I’m a contingency kind of person. I try to think ahead in situations, to anticipate what I might need to have or to do. I think that probably came from traveling with small children, and trying to be prepared for anything. Though I don’t travel all that much with small children any more, I still have that mind-set: What-if-it-ology. What if it rains and we don’t have umbrellas? What if we have umbrellas but we really need rain ponchos? What if we go to the Grand Canyon, and there’s a sniper on the loose, and we don’t have any snacks? (Yep, that happened. And, we were hungry, and cranky.)
While I know some preparation is good, sometimes I think I need to ease up a little and try to not forecast all of the possible outcomes. Because often, my contingency thinking draws me into awfulizing. The what ifs become nasty. What if the car breaks down? What if someone steals our stuff? What if we go to the Grand Canyon, and there’s a sniper on the loose, and we don’t have any snacks? There is a fine line between being prepared, and being fearful. So, what is the antidote for fear?
I was reading my Bible the other morning. The passage was about Abraham, when he was “a very old man, and the Lord had blessed him in every way.” Abraham commissioned his trusted, oldest servant to travel to his home town to get a wife for his son, Isaac. To seal the deal, Abraham told his servant to put a hand under his thigh. I figured that was an odd custom of the day, so I googled it. One explanation was that allowing someone to sit on one’s hand indicated submission to a greater authority, a trust in their leadership.
So, the servant submitted himself to his master’s directions, but a few moments later, like me, he started in on the what ifs. What if she won’t come? Then what?? Basically, Abraham told him not to worry, but to trust God to work it out. And if it didn’t go according to the plan, then there was a reason and the servant would be released from his oath. The man got everything ready for the trip. He considered the possible contingencies and packed accordingly, taking ten camels, a couple of gold bracelets, a gold nose ring, lots of expensive trinkets, and of course, snacks. When he arrived at his appointed destination, he stopped, and he prayed. He didn’t pray that he would be successful to get kudos for a job well-done, but he asked God to demonstrate His love for Abraham by leading him to the right girl.
God marvelously answered his prayer, just as he’d asked, and by the next day, they were on their way back to Canaan (and she loved the nose ring). Mission complete.
As I thought about what I’d read, I realized that the servant had just demonstrated trust. He trusted his master’s judgment without necessarily understanding why, allowing that Abraham knew more about the situation than he did. He submitted himself to Abraham’s authority, without the answers to all the what ifs. He believed that God would answer his prayer because he believed God loved Abraham, he knew God had given Abraham a promise, and he knew that Abraham trusted God’s character. The servant, very likely witnessed the ways that God had proved Himself to Abraham over the many years of his life.
So, the antidote for fear is trust. The answer to unanswered questions is trust. The balm for a broken heart is trust. But the trust has to be placed in someone absolutely trustworthy, omniscient, and all mighty. I can trust in God, because He is all that. I can trust Him, because He loves me. I can trust Him because He knows more than me. I can trust Him because I have come to know His character, and have seen His Goodness at work countless times in my own life.
What if I never know the answer to my questions? What if my prayers aren’t answered as I wish them to be? What if someone I love dies?
I have found that the only way I can get out of bed every morning is having the same resolve Abraham’s servant had. Even when I don’t like the things that happen. I ask God to sit on my hand, and I choose to trust Him,