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What if?..

I don’t know about you, but I often find myself asking the question; what if…? The world is full of possibilities and sometimes I like to explore them. Sometimes it’s just for the fun of imagining a different reality, like what if Dinosaurs aren’t really extinct, but they’re just really good at hiding? Or what if the Queen is really a Dalek in disguise? More often though, the thoughts are actual possibilities that bare some pertinence to my life. What if I started doing this or stopped doing that. But this isn’t a question that is limited only to future possibilities. I also often find myself asking “What if…?” about things that have already happened, about events in the past, like what if I hadn’t have done that or had done the other.

Now this isn’t as fun as wondering about the possibility of the moon actually being made of cheese. Nor is it immediately as obviously useful as considering possible courses of action before taking one. It does however have its uses. It provides a way to reflect upon what we have done, maybe correct any mistakes we’ve made or learn to do something different the next time we’re in a similar situation. It is though, not without its dangers. Much like guilt, if this pattern of thought is held onto longer than its initial usefulness, it can begin to weigh us down and unhelpfully make us dwell on our mistakes. I even find that as a Christian, it can affect the way I view God.

It becomes easy to think if I’d have behaved in a different way, then maybe God would have done something different in my life and I can accidently view my relationship with God as something very formulaic and almost robotic; I do good things God will bless me, if I do bad things God will punish me. This is actually a little bit ridiculous because the whole concept of the “what if” question is completely irrelevant to God for two reasons. The first is that from the very beginning of time, He already knew all that would unfold in time. He already knows everything that will happen, which means He has no need to consider alternative realities because He knows that no alternatives will ever happen.

Secondly and even more amazingly, He also already knows every possible combination of events and every tiny detail of their consequences that could ever happen, which means that He doesn’t have to think “what if..?” because He already knows! He even already knows the exact difference that something as seemingly insignificant as you missing breakfast or buying a different pair of shoes would make! And furthermore, there isn’t a single thing that we could do to change the way that He thinks about us.

This radically changes the way I see God. The most obvious example of this is the way I view Jesus dying on a cross in order that I might be able to know God. For a God who has to ask “what if…?”, this is the action of someone who invested in a people who then let Him down and so to make something out of His investment had to come up with a plan to make the best of a bad situation; namely Jesus on a cross.

But for a God who has no need to ask “what if…?”, this is no longer the case. Jesus hanging on a cross does not speak of a God who took a risk on Mankind, but rather of a God who knew (not expected, but knew with absolute certainty) Mankind would fail, but chose to make and love them anyway, already knowing exactly what it would cost Him; namely, Jesus on a cross. And so it is in every aspect of our lives. There is nothing good we could do to make Him love us more, nor no bad thing we could do to make Him withhold the good things He plans for us. There is nothing we can do to surprise God. Yet God’s love never ceases to surprise me every day.

Originally written for the March 2022 ABC Newsletter

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