When do you enter the Land of the Deadly Ifs? In this land, populated by two evil twins and a pernicious cousin, the word if is a deadly word. The first of this land’s evil twins calls herself If Only. She whispers into your ear with poisonous breath. She means to kill hope and contentment. She fosters a sense of aloneness, a sense that no one cares, that you must rely only on yourself. And as she snags you with “self-reliance is all there is for me,” she intensifies loneliness.
If Only speaks thus…
- If only I had __________. (She whispers this phrase in covetous moments. She stirs up jealousy and deflates with the poisonous assurance that “I’ve been forgotten.”)
- If only I hadn’t __________. (With this phrase, she assures that God cannot redeem your past. She reminds you to “Just give up. There’s no hope for the future. Look at your miserable failures.” She heaps up remorse over past mistakes, saying you should not take sin and need to God. Full forgiveness and peace do not exist, she says. She wants you to smother in despair and self-doubt.)
- If only God loved me like He loves her, He’d __________. (This whisper, buried so deep that it’s often barely recognizable, nurtures distrust and dissatisfaction. “God picks favorites,” If Only insinuates, “and you’re not one of them.”)
Do you hear the insidious push toward the doubt of God’s goodness, and the crafty nudge toward an escalating surety that He does not have the right to reign in your life? When do you wonder, “Does God really love me? Can God really forgive and fix my mess? Does God really want to provide for me?” If Only specializes in what I don’t have, what I did wrong, and what I didn’t receive — all twisters and ruiners of the past.
Her evil twin ruins the future. She’s named What if, and she whispers not into our past, but with paralyzing fear, into our future.
What If speaks thus…
- What if __________ happens? (This whisper promises an unsure, anxious, and fear-filled future.)
- What if I don’t get __________ ? (this whisper insinuates that I won’t really be provided for. God either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about my needs. I don’t matter. I’m on my own.)
In What If‘s part of the land, the whispers are often subtle. They proclaim that God won’t come through for you. You must take the reigns, because He doesn’t really care. He has forgotten you. He’s not good, and even if He were, He doesn’t love you. Her maybe, but not you.
The evil twins If Only and What If also have a fear-mongering cousin in their dark realm. In the Land of the Deadly Ifs, the dreaded cousin shouts loudly. She shrieks, “Why me?” Why Me berates with deception and tenaciousness. Different forms of her not-to-be-ignored questions abound.
Why Me speaks thus…
- Why me? Why am I always forgotten? Why was she given __________ instead of me? Why was she singled out for that specialness, and not me? (We believe her relentless shouts. She says we’ve been abandoned.)
- Why me? Why this suffering? (Why Me breeds murmured cries from perplexed aloneness, or angered victimization, or self-righteous “I deserve better.”)
Disappointment reigns in the world of Why Me. Disillusioned, discontented and disgruntled thoughts fester beneath Why Me’s surface. Despair crushes in the deep hopelessness of this land. She speaks this hope-less thought: “If God really loved me, He’d make this hurt go away. He’d not have singled me out for this suffering.”
Be warned that If Onlys and What Ifs and Why Me‘s take us in one direction. We hear them over and over in our ear, and we feel despair, discouragement. Our minds are disquieted. We grumble with discontentment. Forlorn, we become as one for whom the Psalmist’s words resonate:
“Why are you cast down, O my soul? Why are you in turmoil within me?” (Ps. 42:5)
The Psalmist mourns his current circumstances, remembering former fullness of communion with God. He needs reminders of God’s truth in his cast-down state. He yearns for the care of His Shepherd, and he honestly cries out.
When do you find your soul disturbed within? When do you believe lying whispers and become cast-down? When do you enter, become entangled by, and then yearn to escape the Land of the Deadly Ifs?
And is there any way of escape? Can the tendrils of If Only and What If and Why Me be severed? Yes. They can. Hope abounds! The effects of the harping whispers can be broken. Next post, we’ll look at the life of one woman who escaped.