Thought For The Week - What If?
Words by Bev Jones
Some years ago, my husband was made redundant. Very unexpectedly, the company that he was working for announced a number of job losses, and my husband was one of them. Up until that time, redundancy was always something that happened to other people, and was probably one of those things that fell into my category of ‘what ifs?’ Those things that lurk at the back of our minds, jumping to the fore in the dark of night when we can’t sleep.
Those scenarios that have the ability to de-rail us when we find ourselves wondering what would happen if...?
The list of what ifs is endless and depends a lot on our personal circumstances. The things that drive fear into one person don’t necessarily touch another and vice versa, but we all have those things that have the potential to terrify us and leave us wondering how we would cope if they happened to us.
Well redundancy was one of my ‘what ifs’ and suddenly it was upon us. Desperate to trust God when it happened, I was at the time reading Exodus – the story of Moses leading the Israelites into the promised land. God spoke very clearly into the midst of the worry giving me this verse:
'The Lord will fight for you. You need only to be still.'
- Exodus 14:14
Photo by Caleb Jones via Unsplash
Those words jumped off the page, and yet as I prayed into them, I began to realise that this was not a stillness that was akin to standing still, this was a stillness that comes from within. The type of stillness that we have when we trust God – in the midst of the battles and the despair and the difficulties. I realised as I read further on in the story that as God spoke to Moses, He wasn’t speaking about a stillness of the body, but of the soul. The stillness of a soul who knows that God is in control - whenever our ‘what ifs’ arise.
Moses wasn’t a perfect leader by any standard, but he was a holy person, and he knew that in times of greatest trouble, disappointment, pain and fear – he needed to focus on God. In the next verse, God tells Moses to keep going. Sometimes, the time is right for action, sometimes that stillness is about trusting God and allowing Him to lead, even though the path ahead is somewhere that we’d rather not go. That’s exactly what God’s conversation with Moses is about – being still in the knowledge that God will fight for him and then being willing to move on with Him.
Moses must have felt that moving on would lead to destruction - there was only the Red Sea ahead, and Pharaoh’s army was hot on their heels, and yet God’s instruction to Moses is to move forward, and so he does. And then...
'.... the angel of God who had been travelling in front of Israel’s army withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel.'
- Exodus 14:19
All of a sudden, the presence of God seems to disappear - just as it does sometimes when we hit those ‘what ifs’ of life. The Israelites can’t see him any more – to them he’s gone. But where does he go? He goes to the back – he doesn’t disappear - this is God: Coming between them. Hemming them in. They may not have been able to see that – or even experience God’s presence, but there he is – standing between them and the Egyptian army. That’s a very different picture isn’t it – the God who never leaves us – rather than the God who withdraws at our time of need. Not a withdrawing but a re-positioning. Hemming us in, walking by our side.
If and when we feel that God has withdrawn, we have to learn to trust and claim those promises that he gives us about never leaving, and always being with us.
The worst thing that we can say to people struggling with the ‘what ifs’ of life is that ‘things will be ok. Things will turn out fine’ because the truth is sometimes they’re not, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes those things that we have been dreading do actually happen. We have got to help each other to navigate through those times when the ‘what ifs’ become realities.
Photo by Ravi Roshan via Unsplash
Those times when it feels that God has withdrawn, because this promise from God is that He will always fight for us. Not that difficulties won’t touch us, but rather, when they do touch us – He’s got our back, He’s fighting for us, and He’s the keeper of our soul. Meaning – I think – not that our problems will disappear, but that He will guide us through them, and if we allow Him, lead us out the other end. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be pain, but it does mean that it doesn’t have to destroy us in the process.
The Lord will always fight for us. God always only has our best interests at heart.
'The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.'
- Deuteronomy 31: 8 NIV