“Their voices rose in a great chorus of complaint against Moses and Aaron. ‘We wish we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!’ they wailed. ‘Why is the LORD taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and little ones will be carried off as slaves! Let’s get out of here and return to Egypt!’“ – Numbers 14:2-3 NLT
We all suffer from it on occasion – worst-case-scenario syndrome. The symptoms are easily recognizable: fear, doubt, a growing sense of panic, and visions of all kinds of disaster happening – one bad thing leading to another. Usually it starts with a fairly pedestrian situation, one that is negative, but not catastrophic, but before we know it, we have conjured up images of mishap and mayhem. Our minds begin to play tricks on us, causing us to imagine all kinds of negative outcomes as we try to assume what is going to happen next. We start playing out a variety of circumstances in our heads, wondering what it going to happen if…
That’s exactly what the Israelites suffered from in this story – as they stood on the edge of the Promised Land, weighing out the two different reports given by the 12 spies who had come back from their walk through the land. All the people heard was bad news: giants, fortified cities, and certain defeat. Then they started blowing it all out of proportion and making conclusions that were NOT based on fact. Instead of trusting God, they decided to trust their very fertile imaginations. Listen to what they said. “God has brought us here to kill us! Our women and children are going to become plunder! We need new leadership! We need to return to Egypt!” In a matter of minutes these people had turned some bad news into disaster. They had whipped themselves into a frenzy of fright and faithlessness. Suddenly, the God who had freed them from slavery in Egypt through a series of miraculous plagues, and who had cared for them all throughout their journey to the Promised Land, was too weak to take care of them anymore. Their troubles were too much for their God. And the symptoms of worst-case-scenario syndrome began to appear throughout the camp.
Moses, Aaron, Caleb and Joshua beg the people to trust God and not rebel against Him. But the people respond with fear and anger. They even want to stone these four men. They can’t handle the truth. They don’t want to listen to what Moses and these other men have to say. So God intervenes. He determines to wipe out the entire group and start all over again just with Moses. But Moses intercedes. He begs God to reconsider. He appeals to God’s love for His own glory and name. He reminds God of His lovingkindness and righteousness. “Please pardon the sins of this people because of your magnificent, unfailing love, just as you have forgiven them ever since they left Egypt” (Numbers 14:20 NLT). God listens and relents. But the people who rebelled will never live to see the Promised Land. They will die in the wilderness, where they will wander for 40 more years, until that generation dies out. Only Caleb and Joshua will live to enter the land – because they believed.
When we face difficult times, it is easy to succumb to worst-case-scenario syndrome. It’s almost natural. We begin to doubt and fear. We blow things out of proportion. Our vision gets blurry. Our memory gets sketchy. We tend to forget things – like God’s history of goodness in our lives. We become weak and prone to fear, instead of faith. Worry replaces worship. Even little things get blown out of proportion. And the result is rebellion. We refuse to believe God, trust God, obey God, and so we fail to see the power of God in our lives. And we miss out on the blessings. Like the Israelites, we stand on the edge of the promises of God, but never get to enjoy them. But there is a cure for worst-case-scenario syndrome. It’s trust. Trust is putting our belief into action. It is stepping out and relying on God’s goodness. It is trusting in His power even in the presence of problems. God doesn’t promise us a life free from problems. But He does promise to see us through them. He promises us strength. He promises us joy and contentment. He promises us His presence. He will see us through.
Father, I suffer from worst-case-scenario syndrome far too often. Forgive me for doubting You and allowing my mind to run away with me. You have never given me a reason to doubt You, but I do it on a regular basis. May I learn to trust You more and more and lean on your unfailing goodness. Give me the strength I need to face life’s problems with a calm assurance of Your power and trust in Your promises. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men