Overpower Your What Ifs With These Whatevers

The pilot announced it would be a rough flight. So unstable, in fact, he was asking the flight attendants to remain in their seats for most of the two and a half hour trip.  I am a really fearful flyer. So, you can imagine my knee-jerk reaction to the news our captain relayed as we prepared for take-off. Thankfully, Paul’s words in Philippians brought godly wisdom to my worried mind. I had a choice about what I would focus on.

Silence the negative voice-airplane

I could allow my focus to be on the things I had no control over (for example, the turbulence). Or, I could place my attention on God and keep my thoughts within the scope of stewardship He had given me.

While the Holy Spirit can equip us to know things we couldn’t possibly know on our own, we sure make things easier when we do our part to prepare our minds and hearts to hear from Him.

All the time I’ve been investing in studying and meditating on Philippians in preparation for my upcoming class, meant the words of Scripture were primed and prepared for the Holy Spirit to bring to my mind.

Philippians4_8

 

Long-time readers know I struggle with fear even on the smoothest of flights. I’ve written before about this issue.

My mind tends to fill with images of every story of airline catastrophes I’ve ever heard, read, or seen. I race through the “what ifs” and let my imagination spin terrifying scenarios.

  • “What if the mechanics missed tightening some bolt and a critical piece of the aircraft fails?”
  • “What if the pilot is tired or distracted or incompetent.”
  • “What if…”

Stress increases whenever I try to control anything beyond the realm of stewardship God has apportioned to me. Paul’s admonition from Philippians 4:8 reminded me of this.

So, I quickly went through my checklist of what my Creator had placed within my control:

Realm of Stewardship

Mental Realm

I have been given dominion over my thoughts, attitudes, desires.

Emotional Realm

I can determine how I respond to circumstances and the behavior of other people. I control my emotional response in terms of my feelings and whether and how I will choose to give and receive love.

Physical Realm

I have authority over my body and to a certain extent my material possessions.

Spiritual Realm

I may decide what I believe, value, and think about God. God allows me the free will to decide if I will accept the truth He reveals of Himself.

Practical Application of My Stewardship

As the plane taxied to the runway, there were many variables over which I had absolutely no control and which were screaming for my anxious attention.

As the jet bumped along the final few yards of contact with the solid ground, I prayed that God would show me how to apply Philippians 4:8 to each of these areas in which he gives me responsibility.

Being that I was presently engaged in prayer, I naturally started with the spiritual realm.

What do I know to be true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy about God? As rubber separated from asphalt and we began our ascent, I mutely sang out to God (with the help of my carefully chosen playlist of praise songs blasting through my earphones) all the reasons I could think of that he was completely trustworthy; whatever the circumstance.

Then, as I noticed my hands clenching and my body tensing, I applied the truth that even soaring through the clouds, I had stewardship of my own body. While I couldn’t control the weather, the plane, or anyone else on the plane, I could determine my own physical response to my setting.

I focused on taking deep breaths, relaxing into the seat, and resting in the knowledge that the One I had just praised and acknowledged as good, sovereign, loving, and for me was in control of all the variables over which I wasn’t.

While that didn’t mean the outcome would be what I wanted, I realized I could trust God to be with me in whatever we would face during the flight. Just like I can trust Him to be present in whatever circumstances I face each day when my feet are firmly on the ground.

God is Lord of heaven and earth. What is true about Him, me, and creation when I’m at sea level remains true at 35,000 feet. I focused on that and headed off any thoughts about the unlovely what ifs. I exercised dominion over the thoughts I let hang out in my brain.

I chose an attitude of surrender and trust. And I chose to love God because of who He is rather than whether or not He was giving me the smooth, fear-free ride I wanted.

I focused on naming God’s attributes, His noble, pure, admirable, lovely, and praiseworthy characteristics and acts.

As I silently praised Him and recalled all the ways He has demonstrated his love for me in the past, I felt His peace settle in on me.

The entire flight (with the exception of about 15 minutes) was turbulent. However, because I focused on God and not my circumstances, I never had a panic attack. I actually was able to focus on studying and make a little progress in preparing for class. But most importantly, I had two and a half hours of worship rather than worry.

How can you apply this in your life?

I don’t know what challenges you face today, but whatever you come up against, confront it with God and in His strength.

Whatever your need, surrender it to Him.

Take your “whatevers” and “what ifs” and apply Paul’s “whatever” exhortations of Philippians 4:8 to them. Exercise your God-given authority within your realm of stewardship and leave everything else to God.

For it is God who is effectively at work in you, to strengthen, energize, and create in you the longing and the ability to work out in your realm of stewardship the transformation He has worked in you. Therefore, let your fear and trembling be because you acknowledge how holy, true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy your Savior is. (See Philippians 2:13)

Want to study Philippians with me?

If you would like to dig in to the Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi and mine it for the truth and grace applicable to all believers across time and in whatever circumstances we face, I would be so excited to have you join me.

Class will be held on Tuesdays (chose either 9:30 am or 6:30 pm) beginning April 18, 2017. I’m partnering with my home church, Main Street Baptist Church in downtown Georgetown, Texas. Classes will be held there and free childcare (with pre-registration) will be offered.

At this time, I’m not offering an online version, but I may, in the future, create an online video series to accompany the workbook for my out-of-towners!

I’m not quite ready to open registration as I’m still finishing up my lesson plans and the workbook. But if you want more info check out my “coming soon page”.

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  • Pete

    VERY good, Laura. Well thought out. Practical and helpful. Can be applied to all kinds of situations we face in life, not only flying. (For instance, sickness, with which my wife and son have had major battles in the past year.) But, in whatever we face, this tells us how to consciously place it in God’s hands, rest under the shadow of his wings, and experience his peace that passes understanding.

    • Thanks Pete! You’re always so encouraging with your comments. I love the stories and insights you share!