You have all these thoughts about what’s the worst that could happen. These thoughts, they’re meant to comfort you. Calm you. Reassure you that life is as it should be.
You volunteer with a youth group. You love these kids as your own. You give them rides, you give them counsel, you give them love, you give them a huge part of yourself. You worry about them some, sure, but you remind yourself that life is as it should be. What’s the worst that could happen? Maybe one of these kids could die, that would be the worst thing. Or maybe he could die right in front of your eyes. Maybe you could try to save him. Maybe you could fail. That would be the worst of the worst.
But life is as it should be, and it’s one of those passing thoughts, something so awful you don’t entertain because it’s so far away from normalcy. Those things don’t happen.
And then it happens. The worst of the worst of the worst that could happen actually happens, and all those other things you thought could never happen become a possibility. You walk around in a daze, expecting at any moment people all around you to just drop dead.
You can’t focus on work because you’re convinced at any moment your boss and coworkers and friends are going to call out and need help and you, unable to help one small child, will be unable to help them. You will fail again.
You can’t go to the grocery store, because the kids left unattended on aisle nine are dangerously close to death at any given moment. Their parents are three aisles over and if any of these children suddenly has an attack of something fatal or slips and falls, you’re the only one around to help, and you know you can’t do it because you couldn’t do it before. You’re filled with rage, because these parents should know better than to leave their children unattended with only a stranger nearby. These parents should know that stranger can’t protect their kids. These parents should know what’s the worst that could happen.
You deal with it for years. You get counseling. You progress and regress. You get married. You live in a constant state of fear that every time your husband walks out the door, he won’t make it back. You have to text him one last time, to let him know you love him. You worry your text message will be the thing to distract him, make him wreck, kill him.
You have a stepson. You fight a constant tendency to overprotection. You casually eye everything in his room in case there’s anything that could fall and hurt him or topple over in the night. Every time he coughs, you ask yourself if it’s a normal, productive cough or something insidiously more.
You are dictated, start to finish, by irrational fears and inconsolable rage that have all been confirmed since one of those worst things that could happen actually happened.
You get a book that shakes you up. It asks, what’s the worst that could happen? These things snowball as you remember, angrily, the worst that could happen. The book says, now see it through. What happens next?
You’re furious about that one. What happens next is you get severely, suicidally depressed. What happens next is you argue with God, fight with God, yell at God and accuse him of withholding his mercy and grace and love and miracles and healing and power. What happens next is you live life in constant fear of what happens next.
But then you keep going. What happens next is God tells you following him isn’t easy and definitely doesn’t feel perfect. He reminds you that even though you can’t save anyone, he can. God tells you if he wasn’t in the business of saving people, he wouldn’t have saved you. You feel a slight tinge of freedom in knowing that this isn’t dependent on you, that you are not responsible for saving people.
What happens next is God tells you he’s sorry you’re hurting, he’s so very sorry because this isn’t how he created the world but the world is this way all the same. He tells you this is his good plan, a good plan for redemption not only for you and for what you’ve been through, but a redemption plan for all the people, and you get to be a part of it.
What happens next is God doesn’t give up on you and you don’t give up on him. You grow closer to God than ever before. You grow wiser to his ways. You grow more grateful for his grace. You find each day slightly easier to surrender to his control. And even though, years later on the anniversary of that date, you still sit weeping at the memory of the sorrow and pain, God is still using that one worst that could happen to make the most beautiful things happen in you.
What happens next is you build an altar to God in honor of that time in your life, that worst that could happen. You anoint it with your tears and offer a sacrifice of your fears upon it as you tell God, “I trust you.”
And you know, you really finally know, there’s only one God who can take the worst that can happen yesterday and turn it into the best that can happen for you today.