In hindsight, I would tell my younger self to let go of all the negative “what if” thoughts and replace them with the truth of HIS Word.
Growing up I constantly said, “What if….” I said this so much that my parents got me a customized vanity plate for my car that said “WHAT1F” (Apparently “WHATIF” was already taken.) In those days “what ifs” were usually something silly like, “what if we all dress up 80’s style, go to the mall, use 80’s lingo and act like this is totally normal.”
One of my favorite “what ifs” was, “what if we combine the Olympic sports of Synchronized Swimming and Speed Walking and make Synchronized Walking.” This “what if”, my friends and I actually did. We were the best Synchronized Walking team around, it didn’t matter that we were the only team. We dazzled the crowds! Who cares that the crowds were our other friends forced to watch this shenanigan, we dazzled!
Unfortunately, as I grew older, my “what if” thoughts grew less silly and became more condemning. What if I am not called into ministry? What if I have taken the wrong path in college, my job and my marriage? What if I have made a huge mistake with the direction of my life?
I would hear Holy Spirit whisper to me, “You sought me for all of these decisions, so as Proverbs 3:5-6 claims – you trusted in the Lord with all your heart and you did not lean on your own understanding; you submitted your ways to HIM, and now, HE will make your paths straight.” I began to really lean into HIM in that time and HE renewed my mind and gave me peace.
However, when I became a pastor at The Rock, the ugly “what ifs” came back. This time it wasn’t about my decisions, this time it was personal. After every service I was plagued with thoughts like these: What if I am too annoying? What if I am too loud? What if I am not measuring up? What if I can’t get all of this done? What if I don’t fit into the mold of what I think a pastor should be?
These thoughts would spiral out of control until I couldn’t even sleep at night. This went on for months. Because of these deeply condemning thoughts, I would dread getting to minister, when I used to jump out of bed in the morning thrilled to get to minister.
I remember vividly one night when Holy Spirit spoke boldly to my heart, “If you don’t stop this negative thought cycle of “what if” lies, you will be burned out and done with ministry within the year.” My blood ran cold. Oh, I love getting to share the hope of Christ with others; I did not want to be done within the year. I cried out to HIM, “God what do I do to make these thoughts stop?” HE reminded me of a scripture I had learned as a child.
2 Corinthians 10:5 says,
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
God reminded me that I had to take each of my “what if” thoughts captive and review them with what I knew God’s word said. If the thought did not line up with God’s word then I had to work to make that line of thinking obedient to Christ. The only way I could do this was by digging into scripture.
When my “what if” thoughts were about people’s, including my own, opinion of me, these scriptures would come back to my mind:
Psalms 27:1 says, ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?”
Psalm 118:6-7 “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? The Lord is with me; he is my helper.”
When my “what if” thoughts were about my inadequacies and insecurities, these scriptures would come back to mind:
2 Corinthians 12:9 But He answered me, “My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds its full expression through your weakness.” So I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I’m weak I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me
Psalm 55:22 “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.”
When my what if thoughts were about fear or failure, these scriptures would come back to mind:
Deuteronomy 31:6“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Isaiah 41:13-14 “’For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Do not be afraid, for I myself will help you,’ declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.”
Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
Dear sister, there is nothing more important than knowing what God’s word says so that you can live in truth and freedom. Above were just a few scriptures that helped me in this season. If you battle these types of negative thoughts, I challenge you to go on a treasure hunt with the Lord, in His Word, to dig out these truths for yourself. Then you will be able to replace negative thought cycles with HIS Truth! This will lead you to so much freedom in HIM!