What if?

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(written for my church Advent devotional)

What if the Lord had not been on our side? 

Let all Israel repeat: What if the Lord had not been on our side when people attacked us?

They would have swallowed us alive in their burning anger. The waters would have engulfed us; a torrent would have overwhelmed us. Yes, the raging waters of their fury would have overwhelmed our very lives. Praise the Lord, who did not let their teeth tear us apart! We escaped like a bird from a hunter’s trap. The trap is broken, and we are free!

Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

-Psalm 124

What if? This is a question that can cause endless stress and anxiety in our lives. What if I’d taken a different job? Married a different person? What if I’d kept my mouth shut instead of speaking up? Spoke up instead of keeping silent? Raised my children differently?

We can drive ourselves crazy asking ourselves questions that there is no real way to answer and obsessing about potential past failures or mistakes. But there is a question we can always answer: what if the Lord was not with us?

In the Psalms, David says that if the Lord had not been with the Israelites they would have been completely destroyed. Our answer to the question today may look a little different, but the principle remains the same. Without the Lord, we are capable of nothing. Although we might not see instant physical destruction, we are not capable of producing anything of eternal value. In the end all of the things we desperately seek to build with human hands are worthless if our hope is not firmly planted in Jesus Christ – knowing his sovereign plan if far greater than our human limitations.

So today when we are tempted to ask the question “what if” in a way that causes us fear and anxiety, perhaps we should ask different questions. What if I lived every day knowing that God is in control regardless of the circumstances? What if I follow the Lord’s will instead of chasing after things that will fade away? What if I trust that the Lord is with me no matter what?

As we answer the questions, I hope we are reminded that we can be free of the fearful “what ifs.” We are free because we know that Jesus came and took upon him the sin, injustice and brokenness of this world and overcame them. So we don’t have to wonder if we can have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ – we are given the opportunity to walk with him each and every day – knowing that He is the only place our help can come from.

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