What if ____? You fill in the blank. After all, you know your “what if’s” better than anyone else.
You know what I mean.
What if you stay single forever? Can you hear the myriad of the cats meow? The label of forever alone?
What if you can’t get pregnant? Every time you look at a blushing new mother all you are filled with is bitterness, pain and disdain.
What if the bills can’t be paid? The shed across the street looks promising.
What if the cancer spreads? There is so much that you wanted to do, so much you wanted to say, but didn’t. Why did this happen to your family?
What if your friends leave when you graduate from high school or college? Drinking coffee by yourself is such a bore.
What if the career you worked hard for suddenly comes to an end? Every paper, every class has spiraled down in the drain of failure.
What if your anxiety and depression never goes away? Each day is a fight to know how you will climb out of the emotional, physical and maybe even spiritual darkness. You put the face mask back on and stuff the pain down. No one will ever understand.
I could take all night stating each scenario we pair with the “What if…?” question. But I want to ask that same question with a little twist, a dash of vision, maybe even a sprinkle of hope.
A few days ago, I stood in my classroom thinking about the new school year and not just the school work, but the kids, the parents, my schedule. My stress levels started to reach higher and higher as I thought about all I had to do. What if I couldn’t get this or that done on time? What if my lesson plans were totally not up to par?
That nagging question. What if? How many times has this destroyed dreams and opportunities? How many more times will we let it continue to rip and pull at the seams of today? When, newsflash, the moment we live in, the breath that we just took isn’t guaranteed to us for one more second.
I’ve noticed that my “what if’s” are generally laced in fear. Fear of what I can’t control.
I want to put emphasis on CAN’T in hopes that you understand the gravity of how fear disfigures our great, good, gracious and VERY in-control God.
All my valiant efforts to protect everyone and everything I love are but worthless rags. Yes, the rags that you see tattered, ripped and slightly molded over in the trash can, kind of worthless rags. Ya feel me? Ever try controlling things?
In my journal, the recent entry you will find is entitled “What Do I Fear.” Psh. What do I fear. EVERYTHING. Okay, not completely true, but the pages bleed with fears that truly warp my ability to see anything good. For example, let’s just be completely transparent. I fear losing the people I love most. I have experienced times of great depression and anxiety about family members not arriving home safely or receiving a health report that is less than stellar. I can concoct the best recipe for a mental disaster once I start dwelling on anything that can or could go wrong.
I fear being seen as a failure. I can sit on these thoughts like “I don’t do anything important”, “doesn’t he or she see what I am doing?”, “why is it that every time I try something I just don’t succeed?” for weeks. This fear cripples my ability to see the moments when I am able to thrive or use my talents for God, to help people, to learn from mistakes that build a stronger character.
I have to admit that sometimes it is easier to latch onto fear and just the ride wave, embracing the place I know quite well: defeat. And you want to know what is even more devastating then my own weakness? The fact that Satan applauds that fear. Because that fear takes my gaze away from a good, gracious, loving God that has PROMISED me safety, refuge under his wings (Psalm 46), and that nothing can pluck me out of His hand (John 10:28).
How do you defeat the “what if’s”? Can you eliminate the “what if’s”? I can’t promise that you are one prayer away from complete freedom. You could be. But it is a battleground you stand on and you choose the weapons you with which to fight the fear. Ephesians 6 describes the complete armor given to you by Christ. Remember that verse 10 is the reason you can fight with the armor. Because “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” isn’t a good pick-me-up, it’s the structural backing to making that armor strong, powerful, indestructible.
The struggle is real. But you aren’t alone. I understand the grip of fear, the hold that it has on my mind and God gets that, so I turn to His truth.
(2 Corinthians 10:5) “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
My knowledge of God is compromised when I let my fear control what I can’t control. I have to go to the throne of grace with that fear and let Jesus redeem me as only He can. I must take captive every thought that sets itself up against what I know to be true about God. God is good. God is true. God is faithful. The “what if’s” need to be changed to “what is” and how I can live fully, presently, thankfully in the time and space I have been given.
Make a commitment today to leave your “what if’s” at the foot of the cross. Leave them there and each day ask God to help you live in “what is” and walk trusting that He has you always.