“Instantly he could see the town below now, coiling in a thousand fumes of homely smoke, now winking into a thousand points of friendly light its glorious small design, its aching passionate assurances of walls, warmth, comfort, food, and love” (Thomas Wolfe).
WHETHER WE RECOGNIZE IT OR NOT, WE ALL NEED ASSURANCE. In an uncertain world, we search for safety. We need some things we can be sure of, and we’re drawn to scenes like that described by Thomas Wolfe, where there are “walls, warmth, comfort, food, and love.” These are, as he says, “aching passionate assurances.”
Unfortunately, many of the things to which we look for assurance are either unachievable or undependable. For example, if our security depends on knowing what’s going to happen tomorrow (or worse, controlling what happens tomorrow), we’re not going to have much peace of mind. Similarly, if we have to have a certain amount of money or social status to feel secure, we may find that kind of assurance hard to come by. As creatures who need assurance, it’s time we see this world for what it is: an ephemeral environment full of unpredictable changes. The sooner we’re uprooted from “all earth-born securities and assurances” (Thomas Kelly), the better off we’ll be.
Hannah Hurnard wrote about “the assurance to wait patiently.” Ultimately, our confidence must be in principles and realities that transcend the ups and downs of the present world. But even when our faith is solidly grounded, we still need the discipline to wait patiently. The end of the story has not yet been written for any of us, and we must get a grip on our thinking. When tempted to fear, we must remember that the “law of the farm” can be counted on. Whatever happens in the short-term, a good harvest will eventually be ours if we’ve cultivated our lives according to valid long-term principles.
In short, there is going to be some uncertainty during the years of our earthly sojourn, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing we can be sure of. As Blaise Pascal reminded us, “It is not certain that everything is uncertain.” Thankfully, there are many truths we can count on, and these are the assurances that should guide our lives.
“There is no such thing as absolute certainty, but there is assurance sufficient for the purposes of human life” (John Stuart Mill).