Walking through Uncertainty

I still feel a bit disoriented since the sudden shift away from “normal” thanks to COVID-19. The uncertainty of future plans is simultaneously unsettling and freeing. In a fresh way, I’ve found myself identifying with Mary Magdalene in John 20, a woman reeling from the disorienting experience of Jesus’ Crucifixion, death, and burial. Nothing is as it was nor will be ever again. I’ve been drawn into this moment with Mary and noticed a few new things.

Lost 

First there are the movements in the scene.

John 20 begins with a lot of running—to the tomb, away from the tomb, back to the tomb. There is a sense of urgency.

Then the scene shifts. Peter and John return to where they were staying, but Mary lingers, crying. I stood there with her, sharing her deep sense of loss. And I noticed that she takes a moment to absorb her loss and to grieve. It was not easy to stand with Mary, but I recognized that it is important to wait here—to mourn with those who mourn.

I’m reminded that in times of transition, especially those that are unexpected, it is good to acknowledge what has been lost and to grieve well. I asked myself anew, “Am I being honest with my emotions?” I was impressed by Mary’s authentic lament, “They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put him!” (see John 20:2). And I asked myself, “Is there a loss I still need to lament in this season of uncertainty?” I coached myself: “Don’t move away from this scene too quickly. Linger as long as necessary.”

Found

Once again, mercifully, there’s movement. A “gardener” enters the scene and asks Mary why she is crying. Mary offers the same lament, but the visitor already knows what is in her heart. In response, he speaks her name. My heart leapt with joy along with Mary’s. Then I looked at Jesus with a newly tender heart as I realized, This is who You are. You see my grief and move toward me. You know what I have lost, but when You speak my name, I find everything I need.

With one word, Jesus redeems all that is lost. A relationship is restored, and Mary finds her joy. With His next words, Mary finds her first steps forward into all that Jesus had planned: “Go to my brothers and tell them” (John 20:17). I rejoiced with Mary as she proclaims to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!”

The writer of Ecclesiastes states that there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens (3:1). The scene I witnessed in John 20 includes all of what is described in Ecclesiastes 3:4 as “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

Life never remains static, and I am often uncertain of what I should do next. I asked myself, “What time is it for me? Is this my moment to grieve well, being honest with myself, God, and others? Is this my moment to notice Jesus approaching me in my grief and loss? Is this my moment to hear Jesus say my name and find myself laughing and dancing? Is this my moment to go and tell others with astonishment and joy what God has done for me?”

Though I am unsure of the answers, I know the Holy Spirit is able to help me. Every moment and every uncertainty can be entrusted to Him. And whether I recognize it or not, He is present in every moment.

Jen Vogel

Jen Vogel

Jen is the national director for Alliance Women; she serves in a variety of ministry capacities, including on the President's Cabinet for The Alliance. She enjoys reading, travel, and completing the New York Times crossword puzzle daily. Jen and her husband, Doug, attend Dover Avenue Alliance Church in Orange City, Iowa.

Five Responses to “Walking through Uncertainty”

  1. I so appreciated your insights and the comparison of the truths between John 20 and Ecclesiastes 3. Thank you for the thought provoking examination of where we might be today and every day and how to ask those questions and then trust the Holy Spirit for the answers and know He will never leave us or forsake us! Thank you!

  2. Thank you for always being Faithful to serving JESUS and sharing His word to us.May He continue comfort to each one.

  3. Thank you Jen. That was so well stated and an important encouragement for all of us who are feeling sense of loss and don’t quite know how to move ahead. You are so right. Jesus always shows up at just the right time and tells us the next step to take. That is all we need! Thank you for your faithful leadership.

  4. Thank you Jen. Such a good word for today. Thank you for guiding us, for always bringing us back to Jesus. Your leadership in Alliance Women is very much appreciated. May God continue to bless you, your team and your family.

  5. This truly hits home for me. I need to allow myself the time and space to grieve. Keeping the loss and sadness bottled up inside does no good, especially in light of all the conflict and sickness of our world today. But even more important it remembering that we have a risen Savior who knows us, the situations in which we find ourselves and our future in His care. Thank you for reminding me to “cast all my cares upon Him for He cares for me.”

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