The God of What-Ifs
His voice starts very small. It is reasonable. It is based on reality. It is logical. “What if this happens….?”
A few minutes later, he continues. “What if that happens…?”
Gradually his voice becomes high-pitched, almost yelling, panic-stricken, anxious! “And what if THIS…?” “And what if THAT…?”
As his voice gains momentum, the response of my spirit turns to panic. Fear grips me. And before long, my heart is racing, I can’t sleep, little beads of perspiration pop up, thoughts are running wild and undisciplined.
What’s going on?
The god of What-Ifs is demanding allegiance. He wants control. He wants my service. He wants to rule my heart, my goals, my focus.
Has he ever come to you with “What If…”? He especially delights to take circumstances of uncertainty and turn them into times of rabid fear. Perhaps your area of uncertainty centers on finances, or on a relationship, or on health issues, or on job security, or on international events. The Evil One cares not about the area of uncertainty; his game is the same. I don’t know a single person that he has neglected.
He knows that fear is a strong emotion. Although the Living God gave this emotion to us for our positive use, the Evil One wants to use it for our destruction. He starts with genuine real concerns and possibilities, then he removes the Living God from the picture, and then he throws his “what if…” scenarios.
One scenario after the other. No time to get our mental equilibrium. No time to remember the whole of reality, including the presence of the Living God and His utter faithfulness.
With surgery, chemo, and radiation now an imminent reality, and having never walked this way before, the Evil One has been trying to get this game started with me. It’s a sort of dart game. He throws out an idea, a “what if,” and before I can process the idea, along comes another “what if.” In fast succession they come. What if the robotic knife isn’t calibrated correctly? What if a thunderstorm passes through and the electricity fails during surgery? What if the blade cuts the ureter, or bladder, or bowel? What if the prednisone I’ve taken for rheumatoid arthritis all these years keeps me from healing? What if I hemorrhage? What if I get an infection? What if the doctor is on drugs, or has had a fight with his/her spouse the night before and is in a foul mood, so he/she doesn’t care about doing a good job? What if I’m in bed in pain, and no one comes when I call? What if the radiation burns a hole in good tissue?
What if…. What if….. What if…..
You know what I mean.
As the thoughts go round and round in my head, my whole body tenses. Fear becomes dominant. God has gone. Suddenly I’m so vulnerable!
The apostle Paul wrote to the early believers: Take control of your thoughts! Guard your mind! Capture those thoughts that run against God’s character!
Close to the end of his letter to believers in the city of Philippi, he wrote: “Don’t be anxious. Connect with God about your concerns, and don’t forget thankfulness in your connection. Only He can give you a peace that is bigger than circumstances. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praise-worthy…think on these things!”
Now I ask you….is it pure to think that the doctors might take out their frustrations on me during surgery? Is it of good report to think that the nurses might not answer my call when I’m in pain? Is it lovely to think that there might be infection, or hemorrhage, or surgical error?
None of the “what ifs…” of the Evil One meet the qualifications for this list by Paul.
You see, this list is wrapped up in the Person of the Lord Jesus. Only He is completely true, totally honest, absolutely just, wholly pure, lovely through and through, of absolute good report, wholly virtuous and without spot, utterly praiseworthy! And when my mind is set upon His Person…who He is…His character…then there is no room for these “what if” darts of the Evil One. His darts bounce off of the Person of the Lord Jesus like the little plastic darts of a child’s game set. He can throw with all his might, but they barely touch me!
The way of the Lord Jesus is exactly opposite from the paralyzing fear of the Evil One. The Scriptures (which are Truth) say, “God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of love, of power and of a strong mind.” We have been given the spirit of love… perfect love…His love. It is His birthday gift to each of His children. And His perfect love casts out fear; they cannot co-exist! In place of fear, His love puts a sense of security, of trust, of sweet resting-ness, because we are assured of His presence.
And He has given us a spirit of power. The ultimate Power on earth is our own Father. There is no greater power. And by our right as sons/daughters of His, we have access to His power. We do not need to feel like we are vulnerable. We do not have to be victims. We have authority and strength over the god of What Ifs.
And He has given to us the spirit of a strong mind. You see, the center of the spiritual battlefield is not in the emotions, or the body, or the relationships. It is in the mind. It is in our thought-life. As we allow our thoughts to go, so we will go in our decisions and responses. Because I belong to the Lord Jesus, I have the enviable power to control my thinking.
Now, hear me out. This is not what society calls “the power of positive thinking.” (That is a dead-end street. No person can pull themselves up by their own thinking bootstraps.) No, this is the power of correct thinking….the power to shape all thoughts under the authority of the Lord Jesus…the power to govern myself according to who He is!
During times of uncertainty, the god of What-Ifs is calling for our allegiance. He wants to put us in slavery to him. He wants to overpower us by fear. He wants to enslave us to the “what ifs….” He knows that we cannot glorify our Lord in that condition.
For myself, by the grace of God, I choose to act upon my relationship to the Lord Jesus, my Savior and my Lord. I choose to bring my thought life into submission to His authority. As a practical matter, the thought battleground rages more when my lips are silent. One thing I have learned is this: thoughts are reinforced if they are vocalized. (Isn’t it funny that the A. A. knows this better than we Christians!) Like King David when he struggled with the god of What-Ifs, I often say things like “My Lord Jesus cannot forsake me. I am in the ‘pasture’ of the Lord Jesus, and He cares for me as His own sheep. I will lay down, AND I will sleep, because He keeps me safe….” Many times these truths are vocalized through songs and hymns. What I am doing is simply verbalizing in a personal way the Truth of Scripture. Without my reading and studying Scripture, how can I know what to think? And when I vocalize Scripture, personalizing it for me and my situation, then my thoughts are easier to anchor in Truth. (A side effect of this is that those around us get to hear Truth also, and it helps them keep the god of What Ifs away from them also.)
Even in my thoughts, He is to reign wholly and completely….as Truth, as Honesty, as Justice, as Purity, as Love, as worthy (Good Report), as Virtue, and as Praise.
If we will discipline our thinking to His command, then we have His peace, and we can testify with King David, “You will keep in perfect peace, the man whose mind is fixed on You.”
So, away with the god of What Ifs!
(Recommended readings: Philippians 4:6-8, Proverbs 14:26; Isaiah 26:3; 2 Timothy 1:6-12; Matthew 6:19-34; Romans 5:1-6; Psalm 56:3-13; Psalm 4:3-8.)
August 20, 2009