The Need for Certainty - The Warrior's Journey®

The Need for Certainty

Author: Brendon O'Dowd, USAF (Ret.)

Training for Special Tactics. Photo by US Air Force is licensed under CC By 2.0

I have a fear of even-numbered problems. That may sound irrational or silly, but it’s a real fear. When the teacher would assign homework, I would dread even-numbered problems because the answers in the back of the book only covered the odd numbers. Doing even-numbered problems meant I could never be certain if I had the right answer. And I have a need for certainty.

The Comfort Zone

Certainty keeps me safe, gives me confidence, and makes things easy. Uncertainty produces fear, doubt, pain, and makes things difficult. So, in an effort to find certainty, I take opinion-polls from those around me. I want to know about the best restaurants, the best driving routes, and even their thoughts on previous decisions I made.

In day to day conversations, I slip in the question “right?” at the end of sentences to ensure agreement with what I am saying. You can see the problem—I am trying to find certainty in an uncertain world. I want life to be like a math textbook with answers in the back.

Military members deal with uncertainty. Scheduled deployments don’t seem so scheduled, exercises and inspections take more time than we anticipate, and standards, regulations, and uniforms are continually being updated. This uncertainty places a burden on our families because routines and boundaries help families cope (and even thrive) with the military lifestyle.


This need for certainty is nothing new. Jesus was asked hundreds of questions about politics (should we pay taxes?), laws (which is the greatest?), and religion (how to obtain eternal life?). Interestingly, Jesus rarely gave a straight or certain answer. He made his questioners struggle. Why would He do that?

Perhaps it is because life is not always about having the right answer.

Maybe life is more about having the right relationship that leads to a transformation.

If you are like me that sounds scary because transformation is all about change, and change is far from certain. But change is what we desperately need (Romans 12:2).

This does not mean there is a lack of certainty with God. We can be certain that if we put our trust in Jesus, our failures and guilt will be taken care of (John 5:24, 1 John 1:9). Those words may sound cliché and overused, but trust is something we do on a regular basis. We trust that the government will follow through on its guarantee to pay us on a regular basis. We may have doubts about our pay at times, but for the most part, we operate based on that promise.

Secure Confidence

It should be no different with God. He has told us that any debt we have accumulated against Him due to our failures and mistakes is taken care of. Jesus willingly agreed to “cancel” our debt (Colossians 2:14).

We can also be certain that anything we do for God is never a waste (1 Corinthians 15:58). He even uses our mistakes, failures, and weaknesses for His glory and our good (Romans 6–8).

We don’t have to worry about having the right answer because we have the right God who is present and at work in our lives.

Is your need for certainty driving you to be impossible to live with? Is it creating anxiety and dread that keeps you awake at night? Today is a day to remember the guarantees we have from God about living certain in an uncertain world. Put your trust in Him today.

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