No one knows quite what the future holds and in the words of an oft-used quote: “Uncertainty is the only certainty there is.”
We all crave a sense of reassurance in our lives and January always brings with it plenty of predictions for the year ahead. However, if history is anything to go by, our track record of predicting the future isn’t all that great. The results of the 2017 general election took everyone by surprise; no one saw the global financial crisis of 2007 coming; and many will remember the eve of the Great Storm in 1987, when Michael Fish warned that things might get a little breezy, but nothing more.
A desire to see the future is not a new phenomenon and the Old Testament is full of prophecies about what’s to come. But there is a clear difference between prophecies and predictions. Predictions give us a sense that there is little we can do to shape the course of our future and often become self-fulfilling, if we consider ourselves powerless in the face of inevitability.
Prediction or prophecy?
Prophecies, on the other hand, don’t just give us a vision for the future, they inspire action in the present. The words of the Old Testament prophets Jeremiah, Isaiah and Ezekiel may have cast a grim outlook on the fate of humanity, but they also invited and encouraged change. All is not lost, as we read in Jeremiah 4:14-15, “But Jerusalem, there is still timefor you to be saved.”
The themes of social justice, corruption and poverty that run throughout the prophetic books of the Old Testament are as real for us today as they were thousands of years ago. And their rallying cry to action is as clear too.
We aren’t just called to accept the future, we’re called to shape it; and that job starts right now.
Uncertainty vs Hope
With our eyes firmly on God we can navigate the uncertainty of the future with a certainty of hope. Andrew Selous, the MP for South West Bedfordshire, recently gave some wise words on the subject, “Christian hope is not optimism, but unshakeable faith in the future,” he said. “In despair, we can have hope. Hope can transform societies.”
Hope is that force which propels us forward into the unknown future, while giving us the reassurance, patience and strength to do what we need to do today. As Mother Theresa said, “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”