Moving from What If…to What Is

When I reach the end of my life, assuming I see it coming, I think I will wish I still had all the time I wasted in worrying about the future. If I could collect all the hours I’ve spent in trying to see tomorrow, or shadowboxing “what if” scenarios, I wonder what they would add up to. How many days have I devoted to agonizing over possibilities that never came to pass? How many more will I spend in the same way?

When it comes to this lifelong struggle, I don’t think I’m alone. In fact, I know there’s nothing unique about this experience. One of the most common causes of worry is this one resounding limitation on human knowledge: the future is unknown and unknowable. We can predict, we can project, we can make educated guesses. But we cannot actually see beyond our present moment. No one can.

And yet, because we know a future awaits, we want to see it. We want to prepare, to avoid, to have hope, to make today’s decisions in light of tomorrow’s circumstances. We want to manage the known in light of the unknown. And in so doing, we want to play God.

The truth is, we are finite beings. We are limited not only in our capacity for knowledge, but also in our wisdom, our generosity, and our ability to choose to do good with what we have been given. If you and I could see tomorrow, we would largely overlook the opportunities we have today. And I’m guessing we would spend a lot of energy still trying to see even farther.

It really doesn’t make sense for us to worry over the future, which belongs only to God. The future isn’t ours and might never be–so why try to live there? We actually try to upset the very fabric of the universe when we live in “what if?” We undervalue the gift we’ve been given in the ability to affect the future with our choices. And if we had the answers we want, I’m confident that we would be no more satisfied with our lives.

By contrast, God has given us the present and asked us to trust him. When we ignore the present because we’re trying to discern the future, we reject what he has given us in favor of reaching for what we can’t have. When we worry over the future, we’re almost always imagining a scenario without God’s intervention and goodness, without his provision, without the unforeseen good that is always possible. The chances of something good happening in the future are at least as good as the chances of bad.

Scripture makes very clear that we are expected to live by faith in God’s will for us and this world, and that humans are like grass, here today and gone tomorrow. People who fully engage in the present, without worry over the future, are able to make more of the time God gives us and to live in harmony with our calling.

This week, when you find yourself asking, “What if?” try redirecting your thoughts to “what is.” What has God given you today? What opportunities are before you now? How might today’s choices shape the unknown future?

As you choose to focus on the present, you may find yourself growing in readiness for what comes next.

  1. Carole Duff says:

    Love this post – thank you! Ah, the struggle, beating myself up for wasting time worrying and at the same holding onto the comfort, fooling myself into thinking I’m in control. Trust is hard, living out “what is” moment to moment.

© 2018 Amy Simpson.