From Fearful What-Ifs to Unshakable Faith

Originally posted November 7th, 2023, on Salt & Sparrow, From Fearful What-If’s to Unshakable Faith

My oldest son had seizures two days after he was born. All packed up and prepared to leave, I sat in a wheelchair with his car seat at my feet while my husband went to get the car. Just as the seizing began, a woman passing by stopped to coo and smile as people often do at newborns. “Something’s not right,” I muttered out of shock. We gazed down at the cherub, who had begun to shake uncontrollably in his seat, which gave her cause to excuse herself awkwardly, leaving a young mother paralyzed by fear.

Our tiny boy stayed in the NICU for his first week of life, where they did every test imaginable. I thought he might die, not because of any medical reasons the doctors gave, but because I had become consumed with every possible worst-case scenario. The what-ifs plagued me at night while the beeping machines attached to my newborn lulled my aching body back to sleep.

From Fearful What-ifs to unshakable faith

What-if is a terrifying place to be.

Today, my oldest son is a healthy, seizure-free 21-year-old finishing the last year of his bachelor’s degree. Besides many tests and sleeping more than babies usually do because of seizure medication, he was a healthy little boy.

The what-ifs that I entertained were so unnecessary. And yet, I spent more time than I care to admit, allowing them to control my days and nights.

I still do this:

I’ve already had cancer, a heart attack, and a rare neurological disease. My sons have been diagnosed with terrible disorders or mangled in a horrific car crash. My husband has died in a fire or been hit on the side of the road by a car, not paying attention as he runs.

Not a single one of these things has ever really happened.

And yet, my mind says they’re real at the moment. Fears dance in my mind and toy with my emotions, and I begin to believe that there is no other reality than the one in my head.

Unshakable Faith Instead of What-If

The possibilities of the bad things that can happen are endless. We’re all fully aware of this because of our world. And we often wonder when that bad thing will knock on our door. Our lives can seem like a walking contradiction because we must prepare for the worst and live every day as if there is nothing to fear. It feels like a balancing act between fear and faith. And I suppose it is.

So, how do we reconcile the fact that unwelcome things will occur with the truth that we are told not to worry about tomorrow?

Taking it captive and handing it over

Fear and worry have been two lifelong companions I’ve loved to hate and can never shake. I’ve spent excessive time giving in to scary thoughts and fear-filled emotions or trying to figure them out and finally run from them. I have struggled tremendously because I have felt like a “less-than-Christian” until I realized something I had missed: Fear is simply a signal. It wasn’t meant to be hated, fought, or run from: It was meant to be handed over.

It is impossible to walk through this life without ever experiencing a what-if scenario entering our minds, but we can live so that they do not control us. When unsettling fears and what-ifs come knocking, we have only two choices: give in or give it away.

In her book What Women Fear, Angie Smith says, “Take the thought captive before it takes you.” This may be the most concise and brilliant advice I’ve ever read about controlling our thoughts and not giving in to fear. The goal is not to have any worrisome thoughts; it’s to handle them responsibly when they come. 

Seek and be delivered.

What we think when we think about our worries in relation to God is what matters most. Do we believe He is capable of handling these worries? And more importantly, do we think He can carry us if these worries come to fruition? 

The truth is bad things happen, and bad things will happen in each of our lives. We live in a broken world with broken people. But we do not have to live broken and afraid—crippled by things that have not and may never occur.

I sought the LORD, and He answered; He delivered me from all my fears.

Psalm 34:4

You’ll notice it doesn’t say, “I sought the LORD, and He delivered me from all my bad, unwanted, and uncomfortable circumstances.” No, it says, “He delivered me from all my fears.”

The what-ifs we wrestle with can either drive us to despair or to Him.

This is not an overnight anxiety cure, but it is a powerful, life-changing application when we seek Him daily rather than ruminating on the one thousand and one ways it can go wrong. Remember, it takes time to undo something we’ve done for so long, but thankfully, we have a mighty power within us.

He is a God who promises to walk with us in our worst fears and on our worst days.

I wish the 24-year-old version of me had understood that the God she believed in was far greater than any what-if that threatened her, even if the what-if came true.

Friend, because we know the God who is more extraordinary than any circumstance we will ever face, we can confidently live in the tension of living prepared and unafraid.

When the what-ifs start chasing us down, let’s take them captive and seek the Lord, remembering that He is our refuge and strength—a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). He promises to answer us and deliver us, maybe not always from the circumstance, but always from the fear.

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