I think I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the ways anxiety and worry are provoked within us is through the question, “What if…?” This question is one that looks into the future and sees the possibility for tragic, burdensome circumstances and begins to fret in response.
Like all other sins, the root of the issue is that we simply do not trust God. The question is not the problem, it’s our heart that, in those moments, refuses to cling to the hope we have in God through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. As I was listening to the audio book of Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas yesterday, I heard a quote about Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s outlook that helps our unbelief in regard to the “What if…?” question.
In 1937 the Nazis closed down Bonhoeffer’s seminary called Finkenwalde, but in spite of such a circumstance, here’s what Metaxas writes,
Bonhoeffer was an eternal optimist because he believed what God said through the Scriptures. He knew that whatever befell him or the faithful brethren would open new opportunities in which God would operate, in which his provision would become clear.
Did you catch that? Bonhoeffer looked into the future and saw new opportunities to serve the Lord, not the possibility of an impossible situation. And that is saying something in a context where the Nazis’ dominance was getting ever stronger.
His Scripture-informed outlook reminds me of Paul and Silas who, when thrown into prison and then freed by God, saw the circumstance as an opportunity to serve the Lord by stopping the Philippian jailer from committing suicide and then telling him what he must do to be saved (Acts 16:25-34). Instead of an opportunity for escape while the jailer was knocked out, they saw an opportunity to serve when he awoke.
It is true that in the mystery of God’s sovereign will he closes certain doors, but that does not prevent other opportunities from becoming available to us. In fact, any circumstance that comes our way, is another opportunity to serve and honor our King, no matter how hard that circumstance may be. We will never be without opportunities to serve Jesus, and, therefore, we will never be left without a purpose and never left without new ways in which to fellowship with him in his sufferings.