Are you a “what-iffer?” Or do you know someone who is?
They worry too much, too often about too many things. They tend to be negative more than positive in their approach to life. They struggle to give up control.
They say things like …
“What if our kids make too much noise in church?” So they don’t go to church.
“What if I drive my new car on the road and it gets a scratch?” So they don’t drive their car.
“What if I don’t meet the deadline?” So they stress out, too paralyzed to get started on the project, and then stress out even more because they’re behind.
Let me offer three healthy responses to those who struggle with “what if” or care about someone who does.
- “So what!” You may not always be able to resist the “what if” thoughts that assault you through the day, but you can choose your response. One helpful response is to bring the anxious concern back to reality.
What if your new car gets nicked by a piece of gravel on the interstate? “So what!” It’s not that big of a deal. Almost all cars have little nicks. If it’s too bothersome, you can repair it. Either way, the car will still run great.
- “What if God?” Your “what if” thoughts almost always speculate toward the worst case scenario. God specializes in worst case scenarios. He rescued the Israelites stuck between the Egyptian army and the Red Sea. He blessed barren couples with children. He raised his own Son from the dead.
There is no scenario that is too hard for God to handle, and he is on your side! If he gave you his own Son, won’t he also give you other things you need (Romans 8:32)?
So learn to reply to your “what if” thoughts by saying, “What if God … is on my side … answers my prayers … has a better plan … is my friend … saves me from my fears … is never confused … patiently understands … provides a way out?”
- “I’m here with you.” This is for those who work or live with a “what-iffer.” Do not scold them when they worry. Don’t brush them off and say that everything is just fine, for crying out loud. “It’s all okay,” is a common response and not usually helpful.
Besides leading the “what-iffer” to the two responses above, reassure them that you are there and not leaving. “I’m here with you.” Whether their worries come true or not, this can be so reassuring.
It means you are not judging them for struggling with anxious thoughts. It means you are listening and you care. It means that you are not conditional in your relationship with them. It means a lot!
In the story of the three men in the fiery furnace, these three ancient believers took a stand for their faith in God. The pagan authorities brought charges against them, sentencing them to death in the furnace (a pit of blazing fire). Now that’s something to fear!
Here’s what they said to the king, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:17,18).
Their worst case scenario wasn’t enough to turn them from trust in God, or worshipping him. Because they knew that God was able, that he was on their side, and that the consequences were in his gracious hands.
Anxious thoughts can come, uninvited, and that’s not wrong or bad. They’re real, but they are not in charge. God is. Take these three responses and practice them. See what God can do!
PRAYER: Dear God, I pray about my anxious thoughts (or the anxious thoughts of a person I care for). I invite you there, in the questions, the doubts and fears. Bring your truth, your love and your presence. Amen.
FURTHER MEDITATION: Read Philippians 4:6. What is another healthy, impactful response to anxious thoughts?