If you’ve read any of my past blog posts or have had a conversation lasting longer than 5 minutes with me, you probably know that I am really fascinated by natural disasters and the entire crisis cycle, from mitigation to preparedness to response and recovery.
Unfortunately, along with this fascination comes an increased sense of anxiety.
When studying something as violently unpredictable as natural disasters, you get a real sense of how little you actually control, and with that comes what I like to call the worst case scenario syndrome.
I live in a worst case scenario world.
That’s just how my brain works.
We can only do so much to prepare for the next F5 tornado. The rest is an act of God.
So what do we do? We try to develop a plan that will best prepare us for the absolute worst case scenario so that anything less than that will be easy peasy lemon squeazy – right?
We do this a lot in our relationships with others and with God too though, don’t we?
We formulate and then fixate on these ideas of what is to come and all that could go wrong so that we’re not caught off guard and hurt any more than we already are.
If this is you, take hope. You’re not alone.
Peter had a pretty bad case of worst case scenario syndrome.
In Matthew 14:30 we get a glimpse at what’s going on in Peter’s head as he feels the water hold his weight beneath is bare feet.
Up until this point, Peter had displayed an incredible amount of faith – being the first to interact with Jesus (vs. 28), whom they all thought was a ghost and of course, being the first to actually take a step out of his boat and onto the water (vs. 29).
Kudos to Peter!
After stepping out of the boat and taking his first wobbly steps on the water towards Jesus, Peter let his guard down and allowed his thoughts to run wild.
…when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Matt. 14:30).
This verse always confused me because seriously, how on earth does someone “see the wind?”
It’s wind! It’s an invisible yet very powerful force.
It causes tremendous damage and leaves destruction in its wake, but it is still obscure.
We can always see the aftermath of wind, but never the wind itself.
Worst case scenario syndrome is a lot like the wind.
When we indulge our thoughts in worst case scenarios, we are fabricating and then fixating on one of two things:
- The future; or
- The motives and/or thoughts of another.
Just like the wind, neither of these things are actually viable for us to see or understand. We try fixating on the future to determine the best and safest course of action to avoid this worst case scenario that we’ve developed in our minds with no real understanding of what the future actually holds.
We begin developing these scenarios of how we’ll handle our friends and family when they act this way or that and get ourselves caught up in a frenzy of anxiety over made up assumptions about how they feel, their motives, and their thoughts.
And before we know it, we begin to sink in the worry and anxiety caused by nothing more than our own imaginations.
We catch glimpses of “the wind” and worry ourselves to the depths of a sea of our own making.
If any of you have seen The Shack, there is a scene that captures this perfectly and I encourage you to take a look:
Imagine yourself in Mack’s shoes.
For once, everything is fine and you find yourself in a moment where you feel safe enough to simply close your eyes and breathe in life.
Jesus told Mack to meet him on the lake; he told him to go out on that boat. This was obviously exactly where Mack needed to be.
Jesus told Peter to step out of his boat. He took that step of obedience and experienced a divine intervention. For a moment, Peter felt the confidence of being exactly where Jesus wanted him to be – walking on water.
But then Mack lets his imagination run wild. He sees visions of his past and the pain that had become a familiar friend.
Panic ensued and before he knew it, Mack was sinking.
Same thing happened to Peter. A moment of weakness allowed the fear of an unknown future – a glimpse of that which was invisible – to seep into his thoughts and plant doubt.
He began to sink.
Notice that the first thing Mack says when Jesus arrives is “why are you doing this to me?”
Jesus replied by explaining that what Mack was experiencing was not from him, but that Mack was doing it to himself; that it was happening inside of him.
“You’re letting it consume you and you don’t have to. Just take a deep breath and listen to my voice.”
We often let these worst case scenarios and assumptions consume us when we don’t have to. I have found that I am most prone to this type of thinking in the mornings.
I’m tired, groggy, and my mind is not sharp enough to ward off the attacks of the devil. As I’m getting ready in the morning, my mind has a tendency to dwell on the unknown and fixate on worst case scenarios. I allow it to consume me, altering my mood and outlook on a new day and on the people I care about most.
So I look to Jesus.
I take a deep breath and flip on KLove radio, listening to the voice of God through music and worship.
Once Mack locked eyes on Jesus, his boat continued to sink but he was never consumed.
When we set our eyes on the Son, our problems may not immediately dissipate. We may still have to deal with the repercussions of the wind and waves of this present storm, but we don’t have to let it consume us.
As we allow ourselves to be overtaken by worst case scenario syndrome, we allow ourselves to imagine a future without Jesus Christ in it, and guess what – that future does not exist.
There is no worst case scenario because what was intended to harm us, God has intended for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives (Genesis 50:19-20) through your influence, your testimony, and your example.
Worst case scenario syndrome is a silent, quiet, and very quick killer of the soul. We don’t realize it’s vice grip until it’s almost too late; until we find ourselves gasping for a breath of truth.
In all honesty, it’s a daily battle for me still.
I’ve had to take very deliberate steps specifically to ward off my tendencies to dwell on assumed scenarios, and believe me when I say it is not easy.
But we have hope!
Every morning when I wake up, I can choose to dwell on Jesus through music, worship, podcasts, and Scripture, setting the tone for my day rather than allowing the silence of my one bedroom apartment to whisper lies of made up realities and false truths.
Think about the times when you are most susceptible to worst case scenario syndrome.
Now that you know when your mind is most prone to wonder to those thoughts, take intentional steps to fill that brain space with truth; with visions of a future gently held in the hands of God.
Finally friends, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things (Philippians 4:8).