We are living in a time of anxiety. As we try to make plans and figure out what life will look like now, our thoughts churn in the background, sapping our strength and feeding our fears of “what if”.
What if I or my loved one gets sick? Or dies?
What if I lose my job…income…housing?
What if Biden gets elected?
What if Trump gets re-elected?
What if….What if….What if….like buzzards circling a kill, our minds can circle down the drain of fear, depression and hopelessness when we consider all the dire possibilities facing us.
We sense it coming for us, the next disappointment or disaster, and our minds spin, scrambling to find purchase on ground that is giving way, grasping to find a toehold that will hold off the inevitable.
It’s exhausting. Bad news chips away at our peace, but by bit, as we muster a smile for our co-workers and comfort our children. All the while, our “what ifs” whisper to us, until night comes and they climb into bed with us, demanding answers.
The Jewish prophet Habakkuk had similar fears as Israel was about to be overrun by the Babylonian empire and they were facing death or captivity. He cried out to God in his fear and desperation. “My heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled” he wrote.
All of his “what ifs” were coming for him, and he knew it.
But followers of Jesus know there is a way to silence our “what ifs”. We follow a God who understands fear and mental torment – a God who has suffered and yet offers us peace. A God who shows us how to exchange our fearful “what if” for a confident “even if”.
Even if I suffer loss, even if the economy collapses, even if the other candidate wins, I am secure in the love of God. I know where I am headed. I know how the story ends.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” said Paul, the missionary who had suffered beatings and imprisonment and knew that worse was coming. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Even if (fill in the blank) happens, we cannot ever be separated from the love of God. This is a love that can hold us through our “what ifs”, if we let it, and lead us onto the solid ground of “even if”.
Habakkuk changed his fearful “what if” to a confident “even if” at the end.
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;” he continues, ” he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.”
On the heights we gain perspective. We catch a glimpse of the bigger picture and the glory that awaits us. On the heights we can acknowledge our fears, but not let them rule us. On the heights we discern a purpose that strengthens our souls for the battle against fear and hopelessness.
I am determined to live on the heights of “even if” instead of the dark valley of “what if”. The air is clearer up here; the sun brighter. Won’t you join me?