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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Salter Goodwin

What If . . .

I said I wouldn’t ask what-if questions. I didn’t realize that they don’t need an invitation. They slip into my head at the worst possible times. They follow me like an unwanted shadow.

I understand that unpredictability creates the environment for what-if questions. They thrive on uncertainty and generate fear. The problem with what-if questions is that they make you look for answers that don’t exist.

What if I get cancer?

What if I lose my job?

What if the big earthquake comes?

What if my plane crashes?

I don’t think I am the only one trying to swat my what-ifs away like flies missing every swat.

What do you do with what-ifs that won’t go away?

I’m learning to use them as a way to strengthen my trust in God to help me grow. I can’t always put aside such insistent questions, but I review them against other more helpful questions that God promises to answer.

1. Am I grabbing for control God never gave me authority over?

I can’t control the future; I can only live it as it comes. Since God knows every end from its beginning, I don’t have to know what is going to happen in order to live it with hope and grace. I lean hard on God for the next step even when I have no idea where or when it will appear.

2. Am I allowing unanswerable what-if questions to increase stress?

Most of the time I realize that what-ifs are just an openings for fear and anxiety. If I want to live without anxious fear, I have to be willing to get rid of the questions that invite anxious thoughts. If I can't know the answers now, why ask the question.

3. Does my what-if question pass the Philippians 4:8 test?

Paul reminds me to think on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praise-worthy. Usually I have to cross off my what-if because it isn’t based on what is true right now. It always pushes into my unknowable tomorrow. The more I keep thinking through the 4:8 list, the less I need what-ifs.

If you want to know how valuable what-if questions have been to you, make a list of 2-3 of your most pressing what if's during the last ten years. When did a what-if question bring the answer that helped make a difference?

I thought so. They don’t give me any answers, either.

So. . .

  • I make responsible plans based on what I know.

  • I stay flexible because God’s plan trumps anything I can make.

  • I re-invest in the truth that my loving God knows what I need and will bring it on time.

  • I will not make impatience my unnecessary struggle.

  • I rest in what God is already planning so that I don’t need to ask what-if.

And I pray . . .

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