GETTING PAST THE “WHAT IFS’

Some of the biggest battles I have ever fought never happened.

I have spent too much time and energy in my lifetime focused on “What if?” scenarios that never materialized:
What if (you name it) happens?
• What if (fill in the blank) doesn’t happen?
I can conjure up worst-case scenarios at a moment’s notice. Can you relate?

Our “What if?” questions are usually followed by “What will I do?” questions. The end result is anxiety over things that are out of our control. It is as productive as a dog chasing its tail.

When I resumed my career as a social worker in 1988, after a time-out to raise my family, I argued with my soon-to-be supervisor Betty about her decision to hire me. I was afraid she was offering me the position because she knew me outside the workplace.

I had received a number of promptings to apply for the job; it was part-time with flexible hours – a perfect match for my family’s needs. Jon and I discussed the pros and cons. We prayed for wisdom. We agreed that it seemed God was leading. I dropped off my resume as an act of obedience, but I truly thought the position was beyond my credentials. I was confident I would be turned down, and that I could return to my comfortable life as a homemaker.

Waves of nausea rolled over me as I walked out of Betty’s office. I was unable to convince her I wasn’t qualified for the position – I got the job.

Immediately the “What if?” questions began to flash across my mental screen. My biggest concern was, “What if we soon realize this job is bigger than me, and that Betty made a mistake hiring me? What will I do if she has to let me go?” I could only imagine the humiliation that would involve.

As it turned out, I loved my new job! It was challenging, but meaningful. I grew personally and professionally as I was stretched in ways I would have never thought possible.

The following year, my husband was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. My mind raced into the future: “What if Jon dies? What will I do if I‘m left as a single parent?” Jon and I agreed that I should seek full time employment to prepare me to take over supporting the family in the event of his death.

My employer allowed me to move into a full time position as a Certified Addiction Counselor. It was my dream job, but once again I struggled with feelings of inadequacy. “What if” and “What will I do” questions swirled in my head.

My husband died less than two years later. I was left to single parent our girls, who were eleven and thirteen years old at the time. It was every bit as hard as I feared it would be, but with twenty-two years of hindsight, I see that God gave me everything I needed to face my worst “What ifs.” Remember, He provided the job I would need before we had any idea what the future held.

Once again, I grew into a position that stretched me every which way. It was one of the most meaningful times of my career, and truly, of my life.

At times I still struggle with the “What ifs.” Years ago, when I shared my fears with a friend, Gail gave me a fresh perspective. She said, “What if that thing happens? And what if it’s wonderful?” I had only considered the negative possibilities. Now when I run disastrous scenarios through my head, I end them with, “And what if it’s wonderful?”

How about you? Do you have your own “What ifs?” Do you worry, “What will I do?”

Find encouragement in the words of Elisabeth Elliot: “God is not the God of what might be; He is the God of what will be.”

Take hope in God’s promise: “…your strength will equal your days…The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms (Deuteronomy 33:25b, 27 NIV).

TODAY’S CHALLENGE: Listen to your self-talk. Identify any “What if?” questions. Share you fears with trusted friends. Ask them to pray for you. Consider that the outcome of your worst fear may just be wonderful. Trust that God will give you whatever you need for whatever lies ahead.

7 Comments

  1. Micki Sliva
    Jan 22, 2014

    Always thought provoking reads Kathy! I enjoy and am challenged by them. Thank you.

  2. Linda
    Jan 22, 2014

    Love This Kathy! Makes me think of something I heard – “I pray that I won’t worry, then I worry that I’m not praying enough!” At this point I have seen so many “what ifs” fall away, or play out to indeed be wonderful opportunities for God to show up, that I am much more and more able to trust in His overcoming power, after all, He has warned us that in this world we WILL have trouble, but in HIM we can have peace So much has to do with where we choose to focus!
    John 16:33 (NIV) “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

  3. Stacey Bartholomew
    Jan 22, 2014

    Kathy,
    I only know how amazing you are because you raised an amazing daughter in Molly. Molly was an angel, a sister, a friend, a mentor, a supervisor and SO much more to my daughter Bethany two summers ago in Chicago, where Bethany was on staff with YW.

    Thank you for this very timely, very thought provoking blog…..I will now think differently about my “what ifs”…hoping and praying that they will be wonderful..blessings to you!

  4. Ember (Sullivan) DeBoer
    Jan 25, 2014

    Hi Kathy! I really enjoy reading your posts. I always get something positive and helpful out of your writing. Thanks so much!

  5. Anna Marie
    Jan 21, 2017

    Thank you for reposting this, Kathy. I’m facing a lot of what ifs these days and sometimes my minds is just spinning.

    I can usually remind myself that God is in control. My prayer when I do, is this, “Let me be in the right place, at the right time, with the right attitude, for all the right reasons.”

    But the days when I try to figure everything out for myself, I stress over the what ifs.

  6. Kathy Fortney
    Jan 22, 2017

    Well worth the time for me to read again. Thanks for helping me to keep my eyes on Him.

  7. Deb
    Jan 22, 2017

    Timeless wisdom, thanks!

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *