In the land of “What If”
It’s fun to daydream, isn’t it? Most people enjoy zoning out of reality and allowing their brains to take them to distant and, many times, random places. We daydream about the past and what we miss about childhood. We daydream about the future and what we hope to accomplish. We daydream about living in a different time and place.
Our brains seem to have a never-ending list of places to take us when we switch from focused on the present to zoned out in a daydream. Most of the time, these places are exciting and fun to think about. There are times, however, when we leave the land of daydreams and enter the land of “What If.”
Have you ever caught yourself using that phrase? Sometimes we can use it in a fun and exciting way, like, What if I scored the winning point at the last second of the game? Or, What if that guy I’ve had a crush on for the past year asks me out on a date?
The dangerous thing about the land of What If, though, is we can swiftly and easily go from innocent daydream to worry and fear.
The dangers of “what if”
I speak from firsthand experience. My husband and I have been married for five months, and I have spent too much of that time living in the land of What If. What if he gets into an accident? What if he dies? What if another woman approaches him romantically? What if he wakes up one morning and realizes I’m not actually the one he wants to love?
Yes, I know how ugly and dangerous this land is. It takes the people and situations God has given me and twists them into worry. Although, I can’t blame anyone but myself. I willingly enter this land and move forward in it.
I used to say it was OK to think about these things in order to prepare myself for if they happened. You know, kind of play out in my mind how I would react and what I would feel. But instead of feeling prepared, I felt terrified. I felt worried. I even felt sick to my stomach at times.
I soon realized thinking through my “what ifs” was not preparing my heart and mind for tragedy, should it strike. This dangerous land was causing me to worry. When you break down worry and everything Jesus says about it, you realize what worry truly is: sin.
Why do I often travel into the land of What If? To be honest, I’m not really sure. Maybe Satan tries to plant seeds of doubt in my mind that God is not faithful through all circumstances, good and bad. Maybe my sin nature pulls me toward thinking about things that aren’t honoring to God. Whatever the reason, it’s clear to me how dangerous and sinful it is to live this way.
Whatever is true
When I realized my land of What If was not preparation but rather worry, I knew I needed to break the habit of traveling there immediately. Breaking habits are hard, though, because when your mind falls into a routine, you start to think you need that routine, regardless of how harmful it is.
How do you combat lies, fears and worries? Praise God He gave us His living and active word! I have found it’s nearly impossible to steer clear of the land of What If. Which is why I have memorized Philippians 4:8.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Now when I begin to worry, I think through that list of characteristics and ask myself if what I’m worrying about describes one of the traits. What if statements mixed with worry normally don’t describe a single one, so I change what I’m thinking to fit this verse instead.
Does it work every time? No, unfortunately not, because I look back at my worry even in the midst of truth. But the more I practice this, the closer I get to forgetting all about the land of What If. I am now preparing myself with truth, should the worst happen. I don’t need to think through the made-up situation of my husband dying. Instead, I need to think on God’s truth. Because that’s preparing, not worrying.
When you enter the land of What If, seek God immediately. Don’t let yourself travel too far into this dangerous place. It will take your eyes off God and help you fear things that may never happen. Instead, think on what is true, what is noble, what is right, what is pure, what is lovely, what is admirable, what is excellent and what is praiseworthy. For in these thoughts, you will find freedom from worry.