It takes time to overcome fear of what-if. Fighting doubts lurking beneath the fear of the unknown equips us to overcome what-if fears.
White knuckled, I gripped the steering wheel, trapped in my own thoughts as my kids sang and chattered away in the back. I got choked up saying goodbye to my husband at the airport and now my heart pounded as I sat in the car fighting back tears. He wasn’t going away for that long, and this was not his first trip. This was routine. So why was I freaking out?
What-If Rabbit Trails of Fear
What if? Planes hardly ever crash but what if? What if my husband doesn’t make it home? Or if we crash? Car accidents are much more common than plane crashes. What if someone gets sick and he isn’t here? Or gets hurt? Who will help me and who will console him?
Does this happen to you too? The fear of ‘what if’ can sneak up out of nowhere. One fleeting thought triggers a laundry list of fears. Many of us are masters at fabricating Hollywood-worthy tragedies and horror stories. What if my child has an allergic reaction to nuts? Or we run out of money? What if I can’t handle what’s coming? Or if our child makes a bad decision, permanently altering or ending their lives? How will we go on if someone we love dies unexpectedly?
The certainty of changes we cannot control can cause us to worry. Have you noticed what-if fears often accompany good life changes? In my life, both marriage and motherhood triggered waves of new fear. Initially, it felt normal; with great love lies the potential for greater fear. Because we love our people fiercely, it’s understandable to fear for their physical safety and eternity. Furthermore, we fear the things we can’t see a way through or prevent.
While fear is a part of our normal lives, it isn’t something we have to excuse or accept. Although what-if fears are understandable, they are not harmless. Unchecked, we allow nightmare daydreams to consume our thoughts and tie our stomach up in knots. Given enough time, these fears can pull us away from truth so anxiety over the unknown replaces our peace. We go from being present and trusting God in the moment to fixated on what if.While fear of the what-if is part of our normal lives, it isn't something we have to excuse or accept. Although what-if fears are understandable, they aren't harmless. #fear #faith #fightfear Click To Tweet
Tools To Overcome What-If Fears
If we want to overcome our what-if fears, we need to begin by admitting there’s a problem. Friends, we don’t have to accept these fears ruling our thoughts.
We will always have what-if questions because we do not know the future. Overcoming fear of the what-if isn’t about eliminating these questions, it’s about preparing to trust God when they arise. When we know a challenge is coming, we can do what we can to equip ourselves to face it well. What-if fears are no exception. There are some practical steps you and I can take today to prepare ourselves for the next what-if thought that threatens trigger fear.
Take Note And Take Practical Action
Overcoming fear of what-if begins by paying attention. How often do thoughts of what-if run through your head? What do you do with them and how long do you focus on them? Take note.
Every what-if thought isn’t harmful, it’s what we do with it that determines help or harm. In fact, what-if thoughts can prompt us to take healthy steps or precautions within our control; God does equip His children to exercise wisdom and be proactive. When possible, take practical action. Once we recognize fear and take action, we have two choices: continue to entertain our fears or surrender them to God.
Fear festers in the dark and fixating on fears in silence allows them to grow. Often, speaking our fear out loud to God helps us see it differently. I tend to ‘hide’ my fears from God, as if they can be hidden. God already knows all of our thoughts and grace tells us there is no need to be ashamed of fear. Tell Him your fears! Not only will verbalizing fear make you feel better, you’ll also find help from the God of unlimited resources, who loves you like crazy.
Once what-if fears are voiced to God, it might be time to voice them to your husband, a trusted friend or counselor. A wise, godly person will not only listen, they’ll also offer understanding and encouragement. They can also support you in prayer.
Beneath every what-if fear lurks a surprising accomplice. Doubt. Is God good? Are His plans for me and my family really good? Is He kind? We keep messing up; will He give up on me? Will He leave me? Can God do what He says He can? Will He? Does God really love me? What about my kids? Does God listen to me or even care what I say? Have you ever had any of these questions? I share them with you because I have. Some within the last week!
Because we are incapable of perfect faith, doubt is something we all experience. While it may feel uncomfortable, there is freedom in admitting doubt. God won’t turn us away. Instead of condemning doubting Thomas, Jesus graciously presented His hands and feet. God wants to help us believe and knows we cannot overcome doubt on our own. When we admit doubt, we invite God to stand in the gap between our heads and our hearts.When we admit doubt, we invite God to stand in the gap between our heads and our hearts. #doubt #fear #whatif #faith Click To Tweet
Unspoken or unrecognized doubts are the underlying reason a fleeting what-if question festers into worry, anxiety or fear. Have you taken time to evaluate the doubts your what-if fears reveal?
Seek Truth To Fight Doubt
Truth is the opposite of doubt and we can’t fight doubt if we don’t know what the truth is. But even when we do know the truth, changing our thinking doesn’t happen overnight. Regularly taking to time read and reflect on scripture and to memorize applicable verses helps us incorporate truth into our thoughts. Over time, God begins to re-frame our thinking.
What doubts lurk behind your what-if fears? Take time to find out what the Bible says. What attribute, promise or characteristic of God do you need help believing? To find appropriate Bible verses, a concordance may be helpful. Reflect on and memorize the verses. Memorization is powerful; as we digest God’s Word and apply it, it begins to frame our thinking and responses.
Need help getting started? In the From Fear to Freedom Resource Bundle, you’ll find a set of verses to battle doubt from This Grateful Mama along with 30 pages of fear-fighting encouragement from 13 other bloggers. Subscribe to This Grateful Mama and grab yours today!
Battle Doubt In Prayer
We cannot fight doubt on our own because faith is a gift from God. No matter how hard we try, we can’t transform our thinking. In some ways, it’s a relief, isn’t it? God does the work of transforming our hearts and minds because He knows it’s too hard for us.
Prayer is essential in admitting our need for God and repenting of self-reliance. When we ask the Holy Spirit to change our hearts and thoughts and to break the habit of fixating on the what-if, He will!
With that said, I often struggle with what to pray. And how to begin so I’m not just repeatedly asking God to remove my fear and change my circumstance. In recent years, God has begun to teach me to pray by praying scripture back to Him. Praying scripture gives us words that align our hearts with His. Have you tried it? Ask him to help you believe what you know in your head.
If you haven’t prayed scripture to God before and aren’t sure where to begin, here’s an example, adapted from Jeremiah 29:11:
Lord, your Word says you’re good and your plans for me are good, help me believe it. Show me evidence of your goodness and bring it to mind when I’m struggling with doubt and fears of what-if. Write these truths on my heart and help me recognize when I’m trusting what I see and feel instead of the truth. Teach me to test my emotions and thoughts against your Word.
Unchecked what-if fears can manifest as anxiety. In my life, anxiety has ebbed and flowed depending on life circumstances and season. Many of us can admit that sometimes anxiety has such a grip on us that we need more help than these ideas provide. But we can also admit it isn’t always easy to be honest about anxiety, is it? Especially in Christian circles.
Don’t be fooled. Satan wants us to battle fear alone. If he can isolate us, he can do more damage. It’s a tragedy that Christians don’t talk about being treated for anxiety. Suffering in secret fosters shame, self-reliance and discouragement. Many of us, myself included, have benefited from counseling and medication for depression, anxiety and more.
Seeking treatment and help is nothing to be ashamed of and shows wisdom and humility. God can heal anxiety and fears as we seek Him but I believe He expects us to seek help when we are unable to break free.
It’s an honor to be a part of this blog tour and I’m already hearing of ways it’s encouraged so many of you. Thank you for sharing those encouragements. However, if you are struggling, PLEASE seek help from more than blogs and Google. You never have to suffer through fear and anxiety alone or in silence. Talk to a friend, family member or doctor. Message me if I can be of help. God made us relational people and we need to fight our battles in the context of community.You never have to suffer through fear or anxiety alone or in silence. God made us relational people and we need to fight our battles in the context of community. #community #fightfear #gethelp Click To Tweet
From Fear to Freedom Tour
This is one of 30 posts on the From Fear to Freedom Tour, a collaborative effort organized by Alisa Nicaud of Flourishing Today. You’ll find resources, scriptures and biblical truths to guide you towards victory over fear.
Managing Anxiety, Focus on the Family
A Prayer for the Worried Mom’s Heart, Christina Fox, Desiring God
42 Replies to “Overcome Fear of What-If By Fighting Doubt”
Amen. This is such a good post. I also struggle with anxiety and I think these tips are good to remember.
Thank you Cara, I hope they help point you to Him!
This us to happen but not so much anymore. I have overcome.
“Beneath every what-if fear lurks a surprising accomplice. Doubt.” This resonated with me, Elaine. And it’s even more troubling if my doubt has roots in whether God is actually in control and overseeing my life…no matter what. Thank you for this wonderful post and tips!
Thank you for your insights and kind words, Karen. God has been gently convicting me of doubt over the past couple of years. I went from thinking I didn’t have doubts to realizing that there are many areas daily that I fail to trust. And where I fail to trust, there is doubt. I’m thankful that even as troubling as having doubts may be, recognizing they are there helps us begin to ask God to change them!
This was such a great post!! I had never thought of this but I love this part….”with great love lies the potential for greater fear. Because we love our people fiercely, it’s understandable to fear for their physical safety and eternity.” it’s so true that most of the what if’s surround my people. I love your tips to overcome the what if’s that plague us.
Most of my what if fears surround people I love too. I used to think (or try to convince myself into thinking) that loving others meant you needed to fear for them. But God says there is no fear in love and perfect love casts out fear! Thank you for your encouragement and for sharing what stood out to you.
This is truly powerful!! I LOVE LOVE that you are able to share all of this with me. I need this.. I have fear too many times, and this spoke to me.
Thank you for sharing that God is reaching you through this today. He is faithful!
wooooo! Hallelujah! AMEN! This right here is so good! I will be praying this prayer for myself…
” Lord, your Word says you’re good and your plans for me are good, help me believe it. Show me evidence of your goodness and bring it to mind when I’m struggling with doubt and fears of what-if. Write these truths on my heart and help me recognize when I’m trusting what I see and feel instead of the truth. Teach me to test my emotions and thoughts against your Word.”
Thank you for this post! I struggle with What-If Fears too much! I think it is such a good reminder to pray God’s truth and words back to Him as a way to verbalize what we already know. I LOVE THIS! You definitely hit on many good things and blessed me today with this post!
Kristen, I think you have the gift of encouragement. Thank you for your warm words and for sharing how this blessed you. YOU are blessing me today.
Lord, help us to turn to you and your Word when our minds begin to wander down trails we don’t need to go. And to hear your voice when you whisper, nudging us to turn and trust in you.
The what if game used to direct every step I took. I was unable to make the simplest of decisions without contemplating what bad outcomes might happen. It took over my life.
This is such a great article with such great practical advice.
I can relate to not being able to make decisions without contemplating all the possible outcomes Jennifer! For some time I convinced myself it was actually ‘due diligence’ and wise decision making. I do think we are called to chase down big decisions and make sure we understand what we’re getting into but the what-if questions in my life are not based on wisdom but on FEAR. Thank you for sharing your experience here. I’m glad it sounds like you’re making headway in this area!
I’ve gotten stuck in the “what if” trap before, and it totally sucks. Somewhere along the line I learned how to “go with the flow” and recognize the things that are in my control. I also love Tim Ferriss’s fear setting exercise, which forces you to think through the rabbit trail of fear to find out exactly what would happen, and then come up with how to mitigate it.
This is such a good post! So applicable and so timely! No matter what stage of life we’re in, this can always rear up its head as a challenge, especially during times of change and turmoil. I really like this: “Overcoming fear of the what-if isn’t about eliminating these questions, it’s about preparing to trust God when they arise.”
Thank you so much Melinda! I’m so glad this was timely for you and agree that no matter what stage of life we are in, we will need to fight fears.
Oh yes, I struggle with this! It was much worse when I first got married, but since then I’ve learned to name my fear and doubt and bring it to Jesus. It’s not a magical way to get rid of my fear, but the Holy Spirit can provide such peace in those moments!
Agreed Emily – there is no ‘magic’, but God is powerful, good and able to provide all we need to battle each fear that arises.
I like that you point us to the truth of God’s Word, Elaine. God’s character, His promises, and who we are to Him make a big difference in how we can take those next steps with confidence. I think the other side of the coin is also vulnerable to mis-truths: believing “we can do it” or that everything will work out. Like doubt, it’s easy for us to just plow forward thinking, “I got this,” without depending on God or seeking His wisdom. God’s got this, not us. I also like what you said: “God begins to re-frame our thinking. What a gracious God He is.
Hi Stephen! I completely agree that the mis-truth of “I got this,” can cause us to go ahead, “without depending on God or seeking His wisdom.” Self reliance is a struggle for me so this false thinking can really lead me astray! Thank you for pointing this out.
I like that you pointed us to the truth of God’s Word. God’s character, His promises, and who we are to Him really matters for us to take our next steps with confidence. I think the other side of the coin is susceptible to mis-truths too: feeling like ‘we can do it,’ or everything’s going to work out. We can’t just plow ahead without depending on God or seeking wisdom in the process (prayer and counsel). Great post!
Yes the enemy would like nothing more than to amplify our fears to keep us away from God’s plans!
You’re so right, Heather! If he can’t stop us, Satan will do his best to distract.
Such wonderful tips for battling fear, doubt and anxiety! We need these reminders again and again because these thoughts creep in when we least expect them. Thank you for tackling this with honesty, compassion and the power of God’s Word! His Word, His thoughts over mine!!!
Melissa! I always appreciate your thoughts and way with words. I love the easy to remember, practical wording of ‘His Word, His thoughts over mine!” Thank you!
This is such a wonderful post! I go through the “what ifs” every time I get ready to leave my house. Anxiety is a horrible thing to have to go through.
Oh Michelle, anxiety is a terrible feeling. I’m sorry it’s so frequent right now for you. I’ve been there too.
Lord, I ask for peace for Michelle. Draw her near and reveal your presence when she is leaving the house. Remind her you go with her wherever she goes!
Thank you so much for the prayer! ❤️
I have my share of doubts, anxiety and fear. Reminding myself how He has helped me through some really rough patches in my past comfort me the most. Thanks for mentioning medication and counseling as viable treatments when our fear and anxiety get out of control. It’s an important stigma to address and yes, it shows wisdom and humility to turn to Godly helpers when we need to overcome fear!
Hi AnnMarie! Recounting God’s faithfulness is powerful in my life too! Especially when facing the unknown. And I agree – we need to move past the stigma of getting help, regardless of the type of help we need!
I’ve always struggled with this. This is a great post. What helps me most of all is 1) prayer… choosing to rely on God and asking others to pray to God about this too, and 2) (morbid but true) acknowledging the truth that bad things DO happen. My worst fear COULD actually happen. And if it does, what then? Facing that truth helps me realize it’s really OK, that even if that bad thing does happen, everything will be OK because we are all resting in God’s hands, and He has a plan, and we’ll all be together in eternity. I find the shadows and doubts are worse than the actual pain.
Jessica, I love your point that we need to be realistic that bad things happen in this fallen world. We are told to expect trouble. And I don’t think that’s morbid, but looking at what we see and what God’s Word confirms. Asking what we would do if the worst happens helps us question our faith, and be diligent in seeking God so we will be equipped to face challenges. Thank you as always for thoughts that make me think!
Elaine, I really appreciate this post. Lately, it seems like the devil is coming at me by throwing more fears and doubts my way. I’ve had to be really conscious and intentional to pray that God will help me overcome fear and give me the faith to lean on Him completely. My husband and I have never had much extra money, but we’ve always been financially secure. In the past few months, though, our savings have been slowly disappearing and it seems like one thing after another is giving out around here. We’ve been living on one income (plus my little freelance jobs here and there) for almost 7 years, and it seems like it’s only getting harder. BUT, my God is bigger than my bills. He’s bigger than the enemy, and He will help me overcome my fears. Thank you!
Yes! God is bigger than all our fears and problems but the problems are real and I completely understand how fear can surround all of this. God is with you friend. He is working in each area and is an able and willing provider.
Lord, you know what Brianna is facing today. Strengthen her faith and help her seek your face and comfort. Stand in the gap of her doubts and show her who you are and that you are with her! And we ask for solutions to these real concerns and wisdom for each next step as they walk through them.
I loved reading these blogs from the freedom from fear tour on overcoming fear. Recently, I have read over and over to pray scripture. I feel like that is God’s next step for me as I have been battling the fear of what-if for the past year. Loved reading this 💕
Isn’t it interesting how God uses repetition to get our attention? I’ve really enjoyed the tour posts as well!
My biggest struggle with what-if doubt is that I know God can do X, Y, and Z, but will he? Sometimes that thought frightens me immensely so that’s where prayer comes into play. I have to remember to trust him and to lean not unto my own understanding so then he will guide me in the way I should go. Proverbs 3:5-6 is my favorite verse for every what-if doubt I have.
Oh Wendy! This is such a great point for me too. Even when I know God CAN, I struggle with the what if of His plans not aligning with what I am asking or hoping for. It’s so hard. And yet, God meets us there and longs to teach us to trust Him ‘even if’!
I’ve definitely gotten stuck in the what-if’s & worries before. I’m in it a little bit now. And you ask a good question – have I looked into what’s behind the fear – the doubts? I guess that’s just it – places I need to grow in faith.
I feel like this new ministry we’ve started for foster youth is leaps and bounds outside my comfort zone and own abilities – but still I am striving & worrying… sometimes it’s so hard to let go of control. I think there’s maybe more going on deeper.. something I need to pray about and yes, connect to others too! Please pray for me / our family as we go into this. 🙂
What amazing timing from God. I stumbled on your blog today while on Pinterest looking for ideas on how to say “thank you” to my daughter’s classmates and teachers for keeping her safe from peanuts this year. She took a field trip today and it was the first time she’s been more than 5 minutes from medical help. It involved putting her on a bus, which I’ve never done. Then they were going to ride Amtrak, and while her class was peanut free, there are no guarantees on a public train. I was a bundle of nerves, but I can’t follow her around with an EMS bag full of supplies forever. So off she went with two EpiPens.
I’d finally started to relax this afternoon when I got a message from her teacher. The train was delayed so they’re rescheduling for another day. And my heart sank… another day of anxiety. Another day of kissing my child goodbye not knowing if she’ll come back to me alive. And to so many parents that seems overly dramatic… but after scanning your blog, I know you get it. My child had to be in the ER after simply touching a table where peanut butter had been eaten 18 hours earlier. I’ve given her shots because she broke out in hives after reading a library book someone with peanut butter on their hands had read.
But I can’t allow fear and anxiety to control my life, or hers. I equip her. I educate the adults around her. I take reasonable precautions. But I have to let her live. And that means field trips, as long as they aren’t to a peanut factory! And I pray God’s protection over her. And if not… if His protection doesn’t look like my idea of protection… He’s been there in every ER visit and rapid response, & He’ll continue to be with us every step of this journey. And I’m saving this article to read on that next field trip day!
Stephanie! Oh sweet friend! I do understand and have walked through days just like your day today too. The more freedom they gain in their days, the more we release them to God’s loving care (as if they aren’t already there!). I especially appreciate your point that God’s protection doesn’t always look as we expect or desire but He always show us, provides what we need and reveals His goodness and faithfulness even in the midst of a reaction.
Lord, teach us to trust you completely with our kids while doing what we can when we can to protect them. You are faithful. Remind of of your goodness and perfect plan as we practice daily surrender of control to you. And Lord, protect them as you teach them who you are.