What-if I Live Without Trying to Control Life? {Book Club}

Today we’re in chapter one of What Women Fear by Angie Smith. I appreciated in this chapter how she tied three threads together:

  • The thread of fear as it’s played out in the question of what-if and
  • How that relates to control, and then the final thread
  • That fear can be both past and future oriented

We can relate to the what-if so much, can’t we?
What if something happens to my child and the medical system isn’t adequate?
What if all the pressures of this life overseas, this life of service put too much strain on my marriage?
What if I end up never getting married?
What if support doesn’t come in? What if, what if, what if?

We’re encouraged by stories of how God has come through, of how tuition was met for schools, of how just-the-right doctor in just-the-right place came about. I love it. I love how God can miraculously work. But this is what makes it complex, right?

Fear is tempting to believe because we also know the stories of when, for whatever reason and often we don’t know the reasons, it appears that God did not show up. It appears that the what-if was a very reasonable fear.

Last year around this time my friend Katherine was pregnant with their second child and found out something was wrong. She and her husband Jeff were given a terminal diagnosisShe has blogged beautifully through the journey.  Even in the midst of finding out, she helped format and make the retreat participant guide for the Velvet Ashes retreat beautiful. They had months to live out the what-ifs: it was March and their daughter was due in August. Katherine still chose to serve us—you— and she is helping with the retreat guides again this year.

Anyway, as the spring and summer went on and the what-if didn’t become easier as they kept getting up and down news. Then, in August their daughter was born and she took that first breath and let out a cry. It was  such a moving experience in that delivery room because everyone had created space for a miracle and space for a tragedy.

It’s poignant to mention a labor and delivery room because actually, we’re all in labor and delivery rooms with our what-if fears and laying them before God. In that literal labor and delivery room, Katherine and Jeff’s daughter was born and screamed loud for all to hear. She has some health realities, but so much phenomenal good news (here’s the latest); and yet it’s also then been such a point of tension. Katherine will drive by the cemetery where they wondered if they were going to be burying their daughter and she has seen other people there burying family members and knows that could have been her. But it wasn’t. She’s living with a miracle. (I may be biased, but go and look at her picture. Bella is adorable!)

I love how Angie said that this what-if fear is the fear that touches on our desire for control. For Angie, her what-if was deeply rooted in her desire to protect those around her. We can relate to that, can’t we?  Whether it’s our local friends, whether it’s our family members back home, whether it’s our children with us, or our teammates. There are just so many people that we want to protect with our what-if’s.

Angie described it this way, “The responsibility I put on myself to keep those around me safe was already at a fevered pitch before I could read, and it wasn’t going to change anytime soon.” Later, on the next page, Angie talks about that it’s easy to fear we have ruined something beautiful. As you look at your life, what are some of the what-if’s  you’re wondering right now if you’ve ruined something beautiful? It could be with local believers, or a relationship, something with your children, or a friendship where there’s been a misunderstanding. What are some of the beautiful things that you wonder if you have ruined?

A couple of pages later I also loved where she talked about the passage with Hagar. How the angel met her and that’s what I love. It’s not about us pulling ourselves up from our boot straps and not having these fears and saying, “Your what-if’s are ridiculous and just lay it at the cross.” It is about laying it at the foot of the cross, but it’s also about trusting that the very God who made the universe and made you will meet you in this fear.

He will send someone, some form of an angel whether that be an actual angel, a teammate speaking into your life, a sermon that you hear, or something you read. But that God is going to meet you in this. As Angie said, Hagar’s situations didn’t change but her awareness did. I think as I read through this chapter that’s my hope. My hope isn’t in my circumstances changing or your circumstances changing but our big capital H, hope. Little h, hope of course can be a part of it. We can hope that things change. Our big deep hope isn’t in our circumstances changing, but in God changing us, changing our awareness, helping us to see that we don’t have to be in control, he is, that he can handle some of our big what-if fears.

We will end today’s chapter with the prayer that she ended it with: Lord I believe you are the well-maker but I also believe you’re the eye-opener. That’s my prayer for us, that God would have used this chapter to open our eyes to him.

What stood out to you in this chapter and where maybe has God been opening your eyes to the what if fears in your life?

See you in the comments.

Amy

P.S. Next week we’ll discuss chapter 2.

Disclosure : Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 

29 Comments

  1. Sarah H March 7, 2016

    I am definitely a “what-if” kind of girl, so I resonated with Angie’s stories in this chapter especially from her childhood. I didn’t have the health issues as a result, but I feared so many things like the deer coming in to get me, being kidnapped and killed (I probably shouldn’t have watched ‘Unsolved Mysteries’), and something happening to my family. I still deal with that last one, and the 2nd if I’m being honest, although I’ve managed to come to grips with the first. 🙂 Control is a huge aspect of hear of the what-ifs, for sure. I also loved what she brought out in Hagar’s story, of how her perspective changed to be able to see the well beside her. How do I need to look with different eyes at the circumstances that are causing fear?

    1. Amy Young March 8, 2016

      Sarah, I was listening to a podcast interview today and the interviewee had something profound to say about control. It is lost in my back of my brain . . . I’m hoping by typing this, it will float to the forward 🙂

  2. Spring March 7, 2016

    Personally it was her reference to Hagar’s eyes being opened that stood out to me the most.  I really had to think about the fact that the well was already there God just opened her eyes to it.  Very often with my fear I can only see what I think is in front of me, only hear what I want to hear.    I also liked how she referred to the fact that often when we look back at our lives we can see God written all over it.

    1. Amy Young March 8, 2016

      Oh man, hearing what we want to hear. Yes. When I get all stirred up . . . I need to slow down and ask the Holy Spirit to help me hear what is REALLY going on.

  3. Kim A. March 8, 2016

    Oh my, yes!  This chapter totally resonated…I agree with the Hagar thing too…God has spoken to me often about perspective and trust in the fear.  What am choosing to focus on and do I trust Him to be enough?  I am so feeling this as we prepare for a year of furlough and the what-if’s are through the roof.  This is such a well timed book!!!  Yeah God!

    1. Amy Young March 8, 2016

      OH YES . . . big transitions can be major What-if storms :)!! Blessings and prayers … and eyes to see the wells!

  4. Brittany March 8, 2016

    This was a great way to begin the book. Yes, Amy, the what-ifs are abundant, aren’t they? I think my biggest fears are the what-ifs. What kept coming back to me was the story of the three men in the fiery furnace. They believed God would save them, but even if He didn’t, they believed He was good and praised Him. I feel like all my what-ifs are practical doubt in God’s goodness. “If You are good, You won’t let ____ happen.” Or, if You let _____ happen, You must not be able to stop it or You don’t care.” I would never actually voice these things because of what I know in my head. But they are feelings I’ve had in the secret places of my heart as I’ve wrestled with my fears.

    I can’t remember what of these thoughts were from the book or what God has just been revealing in my heart. I got the audiobook so I could “read” while cooking and doing dishes, because, let’s face it, I just don’t have the time to sit and read these days! But it makes it hard for me to pull out the little nuggets because I can’t highlight and go back. 🙂

    1. Amy Young March 8, 2016

      Brittany, I love and live for little details :). So, thank you for tossing us the bone of picturing you listening to this as you cook! (I’m going to pretend I could pop over for dinner.)

      Fiery furnace application is a gem!!! What is the antidote to What-if? Even if He doesn’t …..  That what ifs may come to happen. But even if, still, I will praise the Lord. Rich, Brit. Thanks 🙂

  5. Sheryl March 8, 2016

    I like the part where she talks about Hagar sitting in full anticipation of her son’s death, and instead of looking to what God had given her, she surrendered to the fear.  Angie goes on to ask “Are you so focused on what you think is missing that you don’t see what is present? Maybe you need to ask the Lord to illuminate what it is He wants you to see.  It’s possible that what you have seen as the end of the road is actually an opportunity to open your eyes and see something you haven’t.”  I pray for God to open my eyes to see beyond the visible.

    1. Amy Young March 8, 2016

      That’s a great question to have on auto play in our brains, isn’t it?!

       

  6. Hadassah March 8, 2016

    Like Angie, I have felt responsible for the safety of those around me and like “I had to be in charge or everything would fall apart” since I was a small child.  One of my favorite stories to recount from my childhood is about the time my father decided to take my siblings and I fishing.  Sounds normal, right?  Except, we weren’t fishing off a pier or even in a boat.  He took all three of us, under of the age of 7, fishing in an inflatable raft on the St. Johns River in Florida.  Being the oldest, I remember thinking it was my duty to protect my younger sister and brother, because it was clear (to me) my father had absolutely no idea how to do that.  Didn’t he know there were alligators in the river that could easily deflate our rubber boat and chomp us all to little pieces?!?!?

    I wish I could say that after we survived that “near-death” experience I learned to trust my earthly father and my Heavenly Father to take care of me and those I love, but it is still a constant struggle.  Rather than placing what I perceive as other’s needs and my own at the foot of the cross and “leaving the weight with Someone who is equipped to carry it,” I haul around their burdens and over-function on their behalf.  I take on WAY more than I can handle in an attempt to rescue them from danger or failure and end up exhausting myself, complaining about my circumstances, and becoming bitter/resentful about having so much to do.  I fail to live in the present and lose focus of what God is really doing, or like Hagar, the well right under my nose.  I’m realizing I make God less powerful in my life and the lives of others by not submitting to Him.

    I’m glad to hear I’m not alone, but I’m also praying God will open my eyes.  That He will reveal Himself to me in a powerful way, because I’ve let too much take captive of me.  I am needing Him to “redeem (my life) as only He can,” and help me set up healthy  boundaries based on my trust in Him.

    Time to commit 2 Cor. 10:5 to memory!

    1. Michelle Marie March 8, 2016

      Is it okay for me to say how much I love your “alligators in the river” story? Though I imagine it was quite impactful as a child. And what true words you say when you talk about taking on way more than you can handle, the end result of becoming resentful of having so much to do, all in the name of “protection.”  I hear ya!

      And can I also say that I love your name? I haven’t told anyone this before, but for years I have said that if God ever blesses me with a daughter I would like to name her Hadassah. 🙂

    2. Amy Young March 8, 2016

      Echoing Michelle on the alligator story and your beautiful name :)!

      As I read your comment, Hadassah, the picture that came to mind was you with a backpack of rocks on your back. Of course you can go through life carrying them, but they are of no real value other than just being plum heavy!!! Easier said than done, but I sense the invitation God is extending to you to put down the back pack :). Sounds like that verse is a good place to start :)!

  7. Lisa March 8, 2016

    Oh my WORD. This post just about made me cry. I haven’t started reading the book yet but I think I must absolutely do so. We are first-year, long-term academic overseas workers in Eastern Europe. My daughter (age 9) has been dancing ballet for five years in the States so of course she wanted to continue. Somehow I accidentally got her into the most elite ballet school in the city (lol, oops). They just “promoted” her to a more-intense class (no choice for parents) which added gymnastics. She was afraid they’d make her do somersaults… but it’s worse than that. They are expected to be able to do splits… as of about last week. Yesterday I watched the gymnastics instructor physically force a couple of the girls into the splits. These poor girls were screaming in pain but she did not let up on them at all. It went on for more than a couple of minutes, and then she went on to the next victim. I was horrified – it was the worst treatment of children I’ve ever seen – but the other parents were watching as if there were nothing out of the ordinary. I have to be very careful – this is very typical and acceptable here. As much as I want to let my mama bear out, I cannot interfere. I don’t think I can share that with anybody “back home” but I trust you understand the realities of conforming to another culture (when not contrary to Scripture, of course). I am terrified that my daughter will be traumatized. I am terrified that the instructor will hurt her. I am terrified that dance will no longer be “fun.” The challenge for me is to TRUST that God holds her in the palm of his hand. To not be afraid. That is very hard right now. Then I read Romans 13 this morning – I’m not sure Paul had gymnastics instructors in mind when he wrote about “obeying authorities,” but it was a comfort to me.  And then I opened up my e-mail to see this post, which seemed like a specific direction for what to do with my extreme fear in this situation.
     
    Anyway – thank you all for listening – sorry that whole rant didn’t have much to do with the book – but my own personal reason for needing this book right now. I’ll be starting tonight and will have chapter 2 ready to discuss by next week. Thanks again!

    1. Amy Young March 8, 2016

      Lisa, I’m reading this with my legs crossed and phantom pain. I can only imagine what it was like to watch the girls be pushed down and other parents not really responding (or really even seeming distressed by it). This is the perfect place to comment! Yes, we get it. When to step in and say, “Okay, I just cannot do this.” And when to say, “This is a fear I need to offer to God.” is not clear and simple. BUT I trust, as you have said, that God has used these words to minister to you and, in directly, your daughter. Happy reading :)!

    2. Spring March 10, 2016

      Oh wow Lisa I can’t imagine!  How difficult to sit and watch that ! How did your daughter feel about what was going on?

      1. Lisa March 11, 2016

        We’ve decided to pull her from the class. It’s very discouraging, to be honest. I think the instructor understands that we do things differently and doesn’t touch her but Wednesday night some of the teachers assistants (girls aged 13-14) forced her into a splits. I got her right out of there. My concern is that Sarah (my daughter) won’t tell me how she feels about the other girls sobbing and crying, and she can’t tell me that she’ll say “no” if the girls try to force her again. I just don’t think it’s a healthy place to be.

        1. Amy Young March 14, 2016

          Lisa, I would guess this was not an easy decision. Watching your child be physically impacted and wondering if she’ll really tell you how she’s doing … agonizing! Not that you need anyone’s vote of approval, but I stand with you on this decision. 🙂

  8. Brittany March 8, 2016

    Just an FYI for those who maybe haven’t gotten the book yet, it’s on Kindle for $0.99 today!

  9. Phyllis March 9, 2016

    I wasn’t going to be reading with you this time, because I didn’t have the book… but the Kindle version just dropped to 99 cents. 🙂 Did you see that? It might be worth announcing, somewhere, somehow.

    1. Phyllis March 9, 2016

      (Ah, someone else had already posted that. I should have read comments first.)

    2. Amy Young March 10, 2016

      Agreed! We’ve put updates about the sale on FB too 🙂

  10. Jodie March 9, 2016

    Thank you, Amy, for your post on this chapter. So much to think about. Really glad I was able to get the book for 99 cents!

    This part of her prayer especially struck me: “I pray that in every circumstance we will choose You over hopelessness, and that we will know even to the core of our being that You are working on our behalf. Let us remember to keep our eyes, our hearts, and our desires open to what You have in store for our lives. I pray our days will be filled with gratitude as You turn the unlikely into the obvious.”

    Remembering my fears that our adopted son Daniel would remain like a vegetable after his brain infection 2 1/2 years ago took almost all of his bodily functions away. And marveling at both the healing God has brought to his life and the work He has done in mine through this journey of walking in the unknown.

    1. Amy Young March 10, 2016

      Jodie, thanks for sharing a bit more about your journey! That prayer is a good reminder for us all. Choosing what we focus on is so key!

  11. Michelle Marie March 10, 2016

    This is the part that resonated with me the most in chapter 1: “It is so easy to fear we have ruined something beautiful. So easy for us to believe that we held the keys to what was supposed to be and now we are destined to live among the ashes that remain…There is a difference in learning from past mistakes and ruminating over the million-and-one ways we might have done it better.” I think I fear less about the future and more so about things that did or did not materialize in the past as if the weight of that outcome rested entirely on me. Should I have married that guy after all? Should I have accepted that position in the northwest? Should I have stayed? But, I also wonder if we get a little nostalgic in hindsight, looking at the past with rose-colored glasses rather on how it really was.

    1. Amy Young March 14, 2016

      Ah, those rose-colored glasses for looking at the past. Yup, I know just what you’re talking about!

  12. Phyllis March 14, 2016


    I’m a bit late here. By the time I actually click to send my comment, this next week’s post will probably be up. Oh, well.

    One book that was very instrumental for me was Calm My Anxious Heart by Linda Dillow. She writes about “what ifs” and “if onlys.” I found that all very similar to the future and past what ifs in this book.

    What I highlighted:
    “I certainly don’t think that it is a requirement for Christians to forego fear in order to be good followers of Christ.” (I recently listened to a sermon that referenced Heb. 5:7 to say that Jesus himself feared.)
    “He will catch us if we fall….” (I just finished reading As Soon As I Fell. This book should be a good follow up; He catches us when we fall, but it sounds so much better to have Him help us balance along the way!)
    “Apparently God’s plan wasn’t materializing the way Sarah thought it would, so she took matter into her own hands. It’s what we do when we fear, isn’t it?” (This was where I stopped and realised the fear in my life. I wouldn’t even have categorised it as fear, until I read this sentence, but now I do.)
    “It’s possible that what you have seen as the end of the road is actually an opportunity to open your eyes and see something you haven’t.”
    “I think it’s also worth noting that I wasn’t always nourished in the way I was expecting or wanting. Sometimes it comes in a form we don’t recognize at the time.” (Yes! There was a time when I thought I was lonely. I begged and pleaded with God to give me friends. The next stage of life was even lonelier for me. Then I could look back and see that He had given me friends in the stage before; they just weren’t exactly the ones I thought I needed.)
    “remember the woman who mourned a son she wasn’t going to lose.” (Sometimes I am this woman.)

    1. Amy Young March 14, 2016

      Never too late to comment! I enjoy the thoughts you added and ways the passages stuck out to you. As Soon As I Fell IS a good book, isn’t it :)! I’ll have to check out the other one you mentioned!

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