When the Future Freaks Me Out: What about ‘What if’?

Several years ago, when our children were still preschool age, a spring storm assaulted our town. The tornado alarm on our weather radio erupted with abrupt concern and we knew a twister was coming close to our subdivision. Having no basement, my husband and I deliberated. Do we drive the five minutes to my folks’ house or do we stay put and brave it in the bathtub? Looking back on the experience, we should have decided differently, but we bundled up our children, buckled them in their car-seats and tried to navigate the dark roads. Because of the torrential rains, I could barely see the lines on the asphalt. Aaron drove behind me, planning to leave directly from the house in the morning for work.

I turned onto the county road that would take me the last mile to my parents’ house and nearly ran into a giant oak tree fallen across the road.  I screamed, slammed on the brakes, and tried to get off the to the side.

Miraculously, Aaron didn’t slam into the back-end

In the darkness and pelting rain, Aaron hurried over to the tree, dragging limbs and debris out of the way so we could pass. The whole time this was going on, I silently prayed God would keep us safe. Our sensitive firstborn cried and called out to her daddy the whole time, fearful he’d be hit by a car or swept away by the storm.

That night and every other stormy one since, we comforted our daughter, reassuring her that we were near, that God loved her, and would pray and sing over her unsettled spirit. Despite all these attempts toward peace, I often slept with her when it thundered or rained. As years passed, her fears settled and she learned to self-comfort and relax…even enjoy the sound of an occasional rainstorm.

A few weeks ago when severe weather hit our town, the tornado warning went off again, startling her out of a deep sleep. I got in bed beside her and held her trembling body tight. I kept praying for her, hoping silently that we indeed would be safe while verbally assuring her we would. When the wind whipped our siding and hail pelted the roof, I kept praying. After all, in this life, God doesn’t promise us a life free from harm.

Is He our protector, defender, and savior? YES. No doubt. But those securities come in the eternal and not necessarily in the temporal. Currently, I have a friend with a child in the hospital. A friend going through a nasty divorce. A friend who has lost her job. A friend battling disease. Trauma. Disintegrated relationships. Broken dreams.

I’ve had some heartache this year for sure, but life has been relatively cushioned in contrast to what some endure. And that scares me sometimes. I wonder, “What’s coming next?” It’s like I’m always looking for that second shoe to drop.

When facing fear of the future and all the horrible possibilities, my natural tendency is to try to prevent or prepare for (control) life. These efforts are often exhausting and just cause more stress–not less.

Even though I know pain, sorrow, and suffering are part of life, I’d love to avoid it as much as I can. Who wouldn’t? But then, I realize I’m living for the wrong things when I divert my attention to comfort and ease.

  1. HAVE A REALISTIC PERSPECTIVE. When I feel afraid of the future, I remember that life is fraught with broken relationships. Disappointment. Struggle. And it’s okay. My goal isn’t cynicism, but acceptance. Realistic expectations about the fallen world we live in relieves us of the pressure to make it all alright–an impossible endeavor. After all, some people don’t want to change. Some situations can’t be controlled. Some stories write arduous chapters. Pain is real, but avoiding it isn’t the goal. We need to be asking, “how can I become better?” instead of “how can I get out of this? Response reform is what we need, not circumstance control. Our hope lies in Someone else, not the here and now of what falters and fades.

  2. HE IS WITH ME. When I’m scared of what might come, I remember that He walks through the valley with me. His promise holds fast. We have a wonderful utopia awaiting us one day, but the Lord promises to never leave or forsake me in my pain for the here and now. His mercy is new every morning and binds up the brokenhearted. His grace is sufficient. This life isn’t all there is, thank the LORD.

  3. PRAISE HIM. When fear creeps in and perspective won’t altar my emotions, I start praising God. It may feel counter-intuitive to worship when I’m battling panic, but it does more to assure my heart than most anything else. I’m seeing God more fully and when He steps into my vision, all my concerns start to shrink in comparison. When He takes center stage, the actors taunts and performances fade into the background. I see Him more fully and am able to see myself more through His eyes, than anyone else’s.

  4. BE OKAY IN THE WAITING. You may not get the answers or direction you want when you want it, but God is already in the details. Trust that He’s big enough, loving enough, and wise enough to more than handle it all.

Don’t be distracted by the temporary winds; hold fast to Jesus, the Anchor in the storm.

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