Facing the Big “What If”

I recently had the privilege of sharing a brief devotion with a bunch of teenage girls. Weeks in advance, when I asked the Lord what He might have me say, His answer was clear: “tell them they can pour it all out to me, they can always come to me.”

The Lord never gives you a lesson to share He isn’t also going to teach you through.

I kinda forgot that.

See, I talk to God all the time. But I don’t always talk to Him like He is who He says He is.

A few hours before I shared with the girls, He got my attention. Listening to those same girls, I began listening to the Lord about what I know goes on in their lives…and what I know will go on because they are humans living in the same fallen world I am.

They (and we) are going to face a lot of “what ifs” that plunder their prayers:

What if God never has me get married?

What if God never gives me or shows me my dream job?

What if God never makes me healthy again when I get sick?

What if God never heals the broken relationships I can’t fix myself?

What if I fail?

These are valid questions, and it’s alright to ask them. There is wisdom in preparing for many “what ifs.”

But the question of “what if” can also be a positive one.

What if God actually has plans for my life?

What if God is waiting to comfort me in my struggle?

What if God loves me more than the people in my life can and wants time with me too?

What if God is a confidant and an advisor?

What if God can lean in, listen, and embolden me like (or more than!) my best friends?

 What if we believe, when we speak to God, He is listening as lovingly, patiently, kindly, perfectly, gently, and honestly as He says is in His Word?

What if we believe

In Ephesians 6, Paul encourages believers to put on the armor of God. Then He goes on to say “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”

Prayer is included right there in the battle plan. But notice it fits in, bound to, other pieces of armor like salvation, righteousness, and faith. Notice how God speaks elsewhere about praying with a right heart, not for our own selfish ambitions (James 4:3.)

In other passages, God tells us we must ask and believe (Matt 21:22.)

What I’ve been convicted of is this: our prayers are plundered when we don’t believe or don’t recognize exactly who it is we’re talking to.

The best place for “what if” in prayer is “what if God is really listening, really cares, and has a perfect plan?” Because He is, and it changes things when we believe Him.

At very least, praying while believing God is who He is changes our perspective from desperately attempting to persuade God to resting in the blessed assurance of Christ.

This post may also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

The Faithful “If”

Photo from: www.spectrumhealth.ie

In Philippians 2, Paul explains what the “ifs” of faith can amount to. We read the words “if any” over and over again. Paul explains how the “ifs” we desire can add up to joy. Sometimes it helps to read Scripture backwards.

Those “ifs,” for instance, are based on the presuppositions that follow:

  • Have the same mindset as Christ
  • Look to the interest of others
  • Value others above yourself
  • Do nothing out of selfish conceit
  • Be united in one Spirit and Mind

Before listing these presuppositions, Paul says that these “make my joy complete” (Philippians 2:2.) Paul was not speaking merely of people doing things in faith to make him proud and happy.  He was explaining not just his joy, but the joy of those who read the Word and listen, resulting in a life that glorifies God.

These presuppositions set us up for the “anys” we long for in life. They fulfill the “if” of faith needed to move us from speculative belief into faith assured by the reality of Christ at work in you and me.

What are these “anys?”

  • If any comfort
  • If any encouragement
  • If any common sharing in the Spirit
  • If any compassion and tenderness
  • If any working out of our own salvation
  • If any of God working in us to fulfill His good purposes
  • If any shining like stars

IF we desire any of these in our lives then we need refer back to those presuppositions. And don’t we desire these?

In His grace He gives us every good and perfect gift. By His mercy we are saved without doubt after trusting Christ. But He doesn’t promise to break through our every barrier and buffer. The Lord doesn’t say that we will feel His presence and have His complete joy when we don’t walk with Him.

He certainly doesn’t promise to make us feel supported and cared for when we act for selfish reasons. In fact, Scripture says that “even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong–you want only what will give you pleasure” (James 4:3.)

So often when we wonder why He doesn’t seem near and or isn’t clearly working in our lives, we are also choosing not to live near to Him or open to His working in our lives. We live “fists closed,” as Ann Voskamp says.

On the days of exasperation and desperation that we cry out “Lord, give me anything” or “Lord, I’ll take anything!” these are the things we desire. These “if anys” are what our hearts long for as we seek to live lives that glorify Him and are filled up and overflowing with His presence.

But it’s also on those days that we tend to be willing to open our hands only to collect and hold possessively close. Our hands aren’t open to giving or to clasping palms with others in the body of Christ. Our minds aren’t open to the mind of Christ or the interests of others.

We live like one way, dead-end streets to “me-ville.” At the same time, we wonder why the love of Christ doesn’t roll on in. (tweet this!)

Longing for these “if anys” but missing the point, we change our hearts to say “if only.” If only Christ were here. If only I could feel His love. If only others showed me compassion. Then…then we could get to the pre-suppositions. But that’s not the order God created.

Start with “if any” and obey. Start with Christ first and others above myself.  Draw near to Him, and He will draw near to you (James 4:8.) You won’t have to say “if only.”

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” –Philippians 2:1-5
This post is being shared on: #LifeGivingLinkup #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, and #TellHiStory.