“What’s the worst that could happen?” Have you ever been faced with something that was causing you anxiety and when you reached out to a friend or family member to help you process it, she responded with that question? It’s a good exercise, don’t you think? Facing that thing you are inwardly fearing the most? Well, it is the start of a good exercise, anyway.
Up until that point, you probably haven’t actually said OUT LOUD what the worst case scenario actually is… it has just been haunting the depths of your mind without ever taking a clear shape. So you come right out and say it. The worst case scenario is… Fill in the blank. I lose my job. We lose our house. Someone I love dies. Someone I love leaves me. The doctor will say it is cancer. I will screw up royally and hurt other people. The truth will come out and I will lose the respect of those who I cherish. Whatever the “worst that could happen” in any given situation happens to be, is now out there on the table. You’ve said it. Whew! That’s a relief, right?
Not necessarily. Your friend probably asked that question because she doesn’t think it is likely that the worst case scenario will actually occur. She wants you to say it out loud so she can remind you that it probably won’t happen like that. If the conversation stops with simply answering that question, however, our fear and anxiety may actually increase rather than diminish. Because, even though your friend is playing the odds and counting on positivity to rule the day, you know that even if it isn’t likely… it is possible… and now you’ve said it out loud and have no answers.
A better response to gain peace and arrive at the place where you are getting the upper hand on your fear is to START by asking that question, but not to STOP there. Once you’ve identified your worst case scenario and said it out loud, don’t play the odds. Don’t talk about how likely or unlikely that result is… it doesn’t matter – you don’t know the future so wasting time trying to predict it is futile. Instead, ask the next important question: Then what?
Beth Moore demonstrates this beautifully (and somehow humorously) in one of the lessons she teaches in her study on the biblical book of Esther. In Esther’s story, we see her come to the point where she realizes that the worst case scenario in her situation is that she will die. The king will have her killed for daring to appear before him uninvited. She faces this worst case scenario and in the end asks for the prayers and support of her people and then says, “If I perish, I perish.” As Beth reflects on this idea of facing your fear, she talks about how she occasionally would develop a horrible fear that her husband was going to be attracted to another woman. It would build up inside her and every time he was distant or came home later than expected, or just didn’t seem like himself, the fear would rise immediately to the surface and her thoughts would be plagued with the worst case scenario. So she finally asked herself. “What IS the worst case scenario?” In her mind, the worst possibility was that he wasn’t just attracted to another woman, but that he loved her, and that she was darling and beautiful, and that her own children liked this other woman! Okay. “Then what?” Well, I would be devastated!!! I would throw a fit, a big fit! I would writhe on the floor in pain and my heart would break! Okay. “Then what?” I would be consumed with thoughts of them together and I would have to lay down on the floor with my Bible on my head (you’d have to know Beth Moore to imagine her saying all this. She is a kick) and listen to worship music in the car really loud and cry out to God just to make it through each day. Okay. “Then what?” Well, I’d be mad as a hornet for quite a while and I might take it out on other people until I got a hold of it. Okay. “Then what?” Well, eventually, I’d get back up. Go back to ministry and take it one day at a time.
Well, what do you know about that?! If you ask enough “Then what’s?” you eventually get to a place where a new normal emerges in your realm of possibility… one that is hard, but doable. One that helps you to take in the worst case scenario and not just play the odds, but face the fear and see the hope on the other side.
A word of caution: Faith is the basis of all of this. Faith in God and His goodness and in His faithfulness to fulfill His promises. If you don’t have that as a starting place, then asking yourself “Then what?” is a dangerous proposition, indeed. In Esther’s case, the end result was the possibility of her death… that thought isn’t going to fill you with hope unless you have a faith in what comes after death. So depending on where your relationship is with God today, you may want to start with a different question… before jumping to “What’s the worst that could happen?” why not try, “Is there a God who loves me?”
There is. He does.
Jeremiah 29:13 NIV "You will seek Me and find Me when you seek me with all your heart."
Carla Ritz. Proof positive that God uses cracked pots!