Forecast that the future will surprise us

I have the unenviable task of writing this column a week before the Independence Referendum, knowing you will read it after the result is known.

That wouldn’t pose a problem if I could see the future. Then I would know what to write.

Nor will it help me to make a guess.

If I guess correctly, you’ll think it was luck or I wrote this after the event.

If I guess incorrectly, you’ll think me a fool, unable to see what should have been obvious to everyone (for so it will seem in hindsight.)

That’s the problem with future. It’s just so irritatingly unpredictable.

Just when we think we understand the past and have some idea of our present situation, the future comes along and changes everything.

Many of today’s seemingly obvious truths will look like outdated nonsense tomorrow.

Of course, we can lose track of the past. Memory can play tricks on us.

Sometimes, the present can be a bit bewildering.

Yet, when it comes to confusing us and shaking our certainties, the past and the present are mere amateurs compared to the future.

Just ask the Chicago Tribune writer who confidently wrote the 1948 headline “Dewey defeats Truman”, only to find that Truman defeated Dewey.

Or Neville Chamberlain, who declared his piece of paper with Hitler’s signature meant “Peace in our time,” or the man who in 1899 asked the US President to abolish the Patent Office, because “Everything that can be invented has been invented”.

Ask the head of computing company IBM who said in 1943: “I think there is a world market for no more than five computers.”

Ask the Scotland fans who went to Argentina in 1978 confident they would win the World Cup.

The future makes fools of all of us, if we rashly try to predict it.

Sometimes, it’s important to recognise what we don’t know.

When people asked Jesus about future events, they would have believed any answer He gave.

Yet He was honest.He said: “No-one knows the day or the hour.”

There are bits of the future we just can’t predict.

As a result, the only prediction I’ll make about the future is that it will surprise us. It won’t turn out exactly as we now imagine it will.

So when our ability to make predictions is so limited, how do we find any certainty or confidence?

The answer is to have the only one who does know the future as our guide.

Psalm 139 says: “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

We may not know the future, but we can know the God who knows the future, the God who promises to be with us always.

We may not see the way but we can be sure of a reliable guide and companion on the journey.