What to do when the 'what if's threaten to overwhelm
My husband travelled a lot for work when our kids were little. He often left for the airport well before the birds started chirping, only to return well after the kids were in bed several days later.
On the rare occasions his flight was delayed, I would have to manage the kids' disappointment while navigating my own. They repeatedly asked when Daddy was coming home, sometimes almost immediately after he left.
But much more difficult than managing disappointment was controlling my run-away 'what if' thoughts. My mind constantly went to all the things that might go wrong while my husband was away. What if one of the kids seriously injured themselves? What if I heard a noise in the middle of the night? What if … he never came home?
The last was the scariest ‘what if.’
What if his plane falls out of the sky and the last time I said ‘I love you’ was the last time?
Catastrophizing is the tendency to exaggerate or hyper-focus on the worst possible outcome. When we catastrophize, our thoughts are out of control. Not only is this not good for our mental health, it does not describe the mind of Christ. It is not characteristic of a follower of Jesus.
God calls us to higher. We are to take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ. When our thoughts start running wild, we need to grab them one by one and wrangle them into submission. As we do, we go back to what we know to be true: God is sovereign and He is good. Everything He allows into our lives can be used for our good and His glory. His love is steadfast through the most difficult of circumstances. Besides, no amount of worry will altar the purposes of God. We can rest in these truths.
I remember early one morning, after several delayed flights, my husband walked through the door, weary from a sleepless night of travel. Our kids ran wildly to Him and flung themselves into His arms. "Daddy's home!" they squealed.
Yes, God is good. None of my worst fears had become reality.
And even if they had, God would still be sovereign and good.