Perhaps suggested isn’t the right word. Encouraged? Requested? Demanded? He might use a different word, but let’s just say he was overly frustrated with my supervision of his driving skills. No longer wanting my suggestions on how his driving could improve, and to help alleviate my stress, he recommended I go to sleep. Happily, I obliged, but not before he told me I was an overly nervous person. “I am not nervous,” I protested. “You just drive too fast.”
I knew that wasn’t totally true. While I do think he drives too fast, the reality is my nerves do tend to get the best of me sometimes. After reclining the seat, I closed my eyes and began a conversation with the Lord. “Why does anxiety have this grip on me?” I asked. In no time at all, I realized that my anxiety becomes elevated when my thoughts become fearful. And I have a fear of hard things.
When my sister-in-law became a widow with two small children I began to beg God for protection from the hard work of widowhood. This also seemed to be around the time I began to hear the faint whisper of what if every single time I witness a hard moment in someone’s life. Fear, it seems, lies dormant within me ready to rise at the most unexpected moments, brought on by the simple whisper of what if.
When infidelity was discovered in a friend’s marriage—I heard the whisper.
When my sister became a quadriplegic—I heard the whisper.
When the doctor report gave a death sentence—I heard the whisper.
When the accident stole a husband—I heard the whisper.
When addiction threatened families—I heard the whisper.
When reconciliation evaded relationships—I heard the whisper.
Like a faint breeze when the subtle whisper of what if breaks into my thoughts, anxiety is quick to engage. This allows fear to lock in as scenarios begin to play out in my mind. Suddenly, my thoughts turn into pleas for God’s mercy so I can avoid all hard things. If I am willing to listen closely, God--in His mercy—will remind me of His promise to never leave me, nor forsake me, if I should find myself on the hard road (Hebrews 13:5). And let’s be real – life provides plenty of opportunity to travel down hard roads.
And therein lies my issue. God never intended for me to live in fear of hardship; His intent is for me to trust Him through hardship. He hasn’t given me a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind so I could allow my thoughts to dwell in fear of the what if (2 Timothy 1:7). Instead, He says I should relinquish my habit of creating my own conclusions to every unexpected hard moment and think like Christ. Allow His thoughts and purposes to be my guide (1 Corinthians 2:16). After all, Paul tells us God is “… able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20, AMP). That’s pretty powerful.
So why do I fall prey to the tormenting possibilities what if? Perhaps you, like me, have allowed the whisper to become a roar when you’ve found yourself on a hard road. There are…
Hard commitments, and
Every hard moment (and some are excruciating) offers what if the opportunity to plant fear where hope should be. Before we know it we’ve become so rattled by the hard thing facing us, that we allow our emotions to make final decisions. When fear of the hard presses—we seek quick exits. Wouldn’t it be nice if our hard moments were like Escape Rooms? Grab a few friends, here’s some clues on how to succeed, you have an hour to work together and find the solution. Unfortunately that’s not how it works. So we ignore, pretend, reject, disregard, push down any part of hard we possibly can to avoid. But, not all hard things are bad things. When we believe every hard experience should be avoided, we won’t see God work all things together for good in our lives (Romans 8:28). We also will miss the opportunity to see God do that superabundant thing that we don’t even dare to ask or even think.
We will have many opportunities as we journey down this road. There will be hard conversations to have; we need to stop avoiding them. There are changes that bring excitement. Yet, sometimes change brings pain, or that unknown factor to it. Let’s start allowing God be our strength through every season of change. Commitments can be hard, and right now you may find the commitment you made is much more than you bargained for. Imagine—instead of listening to the what if —you began to ask God to help you follow through in the same way Jesus asked for help while in the Garden. When the commitment to the cross weighed heaviest upon Jesus, He prayed for another way, but He settled for God’s will over His own in that moment (Matthew 26:38-40).
Perhaps you’ve pushed down the confession you know you should make because what if is screaming so loud you’ve become twisted in fear. The good news is found in 1 John 1:9, “But if we confess our sins to him, he can be depended on to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. And it is perfectly proper for God to do this for us because Christ died to wash away our sins” (TLB). Perfectly Proper – that’s God’s way.
Our true identity will get lost in fear if we don’t learn to shutdown the whisper of what if quickly. We begin to change our identity—one letter at a time—when we remind the whisper of what if Who is on our side, and where our hope is found. We serve a Superabundant God and He can handle anything.
Including my time spent on the hard road, and my husband’s driving.
H-Hopeful on the hard road