Working for an Unknown Future

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By Robert Martin, reprinted from the Salt & Light Australia Daily Devotional.

Years ago, when I was employed as a marketing analyst, my boss warned against “paralysis by analysis.” He was cautioning against spending so much time analyzing that we never actually made a decision or took any action. This is the idea raised in Ecclesiastes 11:4-5:

4 Whoever watches the wind will not plant;
   whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.
5 As you do not know the path of the wind,
   or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb,
so you cannot understand the work of God,
   the maker of all things.

The demands of the working life require good decisions about what will happen in the future. This is particularly critical when running a business and is most prescient in investments and funds management. Decisions every day require good judgement:

Is what I’m about to say going to be taken well?
Is this person going to work out in our team?
Is this company a good investment opportunity?
Do we have the courage to try this new initiative?

We can analyse, assess, plan and project, but unless we “have a go,” we’ll never reap any rewards – whoever looks at the clouds will not reap. Hence the Bible here is encouraging us to have a go.

The reason Ecclesiastes gives that we can have a go is that we’re not God. We don’t know everything and we can’t understand everything.

Acknowledging and reflecting on this can take the sting out of our anxieties or worries regarding getting our predictions, forecasts, projections or budgets drastically wrong. Indeed there is a joke about economists:

An economist is an expert who will know tomorrow why the things he predicted yesterday didn’t happen today.

Yet, in many ways, this is to be expected if we’re not God! We can’t and never will know everything about the future.

But the encouragement from Ecclesiastes here is that we can rest. We can rest knowing that we can have a go – take a punt – fully aware that that our best predictions and budgets will never be perfect.

Importantly, despite this, the Bible goes on to ensure that we’re not therefore fatalistic, mindless or idle. We don’t just “let go and let God.” The passage goes on to affirm hard work and thoughtful productivity in the context of the providence and control of the Lord. Ecclesiastes 11:5-6:

Sow your seed in the morning,
   and at evening let your hands not be idle,
for you do not know which will succeed,
   whether this or that,
   or whether both will do equally well.

So we can sow our seed, let God do the work, and trust God with the outcome. We can be productive in a variety of ventures because life is uncertain. In this we can be busy and trust in the Lord. It’s not inappropriate to work hard and yet still be trusting in the Lord.

So today, sow your seed, make some decisions and keep working hard and trusting God to the outcome.

Prayer: Father, today, help me to make good decisions, knowing that I can’t know the future in full. Help me to be wise and also active and productive. And in all things, help me trust you.

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