Issues of Life

The Problem With Wondering “What If…”

We all do it, I’m sure. Wonder “what if I’d done this and not that?” “What if I’d been there or not been there?” “What if I’d listened to that person or chosen a different action?

Such thinking serves only to frustrate and torment us, because it changes nothing about our current circumstance or situation. These questions also leave us with a paralysis and an insecurity in our ability to make decisions. We fear making the wrong decision because we haven’t come to appreciate who we are NOW based on our decisions in the past.

Sure, you could have been someone else… But WHO ARE YOU NOW? That’s a much more important question that needs your attention. And the next is, WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE? The problem with wondering “what if…” is that it keeps you from seeing “what is…” When we can see what we have despite what has happened, we can begin with humility and gratitude to change the script.

Until you appreciate who you are now, based on what you’ve been through, what life has taught you, how you’ve changed in your being and thinking, you’re never going to come to the point of taking responsibility for your own actions. You will continue to be a victim of, not only life, but of yourself, of a careless mind. So what if you spent five years on the wrong path because you made the wrong decision or something bad happened to you? Unless you are dead or going to die tomorrow with certainty, you still have every reason to take control and change the course of your life, by thinking about and KNOWING where you are going and want to be.

The other way the question “What if” stuns many of us into indecision and panic, is when we think about the future. Maybe we’re comfortable now. Maybe, so far, someone else has been making the decisions, and we felt safer that way. Maybe we’re just children, but suddenly find ourselves alone and responsible for others. Or maybe we just want to leave the nest and venture off on our own… The risk of failure or making a mistake can keep us doing something we have long outgrown. Or leave us doing nothing to support or sustain our personal growth.

We often hear stories of people who things worked out differently for. Maybe they were faced with our own challenges, and they made a decision, against the odds, and succeeded or accomplished something incredible. A common example cited is of how Bill Gates dropped out of school, but became one of the wealthiest men in the world. Another may be of a woman who abided with a difficult man, who later become of great importance, putting her in a place of favour. One might wonder if he had completed his studies, perhaps he would have ended up in a different field, working for somebody… And if she had given up, she would probably have missed out on that opportunity to be the one standing by this “great man”.

But the problem with these comparisons, which is all they really are, as inspiring and motivating as they can be to quit or to persevere, they do not tell you YOUR TRUTH. Those people had their own lives and probably knew who they were enough to make informed decisions about where they wanted to be. What made them who they are are not the same factors in your story, so it’s not only fruitless to compare, but very detrimental!

If we can take the case of the woman who abided with her lover/husband, whether he was just unloving, a womanizer, or a wife-beater, and whether he became the richest man in the world, or the president of a great country, or even a multi-national empire, you cannot know the nature of the shoes on her feet! Being rich and successful never made anyone happy. Many of these people would trade places with a happy person in a loving relationship in a heartbeat. So, if you find yourself wondering if leaving somebody with whom you share a miserable existence might cause you to miss out on some good that might happen to them (or maybe it has already happened, and you’re tempted to stay and “reap the rewards of your sacrifice”), you really need to ask yourself if you are likely to be more miserable then than now… Money and success rarely changes people’s characters for better. It often simply reveals them for what they are.

And in the case of quitting school or some establishment to venture out on your own, it’s good to realise that Bill Gates case is exceptional. I’m not saying you’re not exceptional, but many people are not. Many people quit and become stuck in a rut. Many people went out on their own and went under. Again, it really doesn’t help to compare. The most important thing, which I believe I’ve already communicated in one way or the other, is to KNOW YOURSELF and “to thy ownself be true!

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?” (Matthew 6:25-27).

Will our discussion be complete without a look at Jesus’ teaching here? Jesus says quite clearly, and repeatedly, for us not to worry. The expression used in the King James’ Version (KJV) of the Bible is “take no thought.” That seems hard and impossible, and even unreasonable. But Jesus is asking us to put our faith in a loving God, and not to be anxious about the future. That our anxiety can add nothing to what will happen, because the future is truly in God’s hands. When we trust God and obey Him, we can rest in His providence as we walk and work in faith. Paul reiterated this counsel when he wrote, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God,” (Philippians 4:6).

When you think about your future, yes, do consider your past, but please take stock of your present and your potential, and move forward in faith. Nobody knows about tomorrow. Nothing in life is certain. We can only make decisions based on our self-awareness and knowledge and understanding at any given time. And while you are at it, be sure to ask God for wisdom and direction, and He has promised to give to all who come believing… (James 1:5-8).

I pray that you will not be paralysed by “what if…“, but empowered by “what is…” and motivated to pursue and actualise your dreams. God bless you and lead you on this journey called life.

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4 replies »

  1. β€œThe problem with what ifs is that it keeps you from seeing what is”
    So true πŸ™ŒπŸΎπŸ™ŒπŸΎ
    Thanks for this


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