What if this odd symptom turns out to be something serious?
What if I don’t get the job?
What if this investment fails?
What if I bomb this presentation?
What if the scan shows cancer?
We have so many things to be concerned about, both large and small. And some of us are “gifted” with the ability to imagine all the ways something could go wrong.
Ed Welch says in Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest, “Worriers are visionaries without the optimism” (p.50, Kindle version).
So we cycle through our worries, scaring ourselves to death, feeling trapped like a hamster in a continuous wheel.
Someone once said that if the thing we worry about doesn’t happen, we’ve wasted all that angst and energy and head space. And if it does happen, we’ve doubled the toll it would have taken by worrying about it beforehand. That helps me put aside worried questions and supposing.
But something else helps me even more: facing those worries full on. What if the worst possibility happens?
If the medical news is not good, some hard roads may be ahead. But God promised His grace and help. And if “the worst” happens, it will be the best—we’ll be with Him without pain and sin. We don’t want to leave our loved ones. But God will give grace for that if and when the time comes. He won’t give grace for illness and parting in this moment because it’s not needed yet.
If this job or investment falls through, God will provide for us in some other way.
We’ll do everything we can to be ready for the presentation and will pray about every aspect of it. God will give grace when the time comes. But if we still fall on our faces—maybe we needed the humbling. Maybe others needed to see our humanity. Elisabeth Elliot once wrote in Keep a Quiet Heart that her daughter, Valerie, got lost in her notes during a talk and got flustered. She finished as best she could and sat down, discouraged. But ladies thanked her for what she shared. She later told her mother that she had prayed beforehand that the ladies would see she was just an ordinary woman who needed His help, and she felt this stumbling was His answer.
When we face our “what ifs” full on instead of running from them, we deplete them of their strength. In every case, no matter what “the worst” is, God’s grace will be there. He may take us down paths we wouldn’t have chosen. But He has things to teach us there that we couldn’t have learned elsewhere.
In Daniel 3, three young men could not in good conscience bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s image, even when threatened with being thrown into a fiery furnace. They told the king, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (verses 17-18). God is able to deliver us, but even if He doesn’t, we’ll keep obeying and trusting Him.
One concern for many Christians these days is the increasing possibility of persecution. But Peter gives us encouragement:
But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil (1 Peter 3:14-17).
God is sufficient for all our “What ifs.” I still pray and hope against certain things happening. But even if the “worst” happens, God will give grace and peace and enabling. Even if the outcome is not what we wanted, the better we know our God, the more we can trust Him.
(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)
(Update: I was asked to do a radio interview about this post. My son recorded it for me and linked to it here, if you’d like to listen.)