Dealing with Stress by Trusting God with Our “If’s”
My husband needed to pick up a receipt from FedEx. He sensed the Lord prompt him to grab the Krispy Kreme gift card on his desk as he was leaving to give to the man who’d helped him over the phone. My husband is a generous man, but Larry had envisioned offering the card to one of his counseling clients whenever it seemed appropriate.
An argument rose in his mind. What if I see a family that could really use this card? What if I wish I’d saved it for a hurting client? Realizing not every thought comes from the Lord, he prayed, “Lord, if this is You, when I arrive, have me engage with the person who helped me. Otherwise, I’ll save it.”
The man that greeted him identified himself as the one Larry had talked with on the phone. However, Larry’s doubts persisted. What if a client needs this more? But when he remembered his prayer, he obeyed the impression and offered the man the card. He left not understanding why the Lord wanted him to give it to this man but with the peace of knowing he’d obeyed God.
Can you relate to Larry’s struggle? Do “what if”s” ever cause you stress? Have you considered the influence of the little word “if”? An “if” in the wrong place can undercut peace. Too often I’ve allowed a “what if” or an “if only” to rattle my emotions.
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Those Pesky “What if’s”
Worry can slip in under the guise of “what if?” and “if only.” What if my client doesn’t like my plan? What if my husband hurts my parents’ feelings? What if inflation rises?
Or “if only” I was better prepared for this presentation. “If only” I’d shed the Covid pounds before swimsuit season. Do “what if”s” ever cause you to fret, doubt yourself, or question God? Did one come to mind right now?
While “what if” and “if only” can cause worry, an “if” in the right place can infuse hope and courage.
The Power of “Even If”
In Daniel 3, three brave Hebrews turned their “what if” into an “even if.” When King Nebuchadnezzar’s armies conquered Judah, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were among those ripped from their homes and families and carried off to Babylon. They lost their names and perhaps their manhood to be placed in the king’s service. But they didn’t lose their identities. They were God’s chosen people and servants of the Most High God.
When Nebuchadnezzar demanded they worship his golden idol or be thrown into the fiery furnace, they responded, not with, “what if …?” but with “even if” God doesn’t rescue us. Read their words.
“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Dan. 3: 17-18, italics added).
Don’t you want that kind of faith? Even if the worst happens, I will trust the Lord. I will stand true.
Let’s look at three biblical principles that help turn “what if” worries into “even if” courage.
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1. Treat His Words as Commands
In Matthew 6, Jesus told us not to worry about what to wear, what to eat, and what to drink. He concluded with, “So do not worry about tomorrow” (Matt. 6:34). Paul said, “Don’t worry about anything” (Phil. 4:6).
What would happen if we treated Christ’s words as commandments? Adam and Eve provide a vivid picture of what happens when we don’t obey God.
The forbidden fruit didn’t look harmful to the couple, but God knew the pain it would cause. Like catching a deadly virus, the poison began to multiply within them the moment they disobeyed God. The repercussions exploded over time. If Adam and Eve had obeyed God there would be no COVID, no riots, no wars, or death. We can’t fathom the ripple effect of disobedience.
When we disobey God, our peace, joy, and relationships suffer. We hide behind secrets. We blame others for our shortcomings and discontentment. We suffer physical, emotional, spiritual, and relational losses.
When Jesus says don’t worry, trust Him, He knows best. Christ’s conversation with His disciples in Luke 17:4-10 reinforces the principle of obedience. Jesus told them “Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them” (v. 4).
The disciples said, “Increase our faith!” Jesus said they didn’t need more faith. A mustard seed of faith could move a mountain. They needed to obey.
When we treat Christ’s words as a sacred command we will say, “I will obey you, “even if” I don’t feel like it. I will obey “even if” it doesn’t make sense not to worry.”
Obeying Jesus, for the disciples, meant forgiving. For Larry, once he made sure it was the Lord leading him, it meant giving his gift card to the FedEx man. For all of us, it means not worrying. The second principle shows us how.
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2. Cast Your Cares on Jesus
My husband and I visited Yosemite National Park and were surprised to find videos and signs sprinkled throughout the park warning tourists that bears are attracted to the smell of food. We had to lock up not only our food, but also lip gloss and anything else that smelled like food. Otherwise bears might attack our car or cabin.
Anxiety attracts Satan. He smells worry and comes after you, the same way the bears are drawn to the scent of our food. Learn to cast your cares onto Christ.
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:7-8).
Philippians 4:6-8 helps us do that. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Praying with thanksgiving safeguards us against worry. I will cast my cares on you, even if it feels irresponsible to let them go. I’ll pray with thanksgiving even if I’d rather worry and complain. To read more verses about casting your worries on the Lord, click here.
Unattended worry attracts spiritual attacks. Cast all your anxiety on Jesus because He cares for you. Let’s look at one more principle as we surrender our "what ifs" to Christ.
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3. Make Healthy Substitutes
Begin by substituting “what if the worst happens?” with “what if God is able to work this for good?”
- What if God is bigger than my fear and imaginations?
- What if God is for me?
- What if He is trustworthy?
- What if He’s worthy of my worship and obedience?
Isaiah 8:13-14 says that when we make the Lord our fear and dread, “Then He will become a sanctuary.” Whenever a dread arises inside of you, put the Lord in place of your fear and dread, and He’ll become your refuge. Fix your thoughts on the Lord instead of your worry. Dread disappointing Him instead of what you fear.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego chose to worship God even if it meant enduring the worst they could imagine. King Nebuchadnezzar flew into a rage and had them thrown into the fiery furnace. The furnace was so hot the men who threw them in died instantly.
But, when King Nebuchadnezzar looked into the fire, he “leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”
They replied, ‘Certainly, Your Majesty.’
He said, ‘Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods’” (Dan. 3:24-25).
King Nebuchadnezzar saw the preincarnate Christ with the three Hebrews in the fire. But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego experienced Christ. He became their sanctuary — even in the fire.
Jesus never promised we wouldn’t go through trials. He promised to never leave us. When we remember His character and focus on trusting and obeying Him, we shed the bothersome “what if’s” and enjoy “even if” peace.
Corrie ten Boom said, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its troubles, but it empties today of its strength.” Why not cast your “what if’s” on the Lord and receive His peace and joy?
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Debbie W. Wilson is an award-winning author, Bible teacher, and former Christian counselor who speaks and writes to connect fellow sojourners to the heart of Christ. Her books include Give Yourself a Break, Little Women, Big God, and Little Faith, Big God.
She and her husband lead Lighthouse Ministries, a non-profit Christian counseling and Bible teaching ministry. Despite time in Boston, the Midwest, and Southern California, Debbie still says y’all. Her family, which includes two mischievous standard poodles, calls North Carolina home. Connect with Debbie, find free resources, and learn about her books at debbieWwilson.com.