New Y

2019: What we can and can't know

The prospect of a new year brings many uncertainties. But what if it didn’t have to? What if we could find out what lies ahead? Many try, through fortune tellers, clairvoyants, mediums and so on. In general, we would be right to be sceptical. A couple of years ago, a tweet about a clairvoyant’s show being cancelled due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’ went viral. If the dictionary defines them as ‘someone who claims a supernatural ability to perceive events in the future’, then cancelling a show due to unforeseen events is a bit of a hint that such a claim is unfounded. And yet people continue to turn to them. In words attributed to the novelist G. K. Chesterton, ‘When a man stops believing in God he doesn't believe in nothing, he believes in anything’.

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And yet God does not forbid his people from consulting fortune-tellers and mediums because they do not work – the only extended description of a medium in the Bible features someone being successfully called up from the dead. Rather, the prohibition is because going down this route will stop us relying on God.

God wants his people to seek information about the future in a different way from those around them. God does tell us what lies ahead – but he does so in big picture terms. We don’t need to know the details, and we couldn’t cope if we did.

What we can be certain of is that God’s plans for his people are ‘plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope’. That doesn’t mean this life will be easy. Many of God’s people around the world face persecution for their faith. Christians aren’t exempt from illness (physical and mental), tragedy, bereavement and family conflict. Jesus said ‘in this world you will have trouble’. But he also claimed that ‘everyone who believes in me will have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day’. 

One of the great uncertainties for many is what comes after death. Even many who are devoutly religious hope they’ll be in Heaven, but are not sure they have done enough to get over the line. That is one thing we don’t need to be in darkness about, however. If we’re hoping that we’ll be good enough to make it, we’ll never get there – but if our faith is in Jesus, our future is secure.

Published in the Stranraer and Wigtownshire Free Press, 27th December 2018