A dear friend of mine has an unusual and unsettling knack that, after years of being blindsided by it, I’ve decided is actually a gift. At times when I’m particularly troubled by the potential outcome of a situation, she looks at me and calmly asks, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Then, before I even have a chance to answer, she names it: the most terrible, horrible, no good, very bad possibility I could’ve dared to imagine. The one that’s been lurking in the dark, under my bed, around the edge of my subconscious. The one keeping me up at night and stealing my peace.
Once she speaks this worst-case scenario out loud, we look at it dead on, unflinching. Then she matter-of-factly says, “Okay, so this will probably happen. And if it does, you’ll deal with it, survive, and move on.” Although the outcome itself doesn’t improve, I’m forced to see beyond it — to a future where I endured the worst and lived to tell, where I was forced to bend but did not break.
I’ve been the recipient of these unorthodox pep talks several times over the years, and surprisingly, they never fail to help. Speaking my worst fears out loud, acknowledging them, and then accepting them as likely outcomes helps break their grip on me more effectively than living in a state of unnamed dread.
C.S. Lewis once famously said, “ . . . do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation.” Although it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and maybe a little desperate in the face of difficult circumstances, it can be comforting to remember they aren’t unique in human history.
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NIV)
This is big-picture perspective — to remember that the Lord has consoled people in similar circumstances for years, if not millennia, and He will be there to guide you through it too. As difficult as hard times may be, these experiences enable us to minister to others, as we recall how Jesus stood beside us when we walked through the fire. It’s the unexpected silver lining: Our pain has purpose if we bless others with the gift of our hard-won wisdom and testimony.
What are you most afraid of? Take an honest look at your situation and ask yourself, What’s the worst that could happen? If or when this happens, what will you do and how will it effect your life? Thinking through the possibilities in advance, helps you visualize a plan of action so you’re less likely to be caught by surprise. It also helps to focus your prayers. I often pray that the Lord’s will will be done and that I will have the grace to accept it.
Do you face something today that feels impossible to bear? Whether it’s an unexpected move, potential job loss, a health scare, a troubled child, a rocky patch in your marriage, the loss of a close friend or a family member, the emotional toll of extended isolation, or literally any other problem, the God of all creation is just a prayer away.
Learning to ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” can help you prepare for the future instead of fearing it. Learning to ask others “What’s the worst that can happen?” can enable you to help a friend who feels the future is troubling and out of control. The worst that can happen will never defeat us when God walks before us and beside us through it all.
If God be for us, who can be against us?
Romans 8:31 (KJV)