Our thermometer changes colors when it detects a fever, and it flashed red and beeped its little alarm at us last night. My daughter hit the couch after school and by dinner the fever had come on strong.
Not too alarming. Nothing to be afraid about. Just an unexpected temperature spike at the end of a day when she had felt just fine.
She asks me questions with increasing concern, though. What if I feel fine in the morning, do I really have to miss school? Do I have to stay out the whole day?
I assured her that yes, fever tonight means no school tomorrow. No question about it.
It takes a few questions of my own to root out the cause of her concern. She’ll miss a quiz that she’ll have to make up on Monday and that will take away time from something else she really enjoys at school. Oh, and she’s supposed to get extra recess as a reward for some work she did over spring break. Plus her friends will worry because they have a big project they are all working on together and she doesn’t want to let them down.
It all seems so “big.” So very vital. So much to miss out on. So much reason to feel pressured and anxious.
But I ask her this: What’s the worst that can happen?
It feels like I’ve been asking that a lot lately. When we chat about scheduling classes for next year and my soon-to-be high schooler feels like she has to make every decision perfectly or her whole life will be forever stunted, I ask the question then, too.
What’s the worst that can happen?
It’s not a magic question that solves every problem, but it’s been changing our perspective a bit. What’s the worst thing that could happen with these high school decisions?
High school goes terribly wrong and it’s all a mess and a nightmare, so we do something else. We ask God for new direction and we leave that school and make another plan. We have options and possibilities. Nobody is stuck here.
So, we calm down. We breathe a little deeper. We know the worst thing doesn’t often happen, but even when it does, God is with us. He’ll take care of us. We’ll be okay.
We have hope.
I asked it again last night of a little nine-year-old girl who is stressing out over missing a Friday at school.
What’s the worst thing? You miss out on some special activities and you have to make up some work on Friday. That’s disappointing maybe, but it’s something we can handle.
I don’t want to trivialize this in any way. Mostly, we’re fighting back the enemy of anxiety, of worry, of fretting over every day situations.
Like when I’m waiting on one child to be dismissed from an activity and they are running late. Ten minutes late. I’m starting to freak out a little bit and I’m catching my breath more than a little bit.
Then I think about what’s true. The worst thing here is that we’re 10 minutes late to the next activity on the night’s agenda. And a few minutes late to the next thing after that. And dinner is a bit rushed.
That’s not worth hyperventilating over in a pick-up line.
Even so, I know sometimes the worst thing actually does happen in life, and it’s every bit as hard and heartbreaking as we ever imagined. I’ve walked through those seasons, too. I’ve prayed “Anything but this one thing, Lord. Please don’t let this one thing happen.”
Sometimes God answers prayers with a gentle “no,” and I have heard that “no.”
But I have also felt the sweetness of the Lord in the hardest seasons, His gentleness, His grace, His kindness, and His loving, faithful presence. “Behold I am with you always,” Jesus promised (Matthew 28:20).
In Morning and Evening, Spurgeon wrote:
Faith’s way is to drop every care on the Lord and then to anticipate good results from the worst calamities. Like Gideon’s men, faith does not worry over a broken pitcher—it rejoices that the lamp shines unimpeded.”
Am I the kind of girl who frets over a broken pitcher or who rejoices over the clarity of light?
Maybe right now I’m mostly a girl who reacts to the broken pitcher. I’m upset about the brokenness, maybe upset about the inconvenience, or the change in the plans.
Maybe I even worry so much about whether the pitcher will break that I’m afraid to be bold, to take risks, to walk in faith.
I ‘m learning, though, to see His Light and to let His Light shine even through broken places:
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5 ESV)