Each morning at my church, our staff team has “house time” where someone shares a short devotional thought that we discuss and then we close in prayer. Last week our Lead Pastor shared this article, which talked about how certainty in faith can be hard to come by, but rather than certainty, confidence in Christ may actually be what we should seek.
I resonated with this, and I went back to my office struck by the contrast between certainty and confidence and began to think about why that contrast seemed so sharp. To help me, I did a word search in the New Testament on confidence and certainty, just to see how and when they were used. As I read, it seemed to me that confidence is a more relational way of trusting and knowing, whereas certainty felt more antiseptic and head-oriented. A scientist can be certain that a formula yields a particular result, but they can only be confident that a friend truly loves them. Confidence gives room for wiggle and seems to give room for warmth. Interestingly, it gives room for failure, too, because it’s not 100% certain. If I tell one of my tutoring kids that I am confident that they can do it, it means that I believe in them, that I know their abilities, and I trust them. To be certain requires little trust or relationship, it’s just a fact. In matters of faith, certainty seems to put the burden on me – if I have really checked my facts, brought my head into complete alignment and intellectual satisfaction, only then can I be certain. But confidence puts the weight on the Lord and my relationship with Him. I am not certain about a lot of things with God and never will be, but I am confident in Him and in my relationship with Him.
The New Testament writers preferred confidence to certainty when expressing our relationship to God and our ability to depend on Him. We are encouraged to approach the throne of God with freedom and confidence; we are confident that He who began a good work will bring it to completion; we can approach God with confidence; we can enter His presence with confidence; we can say with confidence that He is my helper; we have confidence that we will receive from Him. All of these were from Scripture. The only “certain” verse in the epistles was in Hebrews 11 which describes faith as being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
When I hear the word certainty, I think of my head. When I think of confidence, I imagine my heart and soul. I try and wrap my mind around certainty, but confidence is a core, relationally-anchored knowing. God is too big, to amazing, to mysterious for me to box Him into certainty in all areas of life. But God is my Father, my Savior, and my friend, which allows me deep confidence to trust Him in the mess and joys of everyday life.