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6 Words for Your “What If” Moments

“What if…” are two words that can have paralyzing ramifications.

It wasn’t too many years ago that I lived what could fairly be called a paralyzed life. I don’t mean that I physically was unable to use my limbs; rather, spiritually, I was unable to move in directions I needed and wanted to go. The two words that locked me in place were “what if…”

What if my children become gravely ill? What if they are not safe when they go outside? What if they eat something they are allergic to? What if my wife is not safe when she goes out and about? What if the car breaks down while she is traveling? What if she becomes sick or injured? What if I get a grave diagnosis? What if I can’t pay the bills? What if my friends don’t actually like me? What if the church I serve goes under? What if _______ becomes president? What if our enemies attack? What if the economy crashes? What if what they are predicting on the news comes true?

I think many of you will understand, because I don’t think I am alone in getting stuck in “what if” moments.


“‘What if…’ are two words that can have paralyzing ramifications.”


The more paralyzed in fear I became by these “what if” scenarios, the less I led my home well. I ceased growing in my relationship with God, and if I am honest, in some ways I was failing to trust and follow Jesus. It was in the midst of such paralysis that my wife spoke brutally honest and redeeming words. I was stuck in a “what if” in regard to the physical health of our kids, when she asked something along the lines of, “So, if your fears of what might happen come about, what is the worst that happens?” Suddenly, words I myself had preached came to my mind: “The best that Satan can do is to speed us along to our victory.” We live in frail, mortal bodies in a frail, mortal world. But God…

But God

“But God…” are the first two pivotal words I’ve decided to say when faced with a “what if” moment. In these frail and mortal lives, we come up against situations that seem impossible and hopeless to overcome. There are financial hardships, health crises, evil world leaders, and death and dying, just to name a few. But even in the darkest circumstances, we can choose to see “what if” moments as “but God” moments.

Scripture is littered with “but God” moments. After his father Jacob has died, it’s down to Joseph and his brothers who had sold him as a slave decades earlier. Understandably, they are fearful with Joseph who is now in power. In response to their fears, Joseph utters these great words: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).

The psalmist writes, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26).


“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”


In Acts 3:15, Peter preached, “You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead.”

In Romans 5, Paul writes, “You see, at the right rime, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).

We fail but God is faithful. We have sinned but God forgives. We grow ill but God heals. We die but God resurrects. In our “what if” moments, we can always declare “but God…” So, in your “what if” moments, I encourage you to make “But God” declarations (perhaps even out loud) such as,

  • I am confused by what to believe, but God is truth.
  • I am unsure of the diagnosis, but God has sent his Son as the resurrection and the life.
  • I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but God is in control.

Thank God

When the truth of “but God…” moves from our head to our heart, it becomes natural to practice two more words in response to our “what if” moments. Reminding ourselves of what God has done and can do (“but God…”) leads us to thank him for what he has done and will do. The second two words to say in “what if” moments are “Thank God.”

The songbook of the people of Israel is filled with praises of God, who had proved himself to be a mighty fortress and great deliverer. In their songs, they would declare the mighty works he had done and thank him for his deliverance. Just one verse in the final psalm says it all: “Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness” (Ps 150:2). God’s people had repeatedly seen God’s great deliverance from their enemies, not least of them being God’s delivering them from Egypt. These are surely the “acts of power” they were remembering and thanking God for.


“Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.”


We too can look back at what God has done (our “but God” moments) and be driven to thank him for his “acts of power” and “surpassing greatness.”

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32)

Thank God! Here are some more examples of reasons we have to thank God for what he’s done:

“Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.” (Romans 8:33)

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution of famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (Romans 8:35)

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39)


“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”


Thank God! In your “what if” moments, I encourage you to thank God for what he has done:

  • I thank you, God, for your redemption plan.
  • I thank you, God, for the hope of a new heaven and new earth.
  • I thank you, God, for the gospel.

Trust God

In our “what if” moments, we remember “but God,” which drives us to “thank God”—empowering us to “trust God” when the next “what if” moment comes along.

Many of the psalms poetically retell their stories of God’s deliverance as a way of declaring and reinforcing trust in God (see Psalm 124). David pens, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7).

The psalmists are often so matter of fact, as if to say, whom else would we trust? For it is the one true God who sits on the throne. It is the Maker of heaven and earth who is in control. It is the mighty Lord who has delivered us. It is God who has redeemed us! Whom else would we trust?

Are we moving toward the same level of trust? Have we taken the time to consider the history of God’s people to be reminded of where our trust lies? Have we turned off the news long enough to be reminded that “kingdoms fall” and yet just with God’s voice “the earth melts” (Psalm 46:6). Do we believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life and that we live even if we die (John 11:25-26)?


“It is the one true God who sits on the throne.”


In every “what if” moment, may we discipline ourselves to declare our trust in God:

  • I trust God to work good through every situation in my life even if the situation doesn’t seem good.
  • I trust God and his discipline that is for my good.
  • I trust God is the King of kings and Lord of lords.
  • I trust God holds the keys of death and hades.

In every one of our “what if” moments, may we not falter in paralysis, but instead remember “but God,” and then to thank God and trust him.

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