My friends, what a joy it was this past Sunday to be back in our Sanctuary and back to in person worship. I felt the spirit moving in that place in a very mighty way. If you were unable to attend worship, I hope to see you very soon. We have some exciting worship plans for the Sundays ahead.
As I have been reflecting on the tremendous outpouring of the Holy Spirit this past Sunday, I have also been contemplating a combination of two words in the English language which are some of the saddest I can think of. “What if,” really saddens me when I hear it. I know you’re probably thinking those two words aren’t so bad. Give me just a few moments to explain.
Indeed, “What if” can be employed in constructive ways which have the potential to break free some interesting opportunities. When we are stuck in our thinking and can’t seem to come up with a solution to a problem or situation, sometimes someone comes along who poses the question “What if?”. In that scenario, the interjection of that simple question can expand our minds to include some options which never occurred to us. That can be exciting and awesome.
Too often though, I have encountered the use of “What if” in situations where we look back at times and situations where the outcome was not as we had hoped. “What if my friend/relative/partner/mate had not gotten sick?” “What if I had not lost my job?” “What if I had not quit school?” “What if I had stuck it out in my marriage?” These and many more of the same sort prod us into thinking about what might have been in those situations. We get mired in rehashing the past and have precious little time to invest in the present.
Sometimes we utter the words of “What if,” in relation to current situations we are frightened by, or anxious about. “What if I don’t get the promotion?” “What if my cancer returns?” “What if I’m wasting my time pursuing my dream?” “What if I spend this money and the economy takes a dive?” “What if the one who is most important in my life dies and I’m left alone?” “What if my health fails and there’s no one to care for me?”
Can you see where I’m going here? We can work ourselves into a real funk about all of the “what-might-happens.” We worry about the present and the future when in fact our worry doesn’t help at all. It serves to heighten our level of anxiety and it seeks to dampen and depress our spirit. Asking “What if” in these and other situations do nothing constructive and are not beneficial for our wellbeing.
Now, I understand we sometimes can’t help ourselves in fretting over what is or what might be. God continuously is saying to us though, “Fear not!” These two words are some of the most hope-filled and comforting words I can think of. We are being reminded daily not to fear what is happening or what might happen. Why? Because in the admonition for us to not be fearful is the implication God is present and God will always be walking with us.
Jesus reminds us in the Gospel of Matthew 6: 25-27, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?”
When worry and anxiety threaten to overwhelm me, I turn to this passage and I find assurance in what Jesus is saying to me. I think to myself, “he’s right you know, all this time and energy is wasted on what might be, instead of concentrating on what is.” The truth is our lives are filled with lots of possibilities, and if we concentrate on only the negative ones, those are the ones that take away our best life God wants for us. God’s intention for us is the best life we can have in every moment of every day. If we spend those moments worrying and “what-iffing” we never get to see the joy of what God is providing for us.
Finally, in Matthew 6: 34 Jesus says, “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” In other words, stop playing the ‘What if” card and deal with whatever you are currently facing. That will be enough for the day. But do not neglect to see and enjoy the greatest gift each of us has in every moment of every day, God’s presence with us. The tomorrow we fret over, the circumstances we conjure up with our “What ifs,” only serve to short-circuit the love and comfort God offers us at all times, good and bad. Jesus, at the conclusion of Matthew’s Gospel (remember that means good news), he tells us “And remember, I am with you to the end of the age.” I cannot think of anything that brings me more comfort and helps me to face whatever comes my way, than knowing God in Jesus is with me. Jesus and me, we got this!
I hope and pray this is a word for your life, for whatever you may be going through at this time.
You know our anxieties, you know how we fret and worry. You continue to tell us to “Fear not,” unstop our ears and unclutter our hearts that we might hear that word daily as you whisper it to us. We give thanks for your Son Jesus and his reiteration of your words of comfort to us. He tells us not to worry, it won’t help. Help us to set it aside and look to you for our strength and joy.
Your fellow traveler on the Way,