She looks back at me one final time to smile and wave, before disappearing excitedly into the buzzing throng of her new classroom. Pony-tail swinging, her small frame weighed down by the sparkly Disney Princess backpack and lunchbag she so carefully picked out at the beginning of summer, she looks every inch the incoming kindergartener. Though my mama heart almost bursts with joy and pride at the sight of my baby girl transformed, I can also sense a familiar, yet unwelcome, visitor. A burden that lays heavy on my heart, interrupting this precious, milestone moment, and threatening to rob me of its joy: The ‘what if’ phenomenon.
What if she has a hard day?
What if she needs me?
What if something happens to her?
What if this is the last time I ever see her?
From the trivial and mundane to the downright unthinkable, I have, from a young age, wasted valuable time worrying and fretting over life’s various ‘what-ifs’ and worst case scenarios. Then I became a mom and fear truly moved in and made its home in my heart.
From the moment my two little babies took their very first breaths, it was there. Right alongside that fierce, first rush of love, there was fear. Fear of the overwhelming responsibility I now held over their tiny, precious lives. Fear that I wouldn’t be enough for them, and that I couldn’t possibly protect them.
And the worst one of all: fear that I might one day lose them.
It may not be something any of us typically want to dwell on, but the what-ifs of the world are nevertheless rarely far from our thoughts. Growing every day with the strengthening bond of motherhood, they can haunt our waking hours and keep us up worrying long into the night.
Perhaps you can relate. Lying in bed at night you snap awake, gripped by a sudden and inexplicable terror—a paralyzing, suffocating dread. Or maybe it stalks you as you go about your everyday routine—getting the children on the school bus or dropping them off at camp. You watch anxiously at the window as they ride off with friends on their bike, or—heaven forbid—in their new car, counting down the days, hours, or minutes until they are safely back in your arms.
It’s exhausting. It’s all-consuming. And it’s not the way God designed us to live.
He did not give us a spirit of fearfulness, after all (2 Timothy 1:7). He has told us time and time again that we need not worry about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34), and that we should not live afraid (Isaiah 43:1).
So how does a culture of anxiety-ridden, prolific worriers face the what-ifs of life with courage and quiet trust, reclaiming our faith from the prison of anxiety and crippling fear?
The answer lies in the mighty, unshakeable promises of God and the truth of His Word.
FROM FEAR TO FAITH
The story of Job is one such example. Despite being a “blameless and upright” man (Job 1:1), he lost his livelihood, his health, and even his children in quick, devastating succession. Yet though his life came to epitomize the worst case scenarios so many of us fear, his story also became a powerful testimony to the character and promises of God. It is one that serves to encourage us as we, ourselves, face the what-ifs of an unknown future.
God Is Sovereign
“Don’t worry, God is in control!”
It’s a popular go-to response within the Christian community, yet as I have watched terrible, gut-wrenching events unfold across our nation and the world—senseless violence, market crashes, and even a global pandemic, I admit to having wondered at times, Can this be true? As I have borne witness to heartbreaking circumstances in the lives of friends and loved ones—a devastating diagnosis, job losses, miscarriage and infertility struggles—I have thought to myself: What if the same thing happened to me? Could I still say with such assurance that God is in control—and still good?
Immediately after suffering the loss of almost everything he owned and held dear, Job fell to the ground and ‘worshipped’ God, acknowledging His ultimate sovereignty: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21, NIV).
Yet, as he wrestled with his circumstances and the ensuing silence from Heaven, Job began to question God until eventually God responded, fully asserting His dominion over all things, Earth and Heaven. He reminded Job once and for all Who was fully in charge. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t Job.
Completely humbled, Job replied: “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted…Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know” (Job 42:1-3, NIV).
It can be difficult at times to see evidence of God’s goodness and sovereignty in the midst of our suffering. Yet Romans 8:28 (NIV) reminds us that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Oh, we may not understand His ways—for they are not our own (Isaiah 55:8-9), but that does not make them any less good, or His hand any less sovereign. For this is a God who has a plan for our lives, to prosper us and give us a hope and a future. A God who uses every trial, every hard thing to shape and refine us in His image, for our good, and His glory, who doesn’t waste a single opportunity to make His name known to a lost and weary world.
Like Job, even when the hard times come and the very worst fears of our heart are realized, we can put our faith in the One who holds our future in His hands and is always working out our circumstances for good. We can trust that even when fear rises, and our faith is tested to the limit, there is always reason to praise Him, hope to hold onto, and joy to be found.
God Will Restore All Things
Job’s story ultimately ends in a display of God’s restorative provision and power for “the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before…He died, an old man and full of years” (Job 42:10,17, NIV).
Job teaches us that we need not fear the what-ifs of the world because we serve the God of restoration—He who painstakingly puts the pieces of our shattered, broken lives back together and makes beautiful things out of the dust. As Elisabeth Elliot said, “Of one thing I can be perfectly sure: God’s story never ends with ashes.”
And yet for so many hurting people, this is not their reality. “What about me?” they cry out to God. “What about ‘my’ livelihood, ‘my’ health, ‘my’ children? When will ‘my’ life be restored?”
Life has taught me there are sometimes no answers on this side of heaven. Yet thanks to the saving power of the cross, we can look forward with hope and confidence to the promise of the eternal restoration to come. As we are promised in 1 Peter 5:10 (NIV), “after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
As Christians we must view our life through a heavenly perspective with the knowledge that the suffering we experience on earth will one day cease, the tears will no longer fall, and there will be full restoration of that which was broken and lost for “all these things are gone forever” (Revelation 21:4, NLT).
The assurance of this future restoration is the unswerving hope we can hold onto as we face an unknown future, and the fuel our faith requires to live a life unafraid of the what-ifs to come.
LIVING BY FAITH
“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength” Corrie ten Boom.
As finite human beings living in a fallen world, suffering is inevitable. Yet Jesus gives us this promise in John 16:33 (NIV), “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.” In this stressful world, where the threat of danger lurks around every corner, that peace can be hard to come by. But though Jesus goes on to warn us we will ultimately face hard times, He ends the verse with this encouragement, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Jesus is calling us to a life of joyful freedom, anchored in His promises and built on His love. But first we must untangle ourselves from our web of worries and surrender the cares of tomorrow at the foot of the cross. Trusting that the God who holds our tomorrows is big enough to carry them—and overcome.
Job himself said: “But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! I will see him for myself” (Job 19:25-2, NLT).
As we cast our cares on to Him, one by one—pinning every worry, every fear, every anxious thought to the foot of the cross, we can rest in the knowledge that they can no longer enslave us. The victory has already been fought, the battle won. Fear has been defeated and the Great Redeemer lives. And this alone, gives us the strength to face tomorrow and the faith to walk through today—and every day.
“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8, NIV).
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