Learning to Accept – and Embrace – Uncertainty
Author: Maggie Bainbridge
I love (LOVE) having a plan. When I was in high school, I had planned to be a nun, which ended when I fell in love my freshman year of college.
College: I decided I was going to be a doctor, but then developed an allergy to formaldehyde.
Graduate school: I was going to earn my Ph.D. in analytical chemistry. While working on my masters I met Bill, who was in the Army.
I married Bill and planned on having a large family. We had two beautiful children and were planning for more.
When Matthew and Elizabeth were 3 and 7, Bill was diagnosed with cancer. My focus was suddenly on the here and now. The future was unknown. Despite this uncertainty, every day when Bill woke up, he would say that God is good because he was alive another day. Bill’s faith during his four-year battle with cancer never waivered.
When we were told Bill had hours to live, that the cancer had spread to his heart, I asked Fr. Jon (Bill’s cancer buddy) what I should tell the kids. We had prayed every night for Bill. Fr. Jon replied, “Maggie, God did answer your prayers. God is taking away his pain. Bill will no longer suffer.” The kids and I take comfort in knowing this and knowing that Bill is in Heaven looking out for us.
After Bill died on October 30, 2015, I started planning for the future again. Remember, I LOVE plans. I hate uncertainty. I planned on getting our children through school in Maryland, and then moving to Bill’s home state of Wisconsin to be a hermit and raise goats.
Then I met and fell in love with Patrick.
Maggie and Bill Bainbridge with Matthew and Elizabeth. The family takes comfort knowing Bill is watching over them from Heaven.
I have learned that planning too far in the future does not work for me. Yet this does not stop me from trying. I want to know what the future holds, I want certainty. Even though many of life’s surprises have brought me love and joy, the fear that something bad will happen – and just the fear of the unknown – creeps in. With COVID-19, so many things are uncertain and planning even a week out is not possible. This makes me uncomfortable. It is scary.
My friend recommended a daily devotion her church was providing. She said her pastor was really upbeat and that I should listen. Best advice ever – especially a passage he read recently about Gracious Uncertainty by Oswald Chambers, an early 20th century minister known for his devotionals. One passage read: “Certainty is the mark of the commonsense life – gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, not knowing what tomorrow may bring. This is generally expressed with a sigh of sadness, but it should be an expression of breathless expectation.”
I so needed to hear this. I will try to be more cognizant that even though this is uncertain to me, it is not uncertain to God. His plan is perfect.
Maggie planned to be a hermit after Bill died. Instead, she met Patrick and fell in love.
Maggie and her kids are making the most of stay-at-home guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic. They get outside every day and work puzzles and play games in the evenings.
Maggie's daughter Elizabeth made a family coat of arms for history class at her school in Maryland. She writes of how her family's resiliency inspired the project.
Maggie Bainbridge is the surviving spouse of Army Maj. William J. Bainbridge IV.