of the "unknowns", often I stumble and am not sure how exactly to proceed. While praying, God spoke to me and tell me that with regards to this, I have to "wait and see". From when it started, I have joined a competition, made many many new friends that I am currently outreaching to. And on the horizon there is possibility of a school-wide Dota competition in faculty level which I hope I can join. Each step, indeed, God reveals. For me, its "wait, and see". For Him, its' "I can't wait to show you, but only when it's the right time, when it's good for you". The question I really hope we all can ask ourselves is this: Do you REALLY want to get there yourself?

The Cost of the Known

Knowing really have a lot of costs. Adam and Eve knew about good and evil after eating the Fruit of Knowledge, and then they knew about their shame and their sins. Initially, God wanted them to focus on His relationship with them and the work He has assigned for them. But as you know, after they realize all the "knowns", oops. They could not work, since they were conscious of their nakedness. Neither can they face God, because of their sins and shame. Do you think its possible for them to hide this fact from God? Suppose they continue working and talking to God as normal. Frankly, I don't think this will make a difference. Firstly, how can you live with yourself? Imagine walking down a crowded road stark naked and then telling bewildered passer-bys:" Hey, what's wrong? Ain't this normal? We're born without clothes you know. This is ORGANIC!" No way. No. Secondly, "Do not be deceived. God cannot be mocked. A man will reap what he sows." (Galatians 6:7) I'm sure God will know about it, one way or another, if not already. 

So I guess the message of this Genesis 2 and 3 passage is: There is no need to know, by right. Just follow the One who knows. God will take care of His creations. In the same way, He has and will continue to take care of us. Personally, I think that eventually, God may somehow slowly teach Adam and Eve about these things, because He loves them and wants to talk to them at the same level (I feel it'd be quite boring to talk about animals and trees and plants for eternity). Perhaps what was poisonous in the Fruit of Knowledge is not about the knowledge, but the inclination to sin (or perhaps sin was bred from the act of eating and the knowledge is the understanding that they have sinned). Whatever the case, we can see how God slowly teaches his favored people, the Israelites, about His laws, goodness and love over the hundreds and thousands of years of history. From having and knowing nothing but oral tradition, to laws, to nations, to kingdoms and a civilized society in a sense. Here, I'm not implying that we should be clueless and not find out more or be totally passive about our dreams. What I want to say is that there are costs to the "known" beyond what God has allowed for us to know and personally taught us. Desiring to know these will damage our dependence on God and impede His plans for us. And you know that, with a mini-reminder from me, there are no fun stuff, dreams, ambitions that is more important than God (I'm reminding myself here too). These are definitely important, but definitely less so.

How to face the "unknowns", practically speaking?

Having said all that, I'm sure that most of you already have that in your mind knowledge, and perhaps in your heart as well. Here I want to provide some practical tips on how to face the "unknowns" courageously and smartly. It goes without saying that God is already included in these. The dependence is still on God who makes the way, who leads you through the unknowns and gives you the best replies to face each "unknowns". Here are just methods to make your mind and flesh submit to your desire to follow God.

#1 Be lazy, like me (if you can!)
Unlike most people, this grace was given me: I have this extreme innate laziness to help me. That means, I can easily ignore/disregard stuff because the alternative is just too bothersome. So I can face "unknowns" easier than most because I will find it WAY MORE BOTHERSOME to think about alternatives/panic/eat my own words/re-do this whole sh** later on. (if you're selectively lazy then... you're just procrastinating, not lazy!) So I just let the wave of "unknowns" come and then stare at them in their face.

#2 Turn off your brain
If you're a really hardworking and non-lazy dude :P, then you can try this for "unknowns" lasting a few moments/minutes; e.g. to give a reply about a decision; to face a particularly unpleasant setting/meeting for a short while: You need to turn off your brain. Emotions, though linked to the heart, originates from your brain. The limbic system, to be exact. Your thoughts and actions are significantly affected by your emotions. But hey, if you stop thinking and simply move your body and your mouth, it's way easier. If you don't know how to stop thinking or stone at will, let me suggest something. Just ask yourself this ultimate question. Are you ready? Here goes:
"What shall I eat for lunch/dinner/supper?"
Think of the things you want to eat. Your cravings, where to find the cheapest stall, is it convenient, how should you get there, how long should you spend eating, whether you should add noodle/rice/chilli, what drinks to go along with it. Oh God, just think of the perfect meal that you're going to eat! It works. Try it yourself. Oh, if you're really not used to it then another excellent tip is to intentionally (if you're able to) sleep really late and/or make yourself super tired prior to it, if possible. You know how you simply want to get things done and go to sleep when you're in this mode? How ABSOLUTELY NOTHING matters as much as your bed? Yup, make your mind and flesh do your will. They are your friends, you know.

For "unknowns" that are for long periods of time or will only happen in the future, you have to choose to chuck it out of your mind. The food cravings or sleepiness won't be sufficient (though they can help when you over-think), since they are temporary measures. What I personally would do would probably be the same as you: find more information, ask for advice from people, pray and ask God, wait for things to happen and so on. But in the meantime, I would find something else to do that is equally important, if not more. Idle hands and minds usually only causes more problems. And the truth is that this is way more efficient in using time and resources. What do you do in an exam when you see a question you can't do? Skip it, right. And come back later. Yes, you're worried about the question and it's natural, but harping on it and spending half the allocated time to solve it is probably not worth it. If its worth 30/100, ouch. But it's not very worth it to trade the other 70. But some of your "unknowns" are 1/100. So it's definitely not efficient to stay there.

#3 Prepare an escape plan to bolster your courage 
Often we just need that slight push. Sometimes family and friends are there to provide moral support to egg us on. Sometimes we don't have that, and sometimes it's not enough. Then, an escape plan usually helps. We fear the "unknowns" because we fear the possible consequences, but what if you don't have to face them? What if you can live to fight another day? Then it's not so scary right. If in a presentation or exam or some important event, you can have a pause button and resume whenever you like (after making adjustments or additional preparations), hey there's no fear at all! That's the purpose of the escape plan. However, my encouragement is that though you have it, don't use it. It's just too bothersome to do it ALL OVER AGAIN. And you won't enjoy repeating it. Once you start, don't turn back anymore. God has your backing, after all :) Oh for a good escape plan, do ask God. But usually, God Himself should be all the courage you need yo. Use this just for a slight boost!

#4 Pray
Nothing helps as much as prayer. We all know this. Before any important thing and we find ourselves with spare time, surely we would pray. The important thing is to realize that there is no equivalent of prayer in facing our "unknowns". Not talking to even more people, not a better escape plan, not more laziness. Nothing. Prayer is the magic bullet.

Philippians 46:7 NIV - Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

#5 Remember what God has done
Today during a church meeting, there was a teaching in Deuteronomy 8 about how the Israelites faced a great deal of uncertainty when they left Egypt and was going to enter the Promised Land. Moses, in one of hist last teachings to the Israelites, reminded them of how they should be like in the Promised Land. He told them to remember God's testings, teachings, providence and care and discipline. Like us, sometimes before we face this "unknowns" remembering what God has done in our lives will encourage us. One of my modules taught me about this phenomenon called the "recency effect". In short, it means that what has happened recently will shape our expectations of what is to come. Bask in your memory of the good and faithful God, whose character and love for you has never and will never change, and you will surely gain the courage to face what is ahead :)


"Unknowns" are ultimately a gift of God. It is the divine protection of a loving Father who wants to walk with us every step of this journey on Earth. Though our preference for "knowns" is innate, very often our reaction to "unknowns" reflect our trust in Him. Let Him be proud of you when you choose to stand firm against "unknowns" because you know He will always want to prosper you; let Him come to your aid and assure you when the "unknowns" are wrecking you. Jesus Himself may have some concerns about His "unknowns", but He still submitted to God's purpose and was given the Name that is above all Names. May we, like Jesus, humbly submit to God's purposes, both in the "unknowns" and the "knowns", for

Ephesians 1:11-12 NIV - In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory.


  1. I agree unknowns are placed by God for us on the leaning of trust. And, there is sense in the fun unlike senseless fun of the world because we are continually making sense in Him, even though it may seem upon us we are different and not belonging to this world. Yup, and God is higher than hope, higher than dreams. How can we register the understanding of this entirety but to exalt this One Thing.

    With unknowns, I think it is given by God to let us to enjoy our current season in its fullness, whatever the season. It a guide for the season of our lives. :)

    On a sidetrack we experience anxiousness and nervousness towards the future but that is a good thing because we are anticipating, things are getting exciting and God has built this physiological stress response, or heightened pain perception for the impending fight-or-flight situation to prepare us. I thank God for feelings of fear and pain for pain and the unknown because it is a sign my body is healthy, and sensory network reveals the design of a Creator. :)