Years ago, a friend helped me through a tough time in my life. There are many things that she said, and I value much of the advice she gave during our talks.
But there was one phrase she came back to repeatedly – and it always seemed to make me stop and say ‘hmm’:
“What’s the worst that can happen?”
Used properly, this ranks among the greatest questions of all time (in my humble opinion).
Here’s the deal – the things that we dread thrive in the darkness. When ideas are half-formed and fears are nebulous, they seem very overwhelming.
But when we start to take a closer look and actually think through them, we realize that they are not nearly so disastrous.
It’s the nature of the unknown. Unknowns often seem larger than they are.
Have you ever noticed that when you travel somewhere new, the trip there seems to take much longer than the return trip? Or if you go back again to the same place it doesn’t take nearly as long as you remembered it taking the first time?
That’s the nature of the unknown.
So, the key to conquering fear, dread, and anxiety is to tackle and expose the unknown element(s). When you start to feel these emotions forming, step back and consciously think through whatever is causing the angst.
Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen.”
And then slowly, calmly and purposefully – with lots of deep breathing, if necessary – answer the question.
If circumstances permit, take the time to sit down and write out all the things that could happen. Map out the possible paths and consequences. Think through all the alternatives. Literally find the worst possible scenario.
Then think about the probabilities of each path coming to reality. Realistic probabilities. If it helps, use a numbering or a high-medium-low scale to grade the likeliness of each one happening.
When you go through this exercise, the monsters that panicked you will usually prove to be toothless and ineffective in the light of clear thought.
I’m not saying that there will never be scary possibilities. There may be things that are terrifying! But I can almost guarantee they won’t be as terrifying as they were before you put them into words.
They may be hard, but they are things you are perfectly capable of handling – especially when you have a God who said “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5).