At 4:45 in the morning, I launched myself out of bed in a fit of rage. “Seriously, Finn?” I shouted at my cat as I pounded my feet towards the stairway. Realizing my head had yet to catch up to its violent awakening and that I didn’t really want to start my morning pummeling head first down the stairs, I paused, closed my eyes, and took an angry inhale.
For the past 6 months we have been dealing with health issues with our cat. What started as random bouts of itching turned into aggressive scratching, missing patches of fur, and open cuts on his face, ears, and chin. After numerous trips to the vet, visits with a holistic pet nutritionist, a complete diet overhaul, and various medications, our question remains; why won’t he stop itching?
Sometimes he gets better and we think we’ve turned a corner, and then other days it’s as if he’s attempting to scratch his whiskers off. This maniacal behavior combined with perpetual repetition – enough to wake one up in the wee hours of the morning – is what transforms an innocent unknown into an exasperated conniption.
“Go downstairs, Finn!” I yelled as I stomped to the first floor where I could close a few doors to lock him out of our bedroom and prevent myself from hearing him itch. In my sleepy stupor, I tripped over his water bowl, sent a wave of water onto the wood floor, and drenched my foot in the puddle I created. My fury erupted in a passionate “UGHHHH!!”
Seriously, Lord? I thought. I can’t do this anymore.
As I climbed back into bed, despite the looming cloud of madness, I knew deep down that the root of my anger wasn’t my cat. It wasn’t the fact that he was itching or even that he woke me up for the 26th time way before the sun came up. The problem was, as soon as I heard Finn itching, my mind immediately jumped on the anxious hamster wheel of unknowns. Could it be food related even though we’ve already switched him several times? What’s wrong with our house? Is there some unidentified allergen? What if it’s bad for my health too? What if we never figure out what causes the issue? What if he never stops itching? What if he dies because of it?
Each of these questions, anxiety producing in their own rite, is strung together with one common denominator – how do I deal with the unknown?
Embracing the unknown as a child of God
Sitting on the cold, brown leather couch in my counselor’s office one month, I recounted how one of the stressors impacting my anxiety recently was a barrage of unknowns, one of them being this unrelenting struggle to understand my cat’s itchiness. I told her that my biggest struggles with unknowns are fear of worst case scenarios, fear of failure, and the troubling lack of control; and I vocalized my understanding that the surplus of hours spent trying to manipulate a situation that is simply out of my control was a very slippery slope launching me into a sticky pit of anxiety.
After listening to me share and affirming the validity of my frustration she said, “Embracing the unknown is an important part of being a child of God.”
Processing that truth for a moment, I took a deep resigning breath and agreed – she is 1000% correct. We have an awesome God who reveals who He is through His word, but we cannot and will not know everything about how He operates or how everything in our lives will take shape. There’s both beauty and conviction in this truth.
Before Jesus went to the cross, He talked to the disciples about when He would return to earth for a second time and said, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.” (Mark 13:32-33 NIV) Jesus was fully human and fully God, and yet He too lived in the tension of unknowns.
If we want to follow Jesus and truly surrender our lives to Him, we must recognize that an important aspect of trusting God is embracing the truth that there will always be an element of unknown in our lives.
Shifting our perspective
A month ago, I pursued yet another attempt to minimize my cat’s itchiness – I bought an air purifier. I spent several days researching options and landed on one with glowing reviews regarding allergies. Maybe this will be it! Maybe this will finally banish the itch! I thought.
Amazon dropped the package on my front porch a few days later and I frantically opened the box and got the unit up and running. I had no idea if this would actually work, but I was extremely hopeful and truthfully, quite a bit desperate at this point.
“Please, Lord. Let this be it! Let this be the solution,” I prayed over and over again.
In the quiet of my bedroom as I listened to the whir of the machine at work, I heard the Lord convict me – Mindy, yet again you are putting your hope in something unpredictable, something you do not know, when you could be placing your hope in ME.
We may not know what God has in mind, but we do know WHO He is. We know that He is an almighty God. He is a Healer. He is our protector. He advocates for us. He sympathizes with our pain. He loves us SO much that He sent His son to save us from the separation created by sin. And He does not leave us to fend for ourselves in the unknowns.
When we fix our eyes on who God is, we shift our perspective and suddenly the things unknown seem much more manageable.
I’m still tempted to entertain thoughts about worst scenarios; I don’t love the lack of control; and I’m afraid that this most recent attempt at fixing Finn’s itchiness will fail. BUT, I’ve learned that by putting my trust in God, I no longer need to live under the weight of those what ifs. I can free myself of their doom and gloom by speaking truths about who God is and knowing that I am under his loving care.
I don’t know if Finn’s itchiness will be healed on this side of heaven, but I know that God is with me and will love me, guide me, and give me strength to endure whatever comes my way.
Friends, if you are living in the midst of an unknown and wrestling with the weight of its existence, let me proclaim this truth; living with unknowns is not a punishment – it’s an opportunity to relinquish control and place our trust in the One who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.
We are living in the tension of unknowns together; You are not alone in this. If you need an ear to listen, and a voice to remind you of the goodness of our Father, please reach out. I’m here for you.
Together, let’s walk humbly in the direction God leads us and know that He will give us strength as we navigate this world full of unknowns.