Getting out of the "what if" game

Summer becomes real for me when I get to the mountains, smell the pine-y air, dip my toes in a lake, stay up late watching the sun drop behind the mountains and the stars peak out.  So I was anxious to get out of the city as soon as I finished my teaching commitments the last week of June. I hit the road with some friends to backpack on the Lost Coast in Northern California.   

Lost Coast beach

A friend suggested the route, and not that concerned with the "strenuous" rating of the trail, I agreed to it.  We made it to the trailhead, only after driving on roads near perilous cliffs and jaw dropping views of the oceans. I'm not one to have irrational fears, but I do love a good backup plan.  And backup plans are hard to come by on adventures in the wilderness.   The "what ifs" started creeping in on the drive...what if the tires slip and I go off the road? What if the car breaks down out here? What if the car doesn't start when we get back? What if a forest fire breaks out? I wanted the hike to start so I could escape the "what ifs". 

We trekked along easily for awhile. But as the trail got narrower, steeper and on the edge of sharp drop-offs, and the backpack felt heavier, and the bushes crowded the trail, the what ifs came back. What if one of us gets hurt? What if we run out of water?  What if we get covered in poison oak?  What if we can't find the campsite? 

As I remembered those words, I heard “I will provide and protect.” And it repeated over and over in my head. Relief. Remembering my belovedness, and God’s promise of provision, covered the fears.

I trudged up the rocky path along side a steep incline,  eyes glued to my feet to make sure I stayed on course, clueless to the view off to the side of the hills stretching out forever.  "What if I fall off the side of this trail and roll down the mountain? What if I die here?" I thought.  

But then, miraculously, my mind shifted to words spoken to me just a few days before by those in the SF Lighthouse community.  Words of my belovedness and words of what could lie ahead in life if I leaned into the Holy Spirit.  As I remembered those words, I heard "I will provide and protect." And it repeated over and over in my head. Relief.  Remembering my belovedness, and God's promise of provision, covered the fears. I would not die out on the trail. 

Leaning into faith can feel a lot like a risky wilderness adventure.  I say I want to trust and listen to the Holy Spirit. I hear truth spoken over me and for awhile I believe God can do ANYTHING through me. Then I start to think "This is hard. I'm exhausted. I'm not special. What if I fail? What if God doesn't provide. What if I'm left all alone? What if I get fired? What if, what if, what if."

Lost Coast Campsite

I start to hold to back. I stay in the comfortable zone.  I choose to listen to the voice of doubt rather than the truth of who I am.  As I shared with Pastor Jeff, he shared a similar story of angst. "But then I listened for the Spirit, and what I heard was, 'step out, leap forward, I will meet you in the unknown, risk it all on me. I'm trustworthy, faithful, there are no missteps when your heart is for me.'"

"There are no missteps when your heart is for me." Living in carefully controlled environments, we think the room for error is much smaller than it really is.  

But "there are no missteps when your heart is for me." When I live knowing my belovedness there is no room for the "what ifs".  God's provision and protection will meet me in the unknown.  


Sarah Papé is excited to return to writing after shedding lots of blood, sweat and tears on a degree in communication. She currently spends weekdays teaching middle school math and science.  In college she stumbled upon a service-learning trip to inner-city Chicago, which eventually led her down a path to advocate for social justice within urban schools.  On weekends, she restores her soul with outdoor adventures, long conversations with friends and reminders that through Jesus Christ, grace really does change everything.