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Dave Brisbin

Still Small Voice

One of the world’s top psychiatry journals published a study on the source of emotional disorders, and the takeaway was that “depression and anxiety are linked to an intolerance of uncertainty.” Intolerance of uncertainty. Says it all. Don’t know if we needed a study for that, but good to know the science validates common sense.

We can’t even know tomorrow’s weather with certainty: uncertainty creates fear, and inability to accept fear as part of life causes us either to seek more and more information to answer endless questions or just pretend the questions are already answered—both of which create emotional disorder.

Irony is, as we’re working to eradicate uncertainty from life, it is uncertainty that is the engine of spiritual and psychological growth. It is only at the end of logic, the precipice of rational thought when one more step takes us into complete unknown that a quantum leap, spiritual awakening, radical change is possible. Buddhists call this the “great doubt,” the point of complete surrender to something entirely new, the breakthrough to “beginner’s mind,” seeing everything as if for the first time.

To come to doubt everything we think we know, the very assumptions we accept as reality, is what Jesus calls his Way, the only way to Father/Truth. Jesus is cultivating great doubt when he tells us to sell everything, pick up our cross daily and deny ourselves, hate father and mother and all familiar conventions of life, let the dead bury the dead—all images of that one step beyond the precipice, the surrender to something old wineskins could never contain.

Every person of faith described in scripture takes this same necessary step into uncertainty: Noah, Abraham, Moses, Paul, Peter, Elijah. Only after Elijah runs from the spectacular certainty of Mt. Carmel into the great doubt of the wilderness of Mt. Sinai, does he recognize God in a still, small voice. Beyond the certainty of wind, fire, and earthquake, there is an utter difference only utter silence can describe.

Only those reborn as utterly unknowing and uncertain as they were the first time, will hear.


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  • Nan monk

    It’s strange why we let uncertainty take us to fear instead of joyful anticipation or just simply being in the mystery.

    March 9, 2022

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