To give some context for this question I’m going to graduate in nine months and I have no idea where I’ll be afterwards. And I find it hard to hope in a ‘good’ future and though I might ask myself: well, what’s the worst that could happen? the problem is that my active imagination is very good at telling me a dozen different scenarios each as ‘worst’ as the next one. For example, when it comes to graduating and getting a job then one potential outcome is unemployment, applying everywhere and getting nowhere and ending up in some job in retail. And it’s no use telling me that it might not happen because I know that it might.
And you can’t tell me either: God is in control of everything, he loves you, it will not happen because again that’s a lie. Sure, the first two statements are true but trying telling a Christian who has suffered the death of a loved one that the worst will not happen.
It’s like the command: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged; for the Lord your God will go with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1v9) This is one of my all-time favourite bible verses yet, as I found out the hard way, it doesn’t promise success.
The point I’m trying to make is that success is never a certainty, no earthly thing is ever certain, nothing we have that cannot be lost, so when it comes to the question: what’s the worst that could happen there’s no use answering it with denial over the worst.
There is a way to answer this question which calms troubled minds, soothes fear and grants peace but it is a much harder answer than denial. The answer is this: for a Christian it is possible to lose everything and have lost nothing. It is possible for the very worst to happen in the circumstances of a Christian’s life and yet for the worst to never happen.
To phrase the question another way: what can never happen to a Christian? Well, the Bible has a lot to say on this…
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8 v 35, 37-39)
As Paul explains so wonderfully here: nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. And with that comes the implication that salvation can never be lost, God will always love us, heaven is always a certainty, the Lord’s joy over us will never falter. These are the untouchables of the Christian life.
Think of it this way: Christians have a relationship and a love that will never end, reject, spurn or abuse. We always know the final destination and home of our lives: eternity with Christ. And we have a work to do which we will never get fired from: serving the Lord. On all the big things in life: work, relationships and a home we have something that can never be taken from us!
Yes, the worst may happen, I could end up working in an Aldi in Dundee but on a deeper level the worst will never happen. It’s all about what we value as most important. If we value our comfort, security, employment status, relationships, home, health above being reconciled with God then we’ll live in fear, worry and stress. If Christ is first in our hearts and thoughts then it is a lot easier to face all the uncertainty of life, all the worsts that can happen and tell one’s soul: yet even if that were to happen I am still rich in Christ.
Joshua 1v9 doesn’t promise success; it promises the constant companionship of God and that is a far greater gift. How else can Paul say: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,”? When the worst happens it can work for our best because we learn that being in God’s family is actually what matters most in life, we are weaned from the vanity of earthly things and learn the hard way that through Christ we can conquer all things.
The fight is to preach this to ourselves when we give way to worry. When I go from one worst to the other in my mind then the way of peace is to accept that they may indeed happen but even if they do, even if the worst happens, it is all from God, he will not stop loving me, salvation is still mine, sin still dealt with, heaven still coming and so what is there to be afraid of? This isn’t easy, I like to cling to the seen rather than the unseen and who wants to go through difficulties?
Picture the love of God like a river that flows over all the rocks of life. The deeper the river, the less disturbed it is by the rocks. Likewise, the more we know of God’s love for us the less the hardships of life can throw us off course.
I've quoted this hymn before but I can't resist quoting it again:
"When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul."