Worst Case Worry

What’s something that you are worried about? I know “worried” isn’t a responsible word to casually throw around if you’re a person of faith.

But the truth of the matter is that people worry, and they worry a lot.

How do I know? Because I’m a pastor and people tell me their worries.

Most of the time these worries are framed as a prayer request. It’s a good start (Phil. 4:6-7) and we do pray about them.

I’ve noticed that most worries seem to revolve around an imagined scenario, a scenario which hasn’t happened. But if it did they imagine it would be impossible to carry on.

People worry they will lose their job, worry about the results from the blood work, worry they might not make the team…

They are afraid that if the scenario comes true they won’t have a future or at best they will be really sad. Who wants to be sad?

Maybe you are beginning to think I’m minimizing their worries. If that’s what you’re thinking you are exactly right!

The problem when we begin to worry is we really begin to magnify our worries. We magnify the worst-case scenario and our imaginations run unchecked. We imagine a bleak future or one that could never live up to our current reality.

But what I’ve seen over the years is that people do carry on despite some horrific worst-case events. People do find happiness on the other side of unimaginable pain. The crazy thing is these same people will even say it was the best thing that ever happened to them.

The worst was the best.

Granted they wouldn’t want to go through it again and they wouldn’t wish it on someone else, but they see how it made them who they are today.

Recently, I’ve started asking people (including myself) who are suffering from magnified worry, “What’s the worst that can happen?”

“What’s the worst that can happen if you lose your job?”

“What’s the worst that can happen if you don’t make the team?”

Of course they list some pretty bad things, but no matter what they come up with I point out it could always be worse. As they reflect on how bad it could get, the future they were envisioning doesn’t seem so bleak.

Sure losing your job is tough, but if you found out you lost your kids on the same day, that’s worse. It still could get worse…you also find out you have cancer and no one to help you walk through it. That’s worse.

This actually happened to a guy in the Old Testament named Job (Job 1:13-19). Just when he thought he heard the worst case scenario, it got worse…and he made it through.

One of my children was recently worried about doing poorly in a timed swimming event. I asked her what’s the worst that could happen. She responded by saying, “I could be the last one.” I probed a little more, “Why would that be so bad? This is your first time on a swim team. No one is expecting you to be first.” “Dad, trust me it would just be bad.” “You know there are worse things than coming in last.” “Like what?” “Like coming in last and your swim suit falling off.” “Dad, that can’t happen!” “Probably not, but it would be worse.”

My daughter finished right smack in the middle of her age bracket and the coach told her he was impressed with her progress in such a short time of swimming. She didn’t come in last and her suit never malfunctioned.

Our worst case scenario rarely if ever happens. And since it rarely happens, why do we waste so much emotional energies on the what if’s?

No matter how bad something is, it could always be much, much worse. The fact that it wasn’t as bad as it could have been should remind us of what we have to be grateful for. When we are in the middle of the bad stuff we have a tendency to just focus on what was lost instead of what’s left. (Don’t ask me how I know this. I just do.) And there really is a tremendous amount that’s left.

Here is something else I’ve observed…most people who have experienced what most of us would think of as a worst-case scenario say it made them who they are today. The pain was a defining moment in their life. Their set back was a set up. While they wouldn’t wish the pain on someone else they recognize they wouldn’t be who they are or where they are without it.

In all our worrying we forget one of the key ingredients to personal growth is pain. It’s a key piece of the learning (discipleship) process that churches can’t manufacture.

Anyone you admire in any industry will have stories of heart aches and worst-case scenarios which prepared them for where they are today.

So whatever you are worried about could always be much, much worse and if some of it actually does happen you are going to come out on the other side a better version of yourself. If that’s true, what’s the point of tossing and turning because you are going to need that rest for the days ahead.

No matter what happens God promises He will bring good out of it…so we always win. Beauty from ashes.

If you doubt it just think about the cross. The ultimate worst-case scenario that changed the world.