What if the Worst Happens?

lonely tree+

 

I found myself growing fearful. Not a heart-stopping all-encompassing fear, but the kind of constant gnawing that creeps into your bones when you hear bad news or see something going awry. When you extrapolate the discouraging trends of the present into the future and assume things will never change. When you think about where you’re headed, and feel your stomach tighten.

Questions lingered in the back of my mind. What if I continue on this path? What if nothing ever gets better? What if the worst happens?

What if. I’ve spent a lifetime considering the “what if’s.” Those questions have a way of destroying my peace, leaving me feeling hopeless. When negative possibilities loom before me, I can’t seem to rein my thoughts in. Just asking “what if” unsettles me.

People in the Bible were unsettled by “what if” questions too. When he was told to lead the Israelites, Moses asked God, “What if they don’t believe me?” Abraham’s servant asked about Isaac’s future wife, “What if the young woman refuses to come with me?” Joseph’s brothers asked, “What if Joseph bears a grudge against us?”  All of them wondered what was going to happen if things didn’t turn out the way they planned. Just like we do.

We all face a staggering array of “what ifs?” Some are minor inconveniences while others have life-altering repercussions. What if I lose my job? What if I never have children? What if I get cancer? What if my spouse dies? What if my husband never loves me? What if my child never believes in Jesus?

The uncomfortable truth is, any of those things could happen. No one is free from tragedy or pain. There are no guarantees of an easy life. For any of us. Ever.

I was considering this sobering reality on my silent retreat a few weeks ago. Over the course of several days, I had brought numerous longings and requests before the Lord. I wanted these fulfilled. When would God do it? As I penned my thoughts, I felt that familiar fear gripping me.

The question echoed in my mind: What if my deepest longings are never met and my nightmares come true? I didn’t even want to entertain that possibility.

As I sat in the empty chapel poring over my Bible, I sensed God asking the same question I have wrestled with for decades. “Am I enough? Even if those frightening things happen, am I sufficient?” Each time that question had come up in the past, I’d pushed it out of my mind. But in the stillness of the chapel, kneeling in front of the cross, I knew I needed to face this. I sensed God whispering again, “Vaneetha, am I enough?”

“If none of your dreams come true, am I enough? If your health spirals downward and you end up in an institution, am I enough? If your children rebel and never walk closely with me, am I enough? If you never remarry and never feel loved by a man again, am I enough? If your ministry doesn’t flourish and you never see fruit from it, am I enough? If your suffering continues and you don’t see purpose in it, am I enough?

I wish I could have automatically responded, “Yes Lord, you are enough.” But I struggled. Profoundly. The weight of those questions felt crushing. I didn’t want to give up my dreams, surrender those things that were dear to me, relinquish what I felt entitled to.

I reflected on the past few days – much of it centered on the things I wanted. My unwritten contract with God (that He never signed) where I promise to do my part if He fulfills my longings. I reluctantly admitted that part of my desire to be faithful was rooted in my expectation of a payback. Didn’t God owe me something? But what if I didn’t get it? What if my dreams were all left undone?

I knew I needed to relinquish my desires, but I was incapable of doing it myself. I begged God for help. To release my expectations. To let go of my dreams and embrace His. To not predicate my obedience on His gifts.

I sobbed as I opened my hands, filled with my dreams, and placed them on the altar. I didn’t want to love God for what He could do for me. I wanted to love God for who He was. To worship Him because He was God and not because I expected something in return.

God’s presence overwhelmed me as I knelt in the semi-darkness. I was reminded that we have something far better than a reassurance that our dreaded “what if’s” won’t happen. We have the assurance that even if they do happen, God will be there in the midst of them. He will carry us. He will comfort us. He will tenderly care for us. God doesn’t promise us a trouble-free life. But He does promise that He will be there in the midst of our sorrows.

Kutless’ song Even If speaks to this important truth which is echoed throughout the Bible. The chorus says,

Even if the healing doesn’t come
And life falls apart
And dreams are still undone
You are God You are good
Forever faithful One
Even if the healing
Even if the healing doesn’t come

In the book of Daniel, Daniel’s three friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not guaranteed deliverance. And just before Nebuchadnezzar delivered them to the fire, they offered some of the most courageous words ever spoken. “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it…But even if he does not, we want you to know that we will not serve your gods…”

Even if. Even if the worst happens, God’s grace is sufficient. Those three young men faced the fire without fear because they knew that no matter the outcome, it would be the best for them, the best for their nation, and the best for God’s glory.

They did not ask “what if” the worst happened. They were satisfied knowing that “even if” the worst happened, God would take care of them.

At the end of Habakkuk, we see another beautiful picture of “even if.” Habakkuk wants deliverance for his people and pleads with God to save them. But he closes the book saying:

“Even if the fig tree does not bloom and the vines have no grapes,
even if the olive tree fails to produce
and the fields yield no food,
even if the sheep pen is empty
and the stalls have no cattle—

Even then,
I will be happy with the Lord.
I will truly find joy in God, who saves me.
The Lord Almighty is my strength.
He makes my feet like those of a deer.
He makes me walk on the mountains.”(GW)

Even if. Those two simple words can take the fear out of life. Replacing “what if” with “even if” is one of the most liberating exchanges we can ever make. We trade our irrational fears of an uncertain future for the loving assurance of an unchanging God. We see that even if the very worst happens, God will carry us. He will still be good. And He will never leave us.

Christa Wells’s song, Even Though, illustrates this beautiful principle as well. She says “Even though we lose it all, we’ll not be lost, we’ll not be shaken. Behold, this love of God has ransomed us, He’s ransomed us. Even though.”

God’s love has ransomed us. We have nothing to fear. Even if everything falls apart, we will never walk alone.

 

 

  • July 24, 2014 - 9:57 pm

    Dana Hurst - Great meeting you today! Your writing is heartfelt, true and vulnerable! The Holy Spirit speaks through you! Keep it up!ReplyCancel

  • July 25, 2014 - 7:33 am

    Hannah - “If your ministry doesn’t flourish and you never see fruit from it, am I enough?”

    Vaneetha, I have to say that whether you see your ministry flourish or not, you have been a profound influence in my life. God has directly spoken to my heart through what you write, reaching down to the core of who I am … the struggles I’m going through, the things I’m clinging to for satisfaction … and speaks His word to my heart through you. He’s speaking through you! He’s working in your life to minister to others. May that reality give strength to you … and may you see fruit in more evident ways than that, but EVEN IF you don’t … know that you are making a BIG difference in lives you don’t even know!ReplyCancel

    • July 28, 2014 - 8:06 pm

      Vaneetha - Oh Hannah…thank you so much for that encouragement. So grateful God has used my writing in your life. That has been my deepest prayer.ReplyCancel

  • July 25, 2014 - 8:21 am

    Linda Gupton - Vaneetha, for much of my life I’ve been the queen of “what if,” thinking I was being a good planner by asking that question, always keeping all the options in mind. But all I was really doing was being a faithless worrier. Thanks for showing me that “even if” is a better response. Very encouraging post!ReplyCancel

    • July 28, 2014 - 8:04 pm

      Vaneetha - Thanks Linda! Its amazing to me how seeing life with “even if” can take away my fears.ReplyCancel

  • July 25, 2014 - 9:01 am

    Cyndy - Thank you so much for your words of encouragement. My greatest fear is that my kids won’t be saved. I feel like I can give everything else to God except that. What is your advice?ReplyCancel

    • July 25, 2014 - 3:52 pm

      Dan Dyer - Hi Cyndy,

      Interestingly enough, as I was going through old emails this morning, I found this and then saw your question and couldn’t help but wonder if it’s meant for you today. It’s written to a group of men, but applies specifically to your concerns:

      Gentlemen:
      Being the father of 6 wonderful children, ages 13 to 23, I know how powerful the desire is to see their lives turn out well. I remember when Walt Henrichsen said once at a conference that a sure sign that we are not trusting in God is the undue concern for the future of our kids. At that time this really upset me. Aren’t we supposed to care about our children’s futures? Isn’t it our job as fathers to support, nurture and protect them? I came to understand what Walt was teaching us when one of my sons found himself in serious trouble with his school and the legal authorities after he made a very bad decision. Maybe you have been there yourself. I don’t think I ever felt more out of control in my life. He was in real trouble and there was nothing I could do to fix it. I never got a diagnosis but I’m here to tell you I was in a deep depression for about a month until my godly wife reminded me that our children belong to God not us.

      I share this life lesson with you because I think we do the same thing with our “Timothies”, our spiritual children. We can play God in there lives always trying to get them to do Bible study and evangelism, go to prayer meetings, outreach events and retreats and even bailing them out of financial trouble of their own making. Gentlemen: we are NOT God in their lives. We teach, we model, we pray for them and yes we “provoke [them] unto love and to good works” (Heb. 10:24) and encourage them to do all the Word of God commands, but let us never think we are their “Father”. We must continually let our Heavenly Father do business in their lives even when WE think they are not progressing fast enough. In this we will find our own humility and dependence upon the Savior and stay in the fight for the long haul.

      Dear Father: Thank you for the men you privilege us to serve in the ministry you have created for us. Whether they are our natural, adopted or “spiritually” born children help us to never lose sight of the fact that they belong to you. Help us to treat them as such and give us the grace and patience to allow You to do Your sanctifying work in their lives without us interfering. 3 John 4.

      I hope this helps,
      Dan DyerReplyCancel

      • July 26, 2014 - 4:11 pm

        Cyndy - Thanks for sending that link, Dan. I know God is sovereign and gracious. He is God and I am so not Him, but I pray He will be merciful to my children and glorify His great name in saving their souls. Thanks for the encouragement!ReplyCancel

        • July 28, 2014 - 8:03 pm

          Vaneetha - This is a hard question for all of us, Cyndy. It hits close to home as our deepest desire for our children is to see them walking with God. It is a good desire but a bad master (I need to constantly remind myself of that) as I cannot let that desire for my children become a demand of God. Dan’s response was wonderful. We can all pray for each other in this area!ReplyCancel

  • July 25, 2014 - 9:25 am

    J - This is so touching and so needed in my life right now. I am dealing with a marriage crisis that has left me paralyzed with fear. The “what if’s” have been eating me alive. I can’t tell you how much this post spoke to me and encouraged me…. in two months I will find out if my biggest “what if” is true or not. During this time, I’m trying to give it over to God and this has encouraged me to change it to an “even if.”
    Thank you so much for this encouragement.ReplyCancel

    • July 28, 2014 - 7:59 pm

      Vaneetha - Waiting for the answer to our biggest “what if” can be excruciating. So thankful you can take comfort in our God who will be there no matter what. Praying for you today as you walk through this trial…ReplyCancel

  • July 25, 2014 - 10:07 am

    Charles Gupton - Two thoughts…

    First, what if our ‘what ifs’ were about the great things that could unfold when we walk into fear rather than shrink back in the face of it? What if we had a ‘band of brothers’ (sisters?) that walked into that fear together, with us? What if we join together to enter caves of darkness (are there caves of light???) rather than talk about how we might be transformed if we did?

    Second. Will God be glorified if/when our hearts’ desires are realized? Will we be satisfied and grateful? Or will we immediately look to the the next set of ‘wants and needs’ to be completed before we’re finally happy? The finish line always seems to move.

    My question to myself is, can I remain in a state of joyful equanimity and gratitude regardless of my desires meeting the worst or best outcome that resides in my mind? My truthful response at the moment is, unfortunately, a resounding ‘no.’ But fortunately, and against my personal comfort, God is strengthening my faith muscles.

    Currently, the only way I know to build my ‘even if’ faith muscles is to slowly work them by taking daily action knowing that many of the decisions I make WILL fail. But taking action brings clarity and builds strength to take the next action. Even when I fail, my faith, I trust, is developing a deeper muscle memory.ReplyCancel

    • July 28, 2014 - 7:56 pm

      Vaneetha - Love this: Even when I fail, my faith, I trust, is developing a deeper muscle memory. Thank you Charles for this beautiful reminder.ReplyCancel

  • July 25, 2014 - 12:09 pm

    Georgia - Your posts are always so timely for my life. When I knew I would lose my daughter to a terrible disorder while she was still in my womb, I was somehow able to say these words… “even if”. “Even if the healing doesn’t come.” But afterward, when more losses came, I found myself unable to say it anymore. After losing family members to a move or to a decision to walk away from fellowship or after loss of job security since losing our daughter, I find it much harder to trust God no matter what. I don’t necessarily feel entitled {or at least I hope I don’t, because I don’t want to}, but I do feel tired of trying to rise above the struggles and losses and trust God unwaveringly. But I guess that’s where the part you write about at the end of this post comes in… trading in that uncertainty that I can’t control with assurance of an unchanging God. I am so grateful to be reminded that I can hold God to his promise that he will never change. Thank you for your always encouraging, teaching and ministering posts. I hope to be able to teach others out of my suffering some day the way you can and do.ReplyCancel

    • July 28, 2014 - 7:55 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you for writing, Georgia. I too have found as the losses mounted up in my life, it became harder to trust – I wondered if the pain would never end. But finding the sweetness of Jesus’s comfort in the midst of that pain has sustained me. Praying for you today…ReplyCancel

  • July 26, 2014 - 4:00 am

    Mona - My mother-in-law sent several of us the link to this blog entry. Wow! You hit the nail on the head, Vaneetha! What a challenge you’ve presented.

    I must change my “what ifs” (and I’m so good at them) to “even ifs”. That is totally against my nature!! — I’ll ask God to strengthen my faith. God knows, I need more faith!

    Thank you for using your gift for our help. How did Mom find you?ReplyCancel

    • July 28, 2014 - 7:51 pm

      Vaneetha - We all need more faith in this area, Mona! I know I do. But I am so thankful for God’s patience with us all.ReplyCancel

  • July 28, 2014 - 7:53 pm

    Diane - Saw this through a friend’s post of it on Facebook. Finally, an answer to my problem! I love the simplicity of the message. No longer will I worry and panic over “what if” but I will rejoice and be confident in my God “even if”! I have always been challenged by Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s stalwart courage and faith in the face of what should have been certain death. Oh, to be that way!
    Just this morning, my journal entry was long as I struggled with what I needed to “do” for Jesus. After 2 1/2 pages, the conclusion was that I needed to fall desperately in love with Him first and to fully enjoy His love for me. Far less “doing” and far more “being”.
    I feel as if your post has truly supported that. Thank you for writing!ReplyCancel

    • July 28, 2014 - 8:11 pm

      Vaneetha - Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego have long comforted me too, Diane. I long for faith like theirs, and am thankful that they showed me the beauty and comfort in “even if.”ReplyCancel

  • July 29, 2014 - 11:07 pm

    Bill Day - Vaneetha, this blog-entry is a precise description of the exchange-process that is at the heart of Inner Healing ministry and therapy. You even physically gestured the exchange by releasing your tightly-held expectations out through your hands, then receiving the Lord’s assurance of His sufficiency in place of what you released. Isn’t this what our whole walk with the Lord is: We release to Him each self-devised plan and in its place we receive His truth…the true beauty of Christ for the ashes of self? Thanks for your heartfelt, profound depiction.ReplyCancel

    • July 30, 2014 - 12:43 pm

      Vaneetha - You are welcome Bill! I have so appreciated reading your book, Healing Troubled Hearts. I enjoyed reading about your life’s journey and understanding the whole Inner Healing process. Your book has the best description I have ever read about it. If anyone is interested in that process, Bill’s website http://www.healingtroubledhearts.com/ can direct you further.ReplyCancel

  • July 30, 2014 - 2:38 pm

    Sarah - Great post.ReplyCancel

  • August 4, 2014 - 4:38 pm

    Danelle - Wow. Just wow, my friend. Powerful and passing on. I have a friend who will certainly benefit from your wisdom as I have.

    Love and miss your smiling face. Tell your sweet sister I said hello!! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • August 28, 2014 - 9:04 am

    sarah beth - Vaneetha, I’ve been browsing your blog since I saw you post in The Writer’s Circle for the Barn workshop…and this post…THIS POST. It is speaking tenderly to me, God’s words through you. Thank you so much for confessing “even if”, for your own freedom I know, but for sisters who are at the foot of the cross wearing our “what ifs” and wanting to trade them in. This is something I struggle with so hard – and generally I end up just repressing or ignoring my fears, rather than taking them to the Father and confessing EVEN IF… I needed to read this today. I am so, so grateful. And I look forward to meeting you at the barn!ReplyCancel

    • August 28, 2014 - 10:17 am

      Vaneetha - Thank you, Sarah. So glad the Lord used this. I must confess I still struggle with the “what ifs” in life and I am grateful when He reminds me of the “even ifs.’ Looking forward to meeting you too!ReplyCancel

  • August 28, 2014 - 11:12 am

    face to dust » sarah writes - […] wrote a powerful post called “What if the Worst Happens?” and her transparency let me hear God’s voice in her […]ReplyCancel

  • August 28, 2014 - 2:26 pm

    Susan Smith - Vanessa,

    Thank you so much for your sharing your insight, raw emotion & authentic transparency. I am a new widow, my husband passed away last month from a heart attack, while he was struggling with horrible drug & another serious sin. He was a believer but suffered discouragement & never showed signs of real repentance in either area. I prayed earnestly for his deliverance, knowing God is able. When he was in a coma before he died, I prayed again for God to restore him.

    The answer was no. Everything about my life has been turned upside down, and yet I know God is there for me. The struggle to hang on to God is mine. I know He knows what is best for me although it is painful, I confess that daily! Your blog is one of the resources that gives me strength! Thank you so much for being an inspiration to carry on. You are very used by our Lord to encourage & equip those of us who walk His road NO matter what the cost.

    SusanReplyCancel

    • August 28, 2014 - 2:40 pm

      Vaneetha - Oh Susan. I cannot imagine how hard these days are for you. My only words for you are, “Cling to Jesus,” because He is our only hope when the world closes in. I’m praying for God’s comfort and peace for you as I write…ReplyCancel

  • December 18, 2014 - 5:39 pm

    Mary Did You Know? - Vaneetha Demski - […] As I poured out my heart to God, I realized I was focusing on the wrong things. I needed to focus on God rather than my circumstances. He was more important than my longings. I wrote a post about this experience, and in it acknowledged that if I never remarried and never fel… […]ReplyCancel

  • June 11, 2015 - 5:36 pm

    When Disappointment Comes... - Vaneetha Rendall - […] It’s easy for me to jump to conclusions. To think that a trying situation is going to lead to another and then another. I often extrapolate present difficulties into the future- which is the crux of not trusting God. Those difficulties may not ever present themselves, but even if they do, God’s grace will be there to meet me. Even if the worst happens, God will not fail me. […]ReplyCancel

  • April 13, 2016 - 1:41 am

    Ruth - Thanks a lot Vaneetha for writing this piece!… I cannot stop reading your blog…Right now every thing in my life is fallen apart… And looks like the worst is yet to come… And God had been speaking to me through these verses of Habbakuk and I would struggle to surrender… If we read the whole of Habbakuk, we will realise that judgement was to come and there was nothing good in his circumstances that he could hold on to… In fact, He was waiting for God’s judgement… And in those moments, he wrote these words that even if he sees no fruit in the vine or prosperity or even peace around him, he would choose to be joyful in his God!.. And then he also adds that God is able to make his feet like the deer so that he can swiftly rise above his circumstances onto high places!… Hard to understand how someone can be happy when trials and tribulations come… But with God it is more than possible!
    Keep writing Vaneetha! You are a blessing!ReplyCancel

    • April 13, 2016 - 10:14 am

      Vaneetha - I’m so sorry things are so crazy hard right now, Ruth. I’m praying that in the midst of your trials, the Lord will give you inexplicable joy so they you may go with Him to the high places as in Habbakuk.ReplyCancel

  • August 9, 2016 - 3:13 am

    Sherri - When you’ve truly lived a life with the debilitating questions of “what if” and you come across a blog such as this, you feel as though a great weight has been lifted off of you. What an amazing freedom to think like this. God chooses the timing when your eyes will “see”, doesnt he? Im about to become middle aged and I finally am starting a life of victorious living, even though I was raised in a christian home. Your blog has meant so much to my husband and I, and we have passed on these truths to others.ReplyCancel

    • August 17, 2016 - 8:32 pm

      Vaneetha - So thankful that the Lord used this, Sherri! I so understand how liberating “even if” can be after years of “what ifs…”ReplyCancel

  • January 3, 2017 - 9:11 am

    Erica - Thank you so much for speaking these true words. I have been suffering too these past couple of years, and I am plagued with “what if.” A few weeks ago God gave me your ministry and writings and I have been tremendously comforted by them, and you have helped me to believe in Him and His goodness again, when I was beginning to feel doubt creep up and rob me of my foundational peace. So, I thank you and hope you feel encouraged that, yes, you’re words and work matter to many and He is using you to reach others.

    Blessings from Canada, Vaneetha.ReplyCancel

    • January 5, 2017 - 5:18 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you so much, Erica! Thankful you are trusting in God’s goodness again. Its amazing how freeing it is to exchange our “what ifs” for “even ifs”…ReplyCancel

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