When has anticipation of an event stolen your joy of the actual event?
When have the what if’s consumed your thinking?
When has anxiety crept into your heart so that even small movements of the day seem like enormous tasks?
When has fear of the unknown thrust you into the future, holding you there so that you cannot enjoy the present?
I leave for Egypt on Monday, November 7th (I would love your prayers!). This week has felt like a frenzy of trying to prepare schedules and think through details and make sure the kids get to where they need to be on top of packing and thinking through all the things that I need to do to prepare myself for traveling for 9 days.
In the midst of all of that, there is also a drum beat that knocks on my heart every now and then…
What if I get sick? What if the kids get sick while I’m gone? What if I don’t get everything done that I need to before Monday? What if I forget something I need? I’m going to the Middle East so what if something happens politically? What if something happens to Phillip? What if we are not received well in the villages? What if someone gets mad at me? What if I fail?
What if I don’t come home?
It is estimated that 91% of the things we worry about will never actually happen.
Good grief, that number feels painful to me!
How much of my life is wasted with worry of things that won’t happen? How much of our energy is zapped on useless toiling over things not in our control? How much sleep do I lose projecting myself into the future trying to plan, control and manipulate a potential negative outcome? How much stress are we drinking in every day that has no place in our bodies?
But what do you do when the what ifs are all you hear? And how do you stop from projecting yourself into the future?
Phillip and I will often watch reruns of Seinfeld. Recently we watched one where George’s father uses the relaxation method of stating the phrase, “serenity now” when he is feeling stressed. Frank then goes on to scream “serenity now” over and over as his wife causes him stress. Later, Kramer uses the same technique both to no avail in the end.
While the show was hilarious, it shows that no amount of “serenity now” yelling will lead you to peace. And for me, when I am working out of my own power, no amount of trying will get me out of the future.
But when I am working out of the power of the Holy Spirit within me, it’s a whole different ball game.
So what do I do to keep myself in the present?
1. Recognize who I am in comparison to who God is.
If the God of the universe can keep the earth hanging in the sky rotating on an invisible axis, surely He can hold my life together.
2. Recall God’s faithfulness to me in the past.
God has never once turned His back on me and every high, low and in between moments of my life, God has faithfully brought me through. When I take the time to recall his faithfulness to me in the past, it reminds me that He will be faithful to me in the present and in the future.
3. Surrender my circumstance.
Oftentimes I cannot keep myself from projecting into the future. It’s our nature as humans. But what we can do is surrender it to God.
When faced with a vicious army, King Jehoshaphat breathed these powerful words in 2 Chronicles 20:12, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
We have no control over the future, but God does. If we fix our eyes, our thoughts, our hearts on Him, then we can be sure that no matter the outcome, God purposed it and we can trust Him with it.
4. Sing a song of praise.
Have you heard the phrase, “Turn your ‘what if’ into ‘even if’”? While this may be christian-ese, there is validity to it. When the what ifs start attacking our minds, if we can surrender it to God, then He will start changing our narratives to even ifs.
Even if I get sick in Egypt, God is with me. Even if I fail, God never will. Even if something happens to Phillip, God is still good. Even if I don’t come home, God is still on the throne.
Even if…I will keep praising God.
Because no matter if all the what ifs actually come to pass, I will not be able to withstand even a moment of it without God.
And therefore, I will praise God forevermore.
Praise is a weapon.
In the same scene of the vast armies coming against King Jehoshaphat and Judah, “Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying, ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for this love endures forever.’”
“As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.” (2 Chronicles 20:21-22, emphasis added).
The men faced the battle ahead of them with their mightiest weapon – praise.
And their enemy was defeated.
So what if we approached our what ifs with the weapon of praise? What would happen if instead of trying to mitigate a future negative outcome, we recalled who God was, reminded ourselves of his faithfulness, surrendered our circumstances and sang a song of praise?
God will be victorious every single time.
“Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.” Psalms 95:1-2.
God, we trust you to have us. Our eyes are on you.
A couple of extras for you –
Here is a link to the amazing podcast, Let’s Parent on Purpose. In it, host Jay Holland explores the idea of worry and anxiety with pastor Louie Giglio. Totally worth the listen!
And because I love to give you a link to a worship song, here’s one of my faves!