What You Should Do with Your “What If” Fears

Five ways God turns a “what if…” question into an “even if…” truth.

“What if . . .?” It’s a destructive predator of a thought that lurks in the shadows of your imagination, waiting to prey in vulnerable and insecure places. It’s a despairing thought that litters your path, a fear that clutters your mind.

“What if . . .?” It’s a question we all sometimes ask — about relationships ended, jobs turned down, roads not taken. But we have to see this thought, this fear for the enemy to our spiritual growth that it is. We need to do mine sweep of our hearts using the Word of God to expose and detonate those fears.

For each and every “what if” scenario, God has an “even if” in his word to restore my heart and mind to the peaceful territory he has given me.

1. “What if my pain is a consequence of my sin and others hurt because of me?”

Our lives are filled with the natural consequences of poor decisions and sinful choices. As Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And so we find ourselves filled with guilt and regret, gnawing at our core. We ask ourselves, “What if I deserve this crisis?”

Although the consequences are often very painful, Jesus made the full payment for sin on the cross. Guilt and shame are washed in the blood of Jesus when you confess your sin to him.

“What if . . . my spouse leaves because I cheated, I lose my business because I embezzled, my health fails because of excess and overindulgence? What if others are hurt because of my thoughtless and selfish actions?” Remember the “even if . . .”

“For I am convinced . . . nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39)

God’s answer to your “what if . . .” is that nothing is too deep, too big, too ugly, or too hard for him. None of us will ever get what we deserve because Jesus took our judgment when he died on the cross.

2. “What if I make the wrong decision or listen to the wrong advice?”

Thankfully, God’s word does not depend on our ability to figure it out. He has been working on behalf of men and women since Adam and Eve took matters into their own hands instead of listening to him.

Even if I have never taken this path before and have no idea what to do, I have God’s Spirit to guide me, God’s word to instruct me, and God’s people to counsel and pray for and with me.

We can’t possibly know the best way at times — and even the right way can be muddled in certain situations. But God is our guide and ultimate source of dependable leadership “even if . . .” life throws the unexpected at us.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach and it will be given unto him.” (James 1:6)

3.“ What if I fail or fall or blow it as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend?”

Reality is we will fail many times and in many ways. Other people in our lives will fail us. Our best efforts are not good enough and we will fall short of the goal. We’re trying to juggle all the demands of life and meet unrealistic expectations. There are no formulas to guarantee our efforts will produce the desired results. Will power and determination do not translate to accomplishment and success in the spiritual realm. Fear of making mistakes, especially relational mistakes, robs us of the joy and peace we were given through the cross of Jesus.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31

4. “What if we prayed, waited, asked, and sought for (what seems like) nothing?”

Your spouse still left you. Your prodigal son is still gone. Your debts continue to mount. Your health is diminishing. Someone you love died. What if your expectation of God’s care is shattered and your faith is struggling for spiritual air?

“Even if . . .” nothing looks the way you thought it would . . .

“As for God, his way is perfect.” (Psalm 18:30)

Our prayers are usually focused and framed around our desires and limited understanding. God sees all things at all times and his focus is framed in eternity.

Jesus taught us by his own example to pray, “ . . . nevertheless not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39)

5. “What if my burdens are more than I can handle?”

You will feel as if you’re going to collapse under the weight of demands and responsibilities. You will feel overwhelmed.

And yet, “even if . . .” you are passing through deep waters and they are threatening to overthrow you, “even if . . .” hot tongues of fire are licking at your heels, you will not be consumed.

“From the ends of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” (Psalm 61:2)

*   *   *

Here is a final question worth considering: What if God is who he says he is and does what he says he will do? What if he still shows up in unexpected and unanticipated ways in your life?

What if you began to sweep your heart with his word so every trap the enemy lays for you today is exposed and you can also say, “Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Even if I fall I will rise; Even if I dwell in darkness, the Lord is a light for me.” (Micah 7:8)

The opinions expressed in this piece belong to the author.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Jan Harrison
Written by

  • bakabomb

    Accept this orthodoxy if you choose. But don’t all these questions essentially hinge on the belief that our life here is just a blip when compared against eternity — yet we only have one far-too-brief opportunity to “get it perfect” or at least “get it right”? And if we fail in that effort, we forfeit forever our one chance at an eternity that’s at least tolerable (at a bare minimum)?

    Now ask yourself, can I stake my existence on a theology that only gives me one sole chance, and which furthermore asserts the deck is grossly stacked against me from the start? And don’t be afraid to consider alternatives to that theology, because the answers given above are not the only possible ones.

    • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

      Out of curiosity what sort of theology would you propose as an alternative, and why?

      • bakabomb

        Well, half the fun here comes from reading between the lines. So before I make my question more pointed, let’s consider John 9:1-3.

        — As Jesus passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

        Now a little pilpul. Consider the disciples’ question, “Who sinned, this man … that he would be born blind?” Huh? How can a man sin before even being born? But Jesus doesn’t respond with the doctrinaire, predictable answer “It’s impossible that he sinned before he came into the world” — in fact, he doesn’t answer the question at all. Instead he expands the scope by replying “It was so God’s power could be made manifest to you”.

        And in so doing, he leaves the original question open; a question that’s silly if we apply the doctrine of original sin. But not so ridiculous if we apply another doctrine and consider its ramifications: the doctrine of karma.

        So now let me rephrase my question in the context of the oft-heard description of this life as “Schoolhouse Earth”. What happens if we flunk first grade? Are we cast into outer darkness … or??

        That covers the “what sort”. Now as to the “why”: Because it exemplifies the lesson of Matthew 18:21-22. Because that’s how a Parent who loves their children raises them. The formal theology flows naturally from that.

        • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

          I don’t think he leaves it open with that response, it seems he repudiates the unspoken assumption of his disciples that the man’s blindness is a punishment. Given the rest of john 9, jesus was saying that man was blinded by god so jesus could demonstrate his powers by healing it. I consider this line of reasoning, where others suffer so that one may demonstrate their kindness or power by helping them, to be callous and solipsistic.

          It seems you’re making your own judgement about what good parenting is and then retrofitting that over the words of a book written in a very different time with very different judgements about what good parenting is. Still, an interesting perspective.