It's one thing to say 'I trust you Lord' but it is human nature to worry and to look ahead with fear; 'How will I cope?' 'What if...', 'How will I ever...?', 'I can't...'; 'It will be too much...'. In Looking for Love I wrote about trusting God with our love lives but how do we overcome all the 'What Ifs...'? (“What if I never meet anybody?” or “What if God asks me to wait longer than I can bear?” etc. etc.)
I've discovered it's not the power of positive thinking or even trying really, really hard to trust God that takes away fear of the ‘What ifs’. It is Jesus Himself who gives us the grace we need, when we need it. So here’s three tips to overcome the ‘What Ifs..?’
First Jesus doesn't tell us too much in advance, so ask the right questions.
Often we want to know the future and think it will help us cope with it better if only we knew what was coming. But even when we ask for words of prophecy or wisdom, God in His grace sometimes stays silent or answers our questions with a different kind of response. Because God knows how much to tell us and when.
I once prayed fervently for God to take me out of a difficult situation and when I finally felt God releasing me to move on I asked him in prayer, 'How long will it take, Lord?'. I am so glad in that moment God did not tell me it would take a full year before I fully moved on from that situation because I don't think I would have been able to cope with the news. I already felt at the end of my rope and did not believe I had another year of coping left in me. God obviously believed that I did, but He also knew I didn't believe it. So instead of telling me the exact answer to my question, God reminded me to enjoy His presence now and keep investing in my relationship with Him. I stopped asking ‘When Lord'?’ and instead focused on my present, daily relationship with God. And that focus became my lifeline during what turned out to be a rough 12 months.
Second: Trust that God will provide the grace we need when we need it, not before.
In one of my favourite books, an allegory called 'Hinds Feet on High Places' the main character (called Much Afraid) faces a path up a steep mountain and her cousin 'Fear' points out a gap in the path near the top and taunts her; 'You will never make it. Look at that crevice! How will you ever make it across?' She tries to ignore his words and starts to climb, but fear about that difficult part of the path ahead plagues her mind the whole way up.
But when she gets there, she finds there's a bridge that wasn't visible from below. It turns out, that the hardest looking bit of the journey was actually the easiest. Someone had already provided a way.
This is true in the real life of a Christian. I was reminded recently of an anecdote from Corrie Ten Boom (If you haven't heard of her, I can't recommend reading her books enough - The Hiding Place and Tramp for the Lord, especially). As a child, when she was inclined to worry, her father asked her 'Daughter, when we go for a train ride, when do I give you a ticket? When we board the train or before?' 'When we board the train, Daddy.' she replied. 'So it is with God', her Father said. 'He will give you the grace you need when you need it, not before.'
Later, Corrie observed that her ageing Aunt spent the second half of her life worrying about illness and fretting that she was on death's door almost daily. Yet when the time finally came for her to face death, she became calm and peaceful and faced her last days with courage. It was this that persuaded Corrie that the gift of grace truly is given when it is needed and not before.
Jesus teaches us that worrying is futile (Matthew 6:25-34) and encourages us to replace worry with trusting God for the future because He knows that God gives us daily bread (Luke 11:3), fresh manna from heaven (Exodus 16:4), fresh living water to sustain us (John 4:10). God provides new mercies every day (Lamentations 3:22-23) and we can trust that when the time comes, God will give us the grace we need when we need it so we have to actively trust Him.
Third: Remember that Jesus is with us now, throughout and always.
Jesus is not dismissive of our worries or callous with his advice to simply trust and pray. He promises that He will be with us - even to the end of the age. Jesus’s presence with us through the ups and downs of life is constant and his faithfulness never wavers. Where was Jesus when three of His faithful worshippers (Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego) were thrown in a fire? He was in the fire with them (Daniel 3). Where was Jesus when His disciples were facing a storm that threatened their lives? He was there, in the boat with them, demonstrating what faith looks like in a storm. (Matthew 8:23-27). Where is Jesus when we gather together to praise God? He is in the midst of the worship! (Hebrews 2:12)
Remember, following Jesus means Jesus is leading the way. He will not always tell us the answer to our 'What if...' questions but we can trust Him to provide a way and give the grace we need - when we need it, - never leaving us nor forsaking us. After all, Jesus final words before He ascended to heaven were these:
"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Get Real with God
What future event are you worrying about, that you have no control over right now? Can you pray and trust God to give you the grace for it when the time comes?
Do you need more encouragement to trust God with your Love Life? I recommend this book: Looking for Love.
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