by Joe Leavell

What if…

What if I am trusting in Christ and my circumstances never get better, but actually get worse as a result of living for Jesus?

What if I seek to honor God in my job, but my boss never notices my hard work? What if I work harder than everyone, but never get that raise or that promotion?

What if love Jesus more than anything, and I still lose my job? What if I actually lose my job because of my loyalty to Jesus?

What if I am forced to work a dead end job for the rest of my life? What if this is as good as life gets?

What if I am rearing my children in the truth of the Gospel, but one of them decides not to follow Christ?

What if I desire to live in Gospel community with other believers, but I am held at arm’s length and never have a close friend in whom I can confide?

What if I sacrificially give to God, but I never really see God’s hand of financial blessing as a result?

What if I have a deep yearning to rear children in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord,” but I never am able to have children?

What if I want a marriage centered on Christ, but I never find the right person to marry?  What if I am single for my entire life?

What if I surrender my family to the Lord’s sovereign care, and my wife, one of my kids, or I get a debilitating disease? What if one of us faces an accident which disables us for life? What if one of us faces the horror of a painful and untimely death?

What if the Lord leads and I step out in faith to try something new, but, from all external appearances, it turns into a total failure?

What if I commit my ways to the Lord, and He sees fit to take me on a journey of real suffering, so that I will experience a taste of His experience on the cross? What if that suffering includes watching the ones I love suffer and maybe even die?

What if my spouse cheats on me?

What if I my family hates me and rejects me because I love Jesus?

What if I am a submissive wife who seeks to win my husband with a quiet spirit, but he still rejects Jesus? What if life gets even harder as a result?

What if ________ (fill in your own blank)?

Being a believer in Christ does not mean that our circumstances will always be easy, or always better. It does not mean that your “what if’s” will never occur. That is not the promise of the Gospel. Those of you who know my family know that my 37 year old brother passed away less than a month ago from melanoma. For our family, our “what if” became a heartbreaking reality. God did not spare us the pain of watching him suffer, and He did not shield us from experiencing the pain of saying goodbye to a very godly man who we were all privileged to know and love. My brother spent his life serving and loving his family and others, as well as reflecting the Gospel to those all around him. Yet, being a Gospel-saturated believer in Christ does not necessarily mean that God will change our circumstances and struggles, so that they will be easier than those who are unbelievers. In fact, our circumstances will sometimes be just as hard, and if we face real persecution, it will be even harder this side of heaven (1 Peter 4:12-19) than that of those who have rejected Christ.

Does that cause you to lose heart? If you are a believer, Jesus said very comforting words intended to give us peace. He said, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” In our circumstances, a life that includes painful struggles is nothing compared to the joy that is set before us with Christ.  Paul describes our suffering in 2 Corinthians 4:17 as “light and momentary” in view of knowing and experiencing Jesus from now through eternity.

For those of us going through horrendous circumstances, all we have left is the core of who we are. Everything but our foundation has been stripped away. If you are not centered on the Gospel of Christ when one of your “what ifs” actually happen, your false god will fail you and your world will collapse around you. This means that even when the worst circumstances imaginable happen to us we still have something in which to rejoice. We still have someone in whom to place our hope. We have Jesus and the truth that because of the cross and His resurrection, one day He will return and wipe away every tear and right every wrong!

I love how Habakkuk summarized the worst “what ifs” he could imagine in his agricultural culture and related them to his trust in the God who will sustain him and one day restore him. He put it like this:

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.” (Habakkuk

3:17-19)

Like Habakkuk, have you entrusted the control of your own “what ifs” to a good and sovereign God who will sustain you, will one day return, will wipe away every tear, and will make all things new?