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