Worst Case Scenario

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:

  1. The future; or
  2. 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).

– Kristin

 

The Eye of the Storm

One of my passions is natural disasters.

While my studies mostly focused on the humanitarian efforts of post-disaster response, I always found the natural disasters themselves to be very fascinating.

I love learning about the awe-inspiring power that they display; how regardless of our innovations and technology, wind and water will forever have the upper hand.

Because of this passion, I would jump at the chance to ride in one of those airplanes that fly straight into the eye of a hurricane.

Call me crazy, but I think that would be awesome!

The eye of a hurricane is at the very center of the storm and believe it or not, is the calmest part of the storm. “Skies are often clear above the eye and winds are relatively light. The eye is calm because the now strong surface winds that converge towards the center never actually reach it” (Dept. of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois).

That’s where I want to be!

In the eye of the storm.

We go through a lot of storms in our lives though, don’t we?

Sometimes we find ourselves fighting through the fiercest winds and waves, unsure of how we’ll ever find our way out when our present circumstances restrict our ability to see or feel.

One storm in particular that always stands out in my mind was in between my sophomore and junior year of college.

I had survived freshman and sophomore year…barely, and was now anticipating the approaching fall semester of my junior year and was absolutely dreading it.

I couldn’t even tell you why, but all I knew was that I just couldn’t go back there.

There was so much to do; the pressures of performance, acceptance, and achievement weighed heavily on my mind and then of course the looming terrors of failure and loneliness nipped at my heels.

Sophomore year had started me off in the nurse’s office only weeks into the school year. I had managed to make myself physically sick due to stress, anxiety, and depression.

It was then that I knew something was wrong, but through the remainder of that school year I couldn’t manage to find my way out of this particular storm.

I tried to hold onto things of the past; staying huddled in the memories of better times.

When that didn’t work, I tried to hurry things along and force life stages to happen sooner than they should in hopes of changing my presently painful circumstances.

Let me just tell you now, this does not work.

In fact, it only made matters worse.

When we are in the storms of life, we often try to do one of two things. We either try to move backwards and relive happier times or we hurry forwards, attempting to outrun the storm.

Yet, just like a hurricane, behind us and in front of us the torrents rage and the winds howl, but stillness can also be found.

When we move with the storm and position ourselves in the very center of God’s love and grace, we find blue skies and calmed winds.

We find ourselves in the eye of the storm.

Even though all around us the storm still rages; trees snap, houses tumble, relationships are broken, and opportunities are lost; even with all the destruction and heartache rushing around us, if we remain firmly planted in the center of God’s love and grace, we will experience internal respite and peace.

Many of the fears we experience in the stormy seasons of life boil down to one thing:

Proving our worth.

I overwhelmed myself with activities my freshman and sophomore year because I wanted to prove that I was capable.

I sought relationships because I wanted to prove that I was desirable.

I pursued God because I wanted to prove that I was a good Christian.

I feared failure because that proved that I wasn’t enough.

I feared loneliness because that proved I was lacking.

We are constantly trying to prove ourselves.

However, when we strategically place ourselves in the center of God’s will; in the very eye of the storm, we don’t have to prove ourselves, for it is in Him that we live and move and have our being.  – Acts 17:28

If this is true and if we full-heartedly believe this, we will begin to realize that we have nothing to prove because it is not for ourselves that we live, but rather for Christ (Philippians 1:21).

If our lives are for Christ, then we are not tasked with the responsibility of proving ourselves but rather  with proving Christ and His worth, which He has already done.

He proved Himself. He proved to the world His power, sovereignty, and authority over all things while on that cross.

When we position ourselves in the center of the storm, acknowledging that God and His purpose are in all things; when we stay in step with Him and remember that it is by Him, through Him, and for Him that we press forward, we will soon understand that we have nothing to prove because the One we live for has already done just that.

He proved Himself on that cross so that we wouldn’t have to prove our worth, for our worth lies at the very foot of that cross.

We have nothing to prove, therefore we have nothing to fear while in the eye of the storm.

 

This We Know

…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances (Philippians 4:11).

How often do we say this and actually believe it, or act on it for that matter?

We like to think that our hearts are content in all circumstances, but when push comes to shove, we find ourselves striving harder and harder towards fantasies of satisfaction.

Why is this?

Why is being content so hard?

Why does even the mention of that word cause a collective sigh of frustration?

I remember in late High School or early college working my regular night shift at Perkins Bakery. I was in the back baking up some pies while listening to the radio like usual when the song Overwhelmed by Big Daddy Weave came on.

I had heard this tune before so I didn’t really pay much attention to it until the lyrics began to pull me out of my distracted thoughts.

 

I hear the sound of Your Voice

All at once it’s a gentle and thundering noise, oh God

All that You are is so overwhelming

 

I delight myself in You

Captivated by Your beauty

I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

 

God I run into Your arms

Unashamed because of mercy

I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

 

It hit me. It was more than just head knowledge this time, it was a true, deep-rooted belief in my heart – I. Am. Content.

I was content right then and there, in the Perkins Bakery covered with flour. I was content and fulfilled with all that Jesus was in my life.

I was content with simply knowing Him and seeing a future with only Him in it.

Contentment is hard though. One minute it’s there and you’re happy with life – where you’re at, who you’re with, and where you’re headed.

Then out of nowhere something changes and suddenly what you were aiming for and patiently (or anxiously) waiting for is gone; replaced by something different and often times not what you were hoping for.

Contentment is pretty hard to maintain, but perhaps that’s because it is dependent upon things that are ever-changing.

In order to be content in all circumstances we need to find our contentment in the One who is consistent in all circumstances.

A couple of weeks after this ‘ah-ha’ moment, a friend of mine started dating this guy she had been talking to for a while. It was cute and all, but gosh – I wanted that too!

And wouldn’t you know it, my contentment somehow shifted from the all-sufficient God to an ‘ideal love story’ I was certain was just around the corner.

*insert exasperated sigh*

I told God that I was content in Him, but not in Him alone. Sure, I could be content with God for now, but eventually the thing that I really wanted would come and only then would I be fully, completely satisfied.

Jesus was enough…but only for now.

It wasn’t until about a week ago though that I realized my misinterpretation of what it means to be content.

Often when we ask God to make us content, we think in terms of what we want. We have this mirage of happiness – marriage, children, white-picket-fence lifestyle, a career, or wealth – whatever it may be, we have it dangling in front of us as we run around in circles trying to attain this idea of happiness.

We say, “God, please make me content in waiting for this or for that. Make me content and patient to wait on You.”

But what are we really saying?

Our contentment is based on that idea – that ‘ideal, perfect life’ that we have pictured for our future, and yet we wonder why our sense of contentment falters in the face of change…

We are asking God to make us content on our terms, and according to Paul, that’s just not how it works my friend.

…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:11-13).

Contentment is not found in waiting for what we hope will be.

Contentment comes when we find fulfillment in what we know to be true today; right here, right now. Today.

So we ask ourselves, “What am I absolutely certain of in this moment? What are the truths that I can hold onto right now?” Consider the following…

**This is an excerpt from my prayer journal on June 14, 2017 –

Help me to be content in the only things I know for sure:

  1. You are good;
  2. You are faithful;
  3. My purpose is to glorify Your Name;
  4. Today I am alive;
  5. Tomorrow I do not know.

This we know to be true.

Each of these statements are unchanging, never-ending, and ever-present in each moment of our lives.

These truths are consistent in all circumstances. You will never find yourself in a situation where any one of these is not true.

Therefore, if your faith and contentment is found and nurtured on these consistent truths, then believe it or not, you will have learned to be content whatever the circumstances (Philippians 4:11).

This we know, and it is in this that we find true contentment.