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We’ve all heard that life is unpredictable, but what does that really mean? And what can we do about it? This post explains the uncertainty of life and 5 things you can do about it.
If you search ‘life is unpredictable’ on my blog, you’d probably get a list of all my blog posts.
I say it so many times because it’s true.
As if writing this, I’m only 22 years old, but I’ve seen it time and time again.
Life is unpredictable and life is uncertain. Same thing.
Maybe you’ve heard it said like this:
“The one thing certain in life is uncertainty.”Derek Hough
Or like this:
“Uncertainty is the only certainty there is…”John Allen Paulos
But regardless of how it’s said, the point is that we don’t really know what happens next. It’s a truth we have no choice but to accept.
But I won’t lie, it does seem kind of depressing. At least, at first.
Hopefully, by the end of this post, you’ll find that life’s unpredictability is not as bad as it seems to be.
But first, let’s break down what the phrase really means.
What does the phrase ‘life is unpredictable’ mean?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word unpredictable means: ‘not able to be known or declared in advance’.
So when we say ‘life is unpredictable’ it’s often interpreted to mean that in life, things happen that no one could have known would happen in advance.
But there’s also a saying that says ‘there’s nothing new under the sun’ — it can be found in Ecclesiastes 1:9:
“That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun.”Ecclesiastes 1:9 NKJV
This verse basically says that on this Earth, we can expect the same things to happen over and over again. Death and pregnancy, beginnings and ends, natural disasters, the seasons, rain, and sunshine.
The list goes on and on.
So, according to Ecclesiastes, life really isn’t that unpredictable is it?
It is! But the unpredictability is more often in the timing than the event.
I hope that makes sense.
Here are some examples for clarity:
- Someone may start a new job, but would not be able to predict that they would be laid off for one reason or another in 2 years.
- Or you may meet someone at the grocery store but can not predict that in 3 years they would be your spouse.
- Or you may save up hundreds to buy a new phone, but cannot predict that it would slip from your hands and the screen would shatter after just a few months of owning it. (Been there, done that 😭)
The unpredictability of life doesn’t mean that these things have never happened before — people get laid off all the time, people get married every year and phone screens shatter all the time, all around the world.
The unpredictability of life means that the precise timing of an event happening in your own life cannot be predicted.
Sometimes things (both good or bad) happen to you with no warning.
In that way, your life is unpredictable.
Why is life unpredictable?
Here are 3 reasons why life is unpredictable. We:
- only have one life
- don’t know the future
- aren’t God
We only have one life.
If we could live the same life over and over again, of course we’d know exactly what happens next!
But who would want to do that??
We don’t know the future
And there’s no real way for us to predict it either.
Although they sometimes seem to be scarily accurate, horoscopes, palm readings, and all other ways of ‘predicting the future’ are not reliable and cannot make life any less unpredictable for us.
In fact, knowing all the major things that are going to happen next wouldn’t benefit us the way we imagine it could.
But we’ll talk about that a little later.
We aren’t God
Life is only predictable to God because He knows all things.
Isaiah 46:10 says:
“In the beginning, I told you what would happen in the end. A long time ago, I told you things that have not happened yet. When I plan something, it happens. I do whatever I want to do.”Isaiah 46:10 (ERV)
To us, life’s unpredictability can seem to be the worst thing ever, but it isn’t all bad: there’s beauty in it too.
The benefits of life being unpredictable
If we, as humans, could predict everything that would happen, life wouldn’t be half as exciting or wonderful as it can be.
As I mentioned a little while ago: if we knew all the major things that are going to happen next in our lives, it wouldn’t benefit us the way we think it would.
We would miss out on the benefits (yes there are benefits) of life’s unpredictability.
Here are 4 benefits of the unpredictability of life.
- gives us the opportunity to reflect and learn from our mistakes
- grants us peace of mind to enjoy the present
- gives us the vulnerability to trust God
- creates the opportunity to exceed our expectations and surprise us (in a good way)
The opportunity to reflect and learn from our mistakes
If we could predict the good parts of life, we wouldn’t bother to reflect on or learn any lessons from the bad parts.
How many of us would apologize, break bad habits or change for the better if we knew we’d get what we wanted anyway?
Because life is so unpredictable, it forces us to reflect on our actions and their results. In that way, we can grow to make wiser choices, even in the small things.
I failed a course for the first time ever in my 2nd year of university. I had to do it again in the summer because it was mandatory.
If I knew for sure that I would pass the second time, why would I study any harder than I did before?
The peace of mind to enjoy the present
We often think knowing the future would give us assurance, confidence and peace.
But the exact opposite can happen.
If we could predict the bad parts of life, we wouldn’t be able to fully enjoy the good ones. Our minds would be preoccupied with the negative and we’d feel worried, anxious, and afraid.
We would miss out on the joy of life.
The vulnerability to trust God
Life’s unpredictability also teaches us to trust and depend on God.
It shows us that we need to trust Him and His plans and that we need to seek His guidance.
We may not know what happens next, but we can take comfort knowing that He does.
The opportunity to exceed our expectations and surprise us (in a good way)
Lastly, if life was predictable, it wouldn’t have the opportunity to exceed our expectations.
Successes wouldn’t be as rewarding, special moments wouldn’t be so special.
I know that when many of us say that we wish life weren’t so unpredictable, we mean the big things and the bad things.
But to give away life’s unpredictability would mean to give away it’s unpredictability in the small and good moments too.
An unexpected but welcome kiss, a random hilarious moment, a surprising act of kindness, a proposal, a pregnancy, a new job or a business opportunity.
I could go on and on.
It’s only when we take the time to think about it, that we see that a lot of life’s beauty lies in the unpredictable.
What other benefits of life’s unpredictability can you think of? Comment them below!
What to do about the unpredictability of life
Now we know why and how life is unpredictable and we know why this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
What can we do with this information?
Below are 6 tips that can help us become conscious, yet not fearful of life and its uncertainty.
Understand that actions have consequences
Remember that verse in Ecclesiastes which says that there is nothing new under the sun?
The timing may be unpredictable, but some things are predictable.
One way we can prevent ourselves from being unpleasantly surprised by life is by understanding a simple principle:
Our actions and choices have consequences.
The bible says in Galatians 6:7-8:
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.”Galatians 6:7-8 (NKJV)
Simply, this verse tells us that we must expect to face the consequences of our actions.
This is a principle well known by many. Here are some other quotes on the topic:
“It is easy to dodge our responsibilities, but we cannot dodge the consequences of dodging our responsibilities.”Josiah Stamp
“Nothing happens in a vacuum in life: every action has a series of consequences, and sometimes it takes a long time to fully understand the consequences of our actions.”Khaled Hosseini
Bruce Barton says:
“Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things, I am tempted to think there are no little things.”Bruce Barton
What does this principle mean when applied to everyday life?
- If you don’t drink any fluids, you will be thirsty.
- Don’t get enough sleep and you will be tired.
- Present yourself as an unfriendly, selfish, and mean person to everyone and you will feel lonely.
- Spend your money carelessly and you will be broke.
- Fail to prepare and be sure you have prepared to fail.
These are just some basic examples, but I’m sure you can think about some more serious ones in your life.
When you understand that what you do has its consequences, you can make an effort to avoid doing the things that have results you wouldn’t want.
(This may not guarantee that it may never happen, but it can surely help to reduce the consequences.)
If you’re already facing the consequences of something you did in the past, be sure to learn from your mistake so it doesn’t happen again.
Don’t overthink it, but take time to consider what can go wrong.
Try asking ‘what if’.
- I lose my job or my business fails?
- there’s a fire or a flood or some natural disaster?
- I or someone I love falls sick?
There are so many more questions you can ask.
The point of this exercise isn’t to become fearful but to become mindful that life is indeed unpredictable.
And because we know this, we can’t just live recklessly.
Proverbs 22:3 says:
“Wise people see trouble coming and get out of its way, but fools go straight to it and suffer for it.”Proverbs 22:3 (ERV)
This verse tells us that it is foolish to not prepare for any negative thing you are aware of. This can be as simple as bringing along an umbrella after hearing the forecast of rain or a lot more serious.
The concept of insurance
A perfect example of preparing for more serious situations is insurance.
Insurance companies are founded on the knowledge that life is unpredictable. We may not know when or if a fire can be started in our home, but insurance helps us to prepare — just in case.
In the same way, we need to consider what can go wrong in life and prepare.
Again, the Bible tells us that this is important in Proverbs 6:6-11:
Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!
It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest- and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.Proverbs 6:6-11
While we cannot make ourselves completely immune to whatever lies ahead, God has given us the wisdom to make prudent choices and decisions that can help us in the future.
Some things we can do are:
- pray often for guidance
- save and spend wisely
- take care of our health
- show love and appreciation to others
- try to make wise decisions
- do our best in every situation
Related: 8 easy ways to pray without ceasing
These are just a few simple things that have the potential to improve a dismal situation if something bad were to happen unexpectedly.
Another way to become more mindful of life’s uncertainty is to simply say it.
No, I don’t mean saying “life is unpredictable” over and over.
I mean saying a phrase like “God willing” or “if God spare” whenever we make plans, set goals, or speak to others about the future.
This statement may seem subtle but it is a powerful reminder to our own minds that things may not go our way.
This can help to mentally prepare us when life surprises us.
It can also help us feel less disappointed when these surprises are unpleasant.
I talk about something similar in my post: God’s Plan vs Your Plan
When we talk about the future, not only should we acknowledge that it’s all up to God’s will, but we should also remember to stay humble.
James 4:13-16 sums all of this up:
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.James 4:13-16 NKJV
When unexpected things happen, we all need to give ourselves some time to recover from the shock.
So, if something unexpected and unpleasant happens in your life, don’t be afraid to take the time you need to heal.
Among other things, you can:
- Forgive yourself and others
- Go for walks
- Talk to someone you trust
- Visit a counselor or therapist
- Take a break from school or work
Recovering from unpleasant and unexpected events may not be easy or linear, but once you think you are ready, you need to adapt.
Adapting doesn’t mean forgetting, condoning, ignoring, or liking what happened. Rather, it means deciding how you can best live and manage in this new situation.
According to Nick Tasler from the Havard Business Review:
“If we fixate on the limitations of a specific change, we inevitably succumb to worry, bitterness, and despair. Instead, we should choose to accept the fact that change happens, and employ our freedom to decide what to do next.”Nick Tasler from the Havard Business Review
The first steps to adapting to an unpleasant event
- Identify exactly what happened and differentiate between what you can and cannot change.
- Think carefully about how you can move forward
For example, you can:
- Change your expectations and schedule as necessary
- Learn new and useful skills
- Decide whether your goals need to be changed or if you should still pursue them
- Change your strategy
- Understand that it takes time
It is of no use to cry or overthink something that happened forever, but understand that adapting does take time.
The earlier you choose to start the process, the better.
- Know that others have experienced the same thing (or similar)
It can be so encouraging to know that someone else has been in the same situation we have and were able to overcome.
Reading testimonies and stories is a good way to learn about other people who overcame their trials.
- Remember this verse:
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.””John 16:33 (ESV)
Trust God & Be Optimistic
Unpredictable doesn’t mean bad.
Like we saw earlier, life’s unpredictability actually brings beauty to life.
And not just that.
In his book I Heard God Laugh, Matthew Kelly says that the uncertainty of life gives us hope that things will change for the better.
I agree 100%.
It means that even the most dismal situation, can unexpectedly change into a beautiful one.
So, it’s important we try to be optimistic.
I know that’s easier said than done but it becomes a lot more ‘doable’ when we add in the first part of this point: ‘trust God‘.
Trust God’s plan for your life.
One of the most encouraging verses I know is Romans 8:28 which says:
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”Romans 8:28 (NKJV)
Knowing and trusting that God has a plan — a plan that will always work out for our good — can help us be optimistic about all of life’s uncertainty.
This last point is to simply remind us to enjoy life.
Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 says:
I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor–it is the gift of God.Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 (NKJV)
Enjoy time with loved ones, take care of your health and wealth, do your best in all that you do, and appreciate the unexpected blessings of each day.
Like I said earlier: life’s unpredictability shouldn’t make us afraid.
Instead, it should teach us to be humble, to trust God, to take care of what we have, and to enjoy life one day at a time.
Life is unpredictable.
But that isn’t always a bad thing.
By using the tips in this post, we can learn to effectively deal with life’s uncertainty. We can also learn to do this without fear, but with optimism, knowing that all things work for our good.