The “What If” Syndrome is a malady that attacks everyone. However, this problem is more prevalent the older one gets.
The single asks “what if” I never get married?. What if I have to be all alone in old age?
Some women ask “what if” I never had kids?
The parents of college age kids ask “what if” we can’t see our kids through college?
The single parent asks “what if” I mess up my kid’s life? “what if” I’m not a good parent?
There are so many “what ifs” that confront midlifers…
“What if I’m diagnosed with cancer or some life threatening disease?
“What if I go bankrupt or become unable to provide for my family?
“What if my husband leaves me for a younger woman?
“What if my children turn out badly?
What if? What if?? What if???
The Root of The ‘what if “Syndrome
Notice that all the examples of the “what ifs” I’ve given are negative? So is it safe to say that the root of the “what if” syndrome is fear?
I did a bit of research on this and my conclusion is YES! Fear is the root of the “what if” syndrome.
Before we delve into dealing with fear, we need to understand what fear is and God’s perspective on fear.
Dictionary Definition of Fear
Fear is a feeling induced by perceived danger or threat that occurs in certain types of organisms, which causes a change in metabolic and organ functions and ultimately a change in behavior, such as fleeing, hiding, or freezing from perceived traumatic events. Fear in human beings may occur in response to certain stimulus occurring in the present, or in anticipation or expectation of a future threat perceived as a risk to body or life. The fear response arises from the perception of danger leading to confrontation with or escape from/avoiding the threat (also known as the fight-or-flight response), which in extreme cases of fear (horror and terror) can be a freeze response or paralysis. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fear
Human Perspective on Fear
Psychologists posit that fear is a healthy phenomena. They all agree that every human being is wired with a sense of fear. Furthermore, they say that this type of fear helps us to avoid dangerous situations.
Humanly speaking, we can all identify with this. From the irrational fear of the dark/bogey man of childhood to fear learned from experiences; different factors shape our fears.
Some of these fears are considered rational while others are considered irrational. The irrational fears are the one categorized as phobias.
Everyone has one phobia or the other, or has had to deal with one fear or the other.
I have seen macho men cringe and break out in sweat at the sight of a rat or other rodents. I have also seen smart, intelligent and strong women pass out at the sight of a roach or spider.
Yours truly is still putting off learning to swim because I can’t stand water on my face and fear of being underwater (can’t even stand under a shower; thank God for detachable shower heads!)
But funny enough I love going on ferry/boat rides. I would overcome it, I’ll learn to swim before I’m 60; I promise (tongue in cheek)
Well, I’m not giving an expose on fear just wanted to give a little background.
So what does God/Scriptures have to say about fear?
God’s Perspective on Fear
I am not a certified bible scholar, just a student of scriptures. In my limited study of scriptures, I have come across the word fear or its synonyms a number of times. But in 90% of the times I’ve encountered it; it has been as a warning against it.
The word “fear not” is recurrent in scriptures. It shows up as either “fear not” or “be not afraid” why is that? Because God knows that fear has torment!
Yes psychologists agree that there’s healthy fear but God’s word constantly says “fear not”
Would God wire fear into man and then command him not to be afraid? I think not!
The little illumination I got from the Holy Spirit is that fear came in at the fall of man.
God created us in his image; “in his likeness created he them” -Genesis 1:27
So if I have been born again, it means that I’ve gone back to original setting –
1st Corinthians 5:17
King James Bible
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.
GOD’S WORD® Translation
Whoever is a believer in Christ is a new creation. The old way of living has disappeared. A new way of living has come into existence.
New Living Translation
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
You may do a further study on this scripture it would bless you.
So if the old is passed and the new is here, it means my definition of fear and how I relate to it must change.
‘Practical Ways” of Dealing with Fear
By “practical ways” I mean psychologists’ prescription for dealing with fear.
In the course of researching this subject, I found many prescriptions for dealing with fear.
On the surface many of them were great. I’ll give you an example…
1. When faced with fear, confront it; stare the fear in the face and acknowledge it.
2. Then go away to a quiet place.
3. Empty your mind of all the negative thoughts and finally,
4. Begin to meditate on positive things. Think of green meadows, peacefully flowing streams, birds chirping in the trees or a beautiful sunset.
Some Psychologists even recommend yoga and other methods of meditation.
Yes, most of these prescriptions may help calm your nerves for that moment. But do they get to the root of the fear? I dare say, NO!
My Own Coping Mechanism
There’s one thing that has helped me so far to deal with fear. This is in addition to the tested, proven and true method of the bible.
Nobody taught me to do this, I just found myself thinking this way. Or maybe years of walking and fellowshipping with the Holy Spirit taught me. I can’t say categorically what prompted me to do this when fear or one of those “what ifs” come visiting.
I gather all my what ifs, line them up before me (this is of course an imaginary line up) .
Then I begin to ask myself what the worst case scenario would be about those “what ifs”
So what if I’m still single in my mid to late 40’s? – What’s the worst that can happen?
So what if I never give birth to a child?
So what if I don’t have substantial savings for retirement?
So what if I don’t have a home of my own? What if I’m still renting and can’t afford a home well into my 50s or 60s?
The list goes on and on.
By the time I line up these what ifs and answer the question with the worst case scenario, I find that life would still go on in spite of all the worst case scenarios.
In fact not only would life go on, life would still be enjoyable because there’s more to life than all my “what ifs”.
God’s Prescription For Dealing with The “what If” syndrome
If you examine all the “what ifs” in your life, you’ll discover they stem from a fear of the unknown.
I know many of us would have loved to have the entire picture of our life’s journey. But unfortunately it doesn’t work that way.
“If only God had told me when I turned 18 that i would get married at 45 or at 50 or not at all”.
“If only God had told me that he wanted me to be a preacher instead of allowing me to go through all those career fails”.
“If only God had told me this”… “if only God had told me that”.
But he has already told us all we need to know to live fearlessly. Huh?? When did he do that?
Have you studied your user manual lately? Yep! Your user manual; the bible.
God has a lot to say about your journey on earth and why you don’t have to be afraid.
So when one of those monsters or perky naggings of “what if” rears up its head, here are some scriptures to meditate upon.
When You Feel Unloved, All Alone or Uncertain and Anxious About The Future
Isaiah chapter 49 (Read and meditate on the entire chapter)
|Jeremiah 29:11||Young’s Literal Translation||Wycliffe||The Webster Bible||World English Bible|
|For I have known the thoughts that I am thinking towards you — an affirmation of Jehovah; thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give to you posterity and hope.||For I know the thoughts which I think on you, saith the Lord, the thoughts of peace, and not of torment, that I give to you an end and patience. (For I know the thoughts which I think about you, saith the Lord, the thoughts of peace, and not of torment, so that I shall give you a good ending.)||For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.||For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says Yahweh, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope in your latter end.|
If You Have a Wayward Ward or Child…
|New International Version||English Standard Version||Berean Study Bible||New Living Translation|
|Isaiah 43:4-6||4 Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. 5 Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. 6 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth||4 Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. 5 Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you. 6 I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth||4Because you are precious and honored in My sight, and because I love you,I will give men in exchange for you and nations in place of your life. 5Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east and gather you from the west. 6I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’And to the south, ‘Do not hold them back!’ Bring My sons from afar, and My daughters from the ends of the earth—||4 Others were given in exchange for you. I traded their lives for yours because you are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you. 5 “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. I will gather you and your children from east and west. 6 I will say to the north and south, ‘Bring my sons and daughters back to Israel from the distant corners of the earth|
|Isaiah 54:13||All your children will be taught by the LORD, and great will be their peace.||All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children||Then all your sons will be taught by the LORD, and great will be their prosperity.||I will teach all your children, and they will enjoy great peace|
When You Fear Impending Shame or Public Embarrassment
|New International Version||English Standard Version||Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)||New Living Translation|
|Isaiah 54:3 & 4||3 For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities. 4 “Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.||3 For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities. 4 “Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.||3 For you will spread abroad to the right hand and to the left; and your offspring will possess the nations and make the desolate cities to be inhabited. 4 Fear not, for you shall not be ashamed; neither be confounded and depressed, for you shall not be put to shame. For you shall forget the shame of your youth, and you shall not [seriously] remember the reproach of your widowhood any more.||3 For you will soon be bursting at the seams. Your descendants will occupy other nations and resettle the ruined cities. 4 “Fear not; you will no longer live in shame. Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you. You will no longer remember the shame of your youth and the sorrows of widowhood.|
|Matthew 6:26||26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?||26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?||26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father keeps feeding them. Are you not worth much more than they?||26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?|
|1st Peter 5:7||Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.||Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you||Amplified Bible (AMP) 7 casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully]. Classic Edition 7 Casting the [a]whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, [b]once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you [c]watchfully.||Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.|
“What ifs” would rob you of all the joy that God has for you in the here and now.
God’s got you covered so go ahead and enjoy life!
Yes you heard me; enjoy life! Sing a little louder! Dance more often! Work hard and play hard! Explore new interests and pursue adventure (within Godly limits of course)
Hear Solomon in Ecclesiastes 8:15…
New International Version
So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.
New Living Translation
So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.
Berean Study Bible
So I commended the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be merry. For this joy will accompany him in his labor during the days of his life that God gives him under the sun.
The Message Bible
So, I’m all for just going ahead and having a good time – the best possible. The only earthly good men and women can look forward to is to eat and drink well and have a good time – compensation for the struggle for survival these few years God gives us on earth.
Solomon had a very adventurous life before he ended up saying “vanity upon vanity, all is vanity”
Do not wake up one day with all your teeth gone and your eyes dim only to discover that life has passed you by. Then you become a bitter old man or woman!
Leave all the “what ifs” at the master’s feet and skip along with no worries; Yes no worries!