"There is no grace for your imagination." Elisabeth Elliot
I remember hearing this quote years ago as I was wrestling with concerns about the future. "What-ifs'' filled my brain, and I was having trouble staying in the present reality. Instead, imaginary situations regularly filled my mind. I'd play through all possible scenarios of life thinking, "What if my kid actually fell off the table he was climbing on? What if my husband lost his job, and we couldn't afford our house anymore? What if X or Y or Z happened–then what would we do? Would I be okay?"
Maybe you can relate. As women, we often tend to have great imaginations and live our lives constantly playing out worst-case scenarios in our heads. We want to be prepared for the unknown and brace ourselves for the future. But instead of helping us live bravely, this practice cripples us with anxiety. We feel weighed down, overwhelmed by constant fear and dread of what the future might bring. We live on a spectrum–from low-grade anxiety to full-blown panic attacks, uncertain and afraid of tomorrow.
Rationally, these "what-if" daydreams make sense. We're afraid of the unknown and desperately want some sort of control. So, we plan. We think it'll be better if we're prepared for the worst. We brace ourselves for disaster and live under the trauma of imaginings that haven't even occurred. But in doing this, we live like future atheists, forgetting that there is a God who holds our future in His hands.
By worrying, we think we can help ourselves in the future. But anxiety is really using today's energy for tomorrow's problems. Read what Jesus says on this topic:
Therefore I tell you: Don't worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn't life more than food and the body more than clothing? Consider the birds of the sky: They don't sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren't you worth more than they? Can any of you add one moment to his life span by worrying? And why do you worry about clothes? Observe how the wildflowers of the field grow: They don't labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these. If that's how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won't he do much more for you–you of little faith? So don't worry, saying, "What will we eat?" or "What will we drink?" or "What will we wear?" For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don't worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:25-34 CSB)
During Jesus's time, people were dependent on the harvest for their livelihoods. If it didn't rain, the crops wouldn't grow, and they couldn't eat. They wouldn't have food, money, or clothing. In an agrarian society, there was little the people could control and plenty of reasons to worry.
Notice what Jesus doesn't say to them in these verses. He doesn't say, "Don't worry. It's not that bad!" or "Don't worry. There's nothing scary in this world." Instead, He points to something even greater. He tells His followers to look up. He points out the birds, the flowers, and the sky. He asks how the animals eat, live, move, and breathe. Surely, the Creator takes care of each created thing. And, Jesus concludes, asking if we are not much more valuable than these? Do you think that God will take care of the birds but forget about you? And can you add a single hour to your life by worrying?
Our fear reveals that we're not in control. Scary things can happen, and we don't know what tomorrow will bring. But through all of this, we cannot forget that we have a good Father who is in control of the heavens and the earth and gives good gifts to His children (Luke 11:11), even when terrible things do happen (Genesis 50:20, Romans 8:28). If He takes care of the birds, surely He will take care of us.
This reminds me of a story I heard from my pastor's wife. She recounted that she was driving down a busy road, her four kids asleep in the backseats. The music was playing, and she was enjoying the beautiful day, when suddenly a semi-truck came barreling toward her. The truck almost side-swiped her, but she quickly swerved to avoid a collision. Thankfully, nothing happened. The truck kept driving, and she was fine. There was no accident.
She looked behind her to the back seats, and the kids were all still asleep. But as she pulled over to compose herself, her mind ran wild. Her heart raced a million miles a minute, and she started to anxiously think through the what-ifs. What if the truck had hit them? Or what if someone had gotten hurt? What if one of her kids had died? What if all of her kids had died, and she was the only one to make it. She would never be able to survive! Her mind tumbled down the worst-case scenarios until she was living in an imaginary disaster.
As she recounted the story, she shared this quote: "There is no grace for my imagination." All of these worst-case scenarios didn't actually happen to her. She was fine, and the kids didn't even notice. There was no accident. As she reflected on the experience, she pointed out that her future nightmare did not include a very-present God as one of its characters. There was no grace for that specific situation yet, for it had not actually happened.
But even if it did–even if the worst-case story had happened–God would be there. God provides abundant grace for every single moment of our lives. Even when the worst-case scenario comes to be, we have a good Father who is with us in it, protecting and helping us. We have the powerful One who will sustain us when we cannot stand. We have the King who will provide everything we need. He promises to use all things for His glory and our good. He is our ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).
We need not fear tomorrow, for we are more loved than the sparrows. Our Father has it all figured out. He knows each joy and sorrow we will face, and He will equip us for each one. He will provide all that we need to face our troubles, and nothing can happen to us apart from His sovereign plan. These imaginary situations we've dreamed up forget an important detail: God is real, and He cares for us. His grace is sufficient for me right now and in every moment.