The Fear of "What If?" Can Take A Toll


I have this bad habit that I am working really hard to break.  

When I am facing a tough decision, a hard conversation, or any number of things that are seemingly out of my control, I have a habit of catastrophizing things and imagining the worst-case scenario. 

You might be thinking, "Well, it's not a bad idea to hope for the best, and prepare for the worst."  

You'd be right in thinking this, except as part of my bad habit, I sort of leave off the "hope for the best" part, and then just dwell on all of the worst-case stuff, which isn't helpful at all.  

And even though nine times out of ten, everything works out well, it's always that one time that it didn't that sticks in my head, and sends me spinning into worry.  

As humans, we tend to internalize the negative far quicker than the positive, and then we let it color how we view potential challenges, obstacles, decisions, or encounters with others.  

So many of us spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about things that probably won't happen, daydreaming about a disaster, fretting over all of the "what-if" scenarios that we can't control.  

For those of us who claim to follow Jesus, we know that the Scripture is full of all kinds of exhortations to "Fear not!" but we tend to think those exhortations are best used on other people or are merely a nice idea or a goal that we'll never attain. 

Melody Beattie wrote about how worrying about the outcomes can actually become a self-fulfilling kind of exercise.  She writes: 

Because we have harbored the fear so intensely, it has already manifested itself.  The thing we fear doesn’t need to happen; it already has—or it might as well have—because we are already forcing ourselves to live through it. 

So in other words, just worrying about what might happen actually causes us to experience the kind of soul-wrenching angst that would accompany the disaster we're fretting over... even if it never came to fruition.  

Fear can be a powerful motivator to do well, to pay attention to detail, to cover all of the bases.  But it's the kind of motivator that takes a heavy toll on us, especially if we are constantly expecting the worst.  

It can also destroy the simple joys of life, ruin relationships, shake our faith, and wear us down emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically.  When we walk around with a low grade of anxiety all of the time, we can't enjoy life the way that God longs for us to do.  

Melody Beattie also offered this bit of wisdom, which I'll use to close the Devo today:  

Do not let the fear of what if ruin the joy of what is. 

Let this be a prayer for us all today as we face all of the unknowns in our life.  May you find the courage to surrender your outcomes, give all of the challenges you face up to God, and simply live in hope for the very best. 

May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. 

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