How Should You React to Life’s Uncertainties?
LIFE is filled with the unexpected. Humans soon find that they cannot always be sure of the way things will turn out. A keen observer of ancient times, wise King Solomon, stated: “The swift do not have the race, nor the mighty ones the battle, nor do the wise also have the food, nor do the understanding ones also have the riches, nor do even those having knowledge have the favor; because time and unforeseen occurrence befall them all.”—Eccl. 9:11.
Yes, often the unexpected happens. While one might expect the best runner to win the race, this is not always the case. An accident may slow him down or overconfidence may be his undoing, resulting in his failing to put forth his best efforts. Caught by surprise, the largest and most powerful army may suffer a humiliating defeat. The wisest of men may be given no opportunity to put their knowledge to work and may die in poverty. Men of unusual skill, instead of enjoying others’ favor, by some quirk of circumstance may fall into disrepute and spend their life in obscurity.
Furthermore, life itself is of uncertain duration. One of the most ancient books, the Bible, puts it this way: “You do not know what your life will be tomorrow. For you are a mist appearing for a little while and then disappearing.”—Jas. 4:14.
Faced with life’s uncertainties, what can we do to make the best of them? Should we strive to get ahead in the world?
That is what many people today do. They center their whole life around material pursuits. A man, for example, may drive himself to get ahead in the world, eventually attaining a prominent position and an excellent income. But what of the price he may have to pay for this? He may have to neglect his family, spending little time with his wife and children, in order to advance himself and to secure his position. In time he may find himself practically a stranger in his own home, unable to communicate with his children. They may have little appreciation for the material comforts he is able to provide for the family. Deprived of needed fatherly guidance, the children may become emotionally unstable. Instead of being able to stand up for what is right, they may readily succumb to pressure from youths their own age. Meanwhile, the man may sacrifice his health and be unable to enjoy the things that he can procure. He may even have a hard time sleeping at night. Finally death can bring everything to nothing. Whatever inheritance is left behind may be squandered by his heirs.
Truly a way of life based solely on the pursuit of materialistic goals is frustrating and empty. It is of no help in coping realistically with life’s uncertainties. But what about living by the principle “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we are to die”? (1 Cor. 15:32) Will such living for today as if there were no tomorrow enable a person to cope effectively with life’s uncertainties?
Well, think about the results that come from living merely for so-called pleasure. Is it not true that many people, especially youths, have ruined their life thereby? Drug addiction, alcoholism, venereal disease, unwanted pregnancies and a host of other social ills are a by-product of unbridled pleasure-seeking. Instead of enabling a person to cope with life’s uncertainties, one’s living only for the present can add to those uncertainties.
But what can we do to cope with the uncertainties of life? For one thing, we cannot ignore these uncertainties, viewing them as if they did not exist. In order to cope with them, we need to recognize them. Because things quickly change, it is wise not to attach undue importance to any sorrow, joy, worldly relationships or possessions. The Bible recommends: Let “those who weep be as those who do not weep, and those who rejoice as those who do not rejoice, and those who buy as those not possessing, and those making use of the world as those not using it to the full.”—1 Cor. 7:30, 31.
This is a realistic view of the way things are in the world. Nothing has any permanence or stability. The world is like a stage, quickly changing from one scene to another. That is why no joy, sorrow, possession or human relationship should be allowed to dominate our lives. Just as undue sadness can be injurious, so can undue attachment even to something that is good. For example, the person who builds his whole life around his relationship to a friend would experience a terrible blow were death or another circumstance to deprive him of association with that one. He would feel as though his whole world had gone to pieces.
It is wise, therefore, not to restrict ourselves when it comes to things and relationships that bring us joy. A broad field of interest can be a real asset in coping with life’s uncertainties. The person having a wide field of interest is less likely to experience a shattering of all his hopes and dreams. Usually not everything turns out bad at the same time. Something worth while always remains.
Moreover, our recognizing that life is short should cause us to give sober consideration to how we are using it. Are we earnestly shunning activities and habits that could ruin our mental, emotional and physical well-being? Are we following the truly wise course? You ask, What would that be?
After surveying human life in an imperfect world, wise King Solomon urged: “Fear the true God and keep his commandments.” (Eccl. 12:13) That is really the foremost way to cope with life’s uncertainties. A wholesome fear or regard for the Creator will move us to do what he commands. This is for our good, since God’s commandments are designed to aid us to get the best from life even now. When heeded, they will enable us, as the Bible says, to ‘remove vexation from our heart, and ward off calamity from our flesh.’—Eccl. 11:10.
One who appreciated the excellent guidelines provided by Jehovah God expressed himself about them as follows: “The judicial decisions of Jehovah are true; they have proved altogether righteous. They are more to be desired than gold, yes, than much refined gold; and sweeter than honey and the flowing honey of the combs. Also, your own servant has been warned by them; in the keeping of them there is a large reward.”—Ps. 19:9-11.
Not even death can destroy the benefits of a person’s ‘fearing the true God and observing his commandments.’ Why not? Because it is God’s purpose to resurrect the dead. The Bible speaks of him as the God “who makes the dead alive and calls the things that are not as though they were.”—Rom. 4: 17.
So, then, the person who uses his time to build a fine relationship with the Creator is really making the best of life, despite its uncertainties. Is this what you are striving to do? Are you allowing the Bible to help you to enjoy the best from life now and in the future?