WHAT “IF ING.”
I’m sure you are wondering what on earth is Olga talking about now? What “if ing” is when we start to catastrophize everything in our minds, and, it is a major thinking error in most of our lives. It is prevalent in those who struggle with anxiety. You expect a disaster. You hear about a problem and start what” if ing”. What if tragedy strikes? What if it happens to me? You fear the worst.
I found myself doing this a lot lately; as I kept hearing the news of break-ins, hijacking, rapes, and murders that have been sweeping our country lately. I found myself with lingering thoughts:
“What if I am reversing, and as I go out the gate, there are men waiting to nab me?”
“What if someone manages to break into our home and holds us hostage?”
“What if I go the garage to fill petrol in my car and hijackers are waiting there?”
“What if South Africa ends up going the same way as Zimbabwe? I don’t want to go through it all over again!”
As I meditate and ponder on these beliefs, they start to magnify and begin to take over my mind and subsequently my emotions. Fear and anxiety rise up within me.
Graham Cooke, a well-known prophet, from his prophetic preach “Wild Love” says “What you focus on will empower you. Focus on the opposite of the negative.” He adds “Use the problem to find the promise. If your problem is anxiety, then the promise is that Jesus is the Prince of Peace. If the problem is fear, then use the signpost pointing to the opposite, which is perfect love casts out fear”.
I love what he states: “God won’t work on your fear but rather on you being perfectly loved by Him”.
Do you find those thoughts just running around in your head with abandonment because they have been given permission by you to reign and rule in your life? You do have a choice, though often it feels like we don’t.
“Worry is a cycle of inefficient thoughts whirling around a centre of fear” Corrie Ten Boom.
So how can we overcome this cycle? How can we begin to stop the cycle? We need to cooperate with God in renewing our minds, in not being transformed into the world and how it thinks. The Bible tells us “to take every thought captive that sets itself against the knowledge of God”. (Paraphrased). We need to recapture our thoughts and we can. It just takes effort, discipline, time and of course the help of the Holy Spirit. The more often we do this, the easier it becomes. I ask my clients to journalize and write down what they are saying to themselves when they are experiencing a strong emotion. It’s so amazing what God reveals as they do this. We often believe things with our head (head knowledge) but not with our heart (heart knowledge).
How does stopping the cycle look practically? When I find myself going down that slippery slope of negativity and what “If ing”, I do exactly what Graham Cooke advises. I deliberately focus on the opposite. I remind myself of who God is in the situation for me. I recall what He has done for me in the past and I remember that a lot of what I catastrophize has not come to pass. How many hours have I wasted ruminating on the negative instead of enjoying what has been provided for me? I think “thoughts that are “true, noble, pure, lovely, admirable and praiseworthy”. (Philippians 4:8).
So what is true for me in this belief, thought, and circumstance or in this emotion? Where does the truth come from? I am daily bombarded with “messages” from the world that screams the opposite of God’s voice. One just has to just take a drive down the highway or read the news, magazines, watch a movie, a T.V. show and observe the subliminal “ messages “we receive.
“If you drive this car, you will be the most popular person on the planet”.
“Try our new anti-wrinkle cream. It works miracles”. (As I am aging I seem to notice this one rather a lot!).
We let these “messages” in without even realizing what we are doing. How often are we spending time in the Bible to counteract the brainwashing that is going on? Are we seeking the truth? I know for myself, that if I am not diligent in doing so, I get swept along again with the “what ifs” in my life again.
Yet, sometimes those “what ifs” do come to pass and what we dread the most happens. We live in a fallen world and bad things do happen.
Corrie ten Boom in her book” The Hiding Place” describes a conversation between her dad and herself;
“Father sat down on the edge of the bed “Corrie,” he began gently, “when you and I go to Amsterdam-when do I give you your ticket? “I sniffed a few times, considering this. “Why, just before we get on the train.”
“Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need just in time.”
I have found that when the “what ifs” occur, my God sees me through it all. I find courage, faith, and boldness deep within. I find qualities and attributes that I didn’t know I had or existed before. I come out refined, tested and stronger. The fear loses its grip on me as I face and confront it.
I just sense so strongly today that God wants to set you free in this area, and my prayer for you all is that you would allow Him to have His way as you seek the truth. Focus on who He is, on what He has done, on what He can and will do? His thoughts towards you are not evil. They are thoughts of peace. He longs to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29: 11-13).