Following on from my previous post on the “What If” disease,
I wanted to address
the second disease. The “If Only” disease.
This disease is similar in that it also displays a lack of faith. As we saw previously, the What If disease looks to the future and worries and fears what God might allow, whereas, the If Only disease looks to the
past and grumbles about what God has given.
The What Ifs lead to anxiety and the If Onlys lead to anger.
Let me explain what the If Only disease looks like.
As I said, the If Only disease looks to the past.
When we have this dreaded malady,
we grumble and complain and make statements such as; “If Only such and such had not happened, If Only I had not arrived at that time, If Only I had not gotten sick, If Only I had not moved here”, and the list goes on. And on. And on.
When we are dwelling on the If Onlys in our lives, we neglect to focus on God and His eternal purpose. We don't seem to remember that God has a plan and a path for us and that His will is perfect and His way is right. We begin to harbour anger in our hearts toward God.
We are so obsessed with what could have been, and what we think should have been, that we are blinded to the One who
orchestrated everything just like it was, for His own purpose.
We begin to chant our If Onlys almost like a mantra, somehow thinking that it will change things after they've already happened.
There are a few examples in scripture of people with the If Only disease.
One that comes to mind is the story of Mary and Martha after their brother Lazarus had died. Let's look at the passage.
Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany,
the town of Mary and her sister Martha.
(It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment,
and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.)
Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord,
behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.
When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.
Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode
two days still in the same place where he was.
Firstly, we see that the Lord Jesus knows of Lazarus' sickness, and yet he stays in the same place for 2 days. He doesn't go straight away.
Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.
And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there,
to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.
Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already.
In these verses we read that Lazarus is dead. And when Jesus finally comes to Bethany, Lazarus has been dead four days already.
Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him:
but Mary sat still in the house.
Then said Martha unto Jesus,
Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him,
she fell down at his feet, saying unto him,
Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
And here is where we come to the If Onlys. Notice that both Mary and Martha have the If Only disease. “Lord, IF thou hadst been here.....”
God has all power and all knowledge and yet, he allowed Lazarus to die. He could have come sooner. He could have done things differently, but He chose not to. We read His reason in verses 4 and 15. The Lord Jesus chose not to come sooner in order that He would be glorified and also that the faith of the disciples
would increase and that they might believe.
So, both Mary and Martha struggled with the If Onlys in their lives. I know if I was in their position I would probably have said the same thing. If Only, Lord. Why? They knew of God's power and yet He hadn't come. He had let their beloved brother die. But not out of a lack of love. We see in verse 5 that He loves Mary, Martha and Lazarus.
The workings of the Lord are often a mystery to us and we struggle to answer the questions that arise in our hearts. But it is not ours to question. It's not right for us to grumble and complain and wish God had done things differently.
As we read further down in the passage, we see how the Lord Jesus deals
with the ladies' If Onlys.
Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that,
if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?
He meets their 'If' with His own 'If'.
“If thou wouldest believe”.
They said, 'If Only you had been here', and He responded with,
'If Only you would have believed'.
Ouch! How many of our Ifs are because of unbelief? We doubt God's ability to handle the situation and we look back and think that He was incapable of dealing with it properly. We hinder ourselves spiritually by going back over the If Onlys and not focusing
on what God has in store for us.
When we have the If Only disease, we dwell on what we don't have instead of being grateful for what we DO have. We are discontent. We lose our perspective.
Another passage in the Bible that exemplifies the If Only disease is the murmuring of the Israelites. We read in the book of Numbers an attitude of discontentment.
Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin in the first month: and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there.
And there was no water for the congregation: and they gathered
themselves together against Moses and against Aaron.
And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying,
Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD!
And why have ye brought up the congregation of the LORD
into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there?
And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? it is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates;
neither is there any water to drink.
God had miraculously brought the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt and promised them a new and wonderful home, and yet here we find them longing for captivity. They had the dreaded If Only disease.
Firstly, in verse 3, they wished they had died with their brethren, then in verse 5 they are complaining that there are no seeds or figs or pomegranates, and we read in other places that they wished for garlic and leeks too!
Interestingly enough, their 'food' issues weren't really the issue here.
And there was no water for the congregation:
and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron.
The original complaint was because their was no water. But as you read down through the passage you see that they started to complain about anything and everything they missed about Egypt, and then at the end, they remembered the water! “Oh yeah, and we're out of water too.” The actual problem was the lack of water, but they became so distracted by the other negatives, that their negatives multiplied and the orginal problem was all but forgotten. Crowded out by all the other insignificant issues.
The Israelites neglected to remember all that God had done in delivering them. The plagues. The crossing of the Red Sea. The defeating of their numerous enemies.
Our faith and trust is serious to God, and God doesn't look down with a smile and pat us on the head and say, “There, there dear, it's okay that you've forgotten everything I've ever done for you. It's okay that you're not happy with the way I've ordered things for you. It's okay that you're murmuring and complaining about your lot in life. Here's a nice teddy bear to cuddle and I'll just make everything right.”
NO! Emphatically NO! God takes our lack of trust seriously.
Look what happened to Moses and Aaron.
And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron,
Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes
of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this
congregation into the land which I have given them.
They were banished from setting foot in the promised land for not trusting God enough and for not obeying His command. Wow, and we think we have problems!
Peace comes from acceptance. Acceptance of God's perfect will. Accepting the way God orders our lives. Accepting the trials and not resisting the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. When the If Only disease takes over and threatens to derail us, we need to stop and remember. But remember the right things. Remember what God has done for you. Remember what He's brought you through.
If you don't think you have anything big to remember, like the Israelites had, then stop and remember your salvation. Your deliverance from Hell! There is no better 'positive' to focus on then your eternal salvation and your rescue from eternal damnation!
Now that's a BIGGY!
If, when we face the Ifs in our lives, we pause and determine to remember God's goodness, it will bring an end to our pity party. Nobody wants to come to your pity party unless they're having one of their own and want company. But then again, they're not going to want to hear about your troubles anyway, they only want to tell about theirs.
How can you be miserable when you're thinking about all God has done for you! Make a physical list and write it down. Count your many blessings, as the song says. Add to that list. Read it daily. Thank God for it. Spend time praising Him for all He's done.
There's a lot of comfort and encouragement in the Psalms, way too many to list here, but I like these few verses as a reminder on what to remember.
I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember
thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.
Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God?
Thou art the God that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people. Thou hast with thine arm redeemed thy people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah.
Chew on that for a while! Wonders! Works! Doings! Strength! Redemption!
Don't let the If Onlys hold you back from serving the Lord.
Banish the What Ifs and the If Onlys from your life.
Bring your problems to the problem solver and leave them there!
Don't dwell on the past. Don't worry over the future.
Take your burdens to the Lord and leave them there.
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended:
but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind,
and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.