When You Fear the Future

The future and I have a love/hate relationship with each other.

There are times in life when I view the future with excitement. Things I've planned and worked for are about to come to fruition and I watch with anticipation as they unfold before my eyes—like when I completed a degree program, got married, or had a child. In those times, I love the future, and even strive to speed up its arrival—as if that were possible!

But there are other times in life when the future is not exciting at all. Instead, the future is dark with shadows and it seems to hide its intentions. I can't see what lies ahead and it fills me with dread and fear. The unknown keeps me awake at night thinking through all the "What if?" scenarios. "What if ____ happens? Then what will I do?" In those times, I do what I can to keep the future at bay—as if I ever could!

I'm in the midst of one of those "what if?" seasons right now. It's hard not to worry and fret about the unknown. It's hard not to fear.  

And it can be hard to trust God with the future.

But I want to. I want to be able to say with the psalmist, "Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. (Psalm 46:2-3) I want to look at the future with anticipation and hope—no matter what lies ahead—knowing that God is my refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1). 

Perhaps you are in a similar season where the future looks fearful. You don't know what the future has in store and you fear you will be unprepared. You fear you aren't strong enough to endure whatever trial or difficult circumstance awaits. You fear the future will hold something too hard, too difficult, too painful.

In our battles against fear, we need to remember three things:

God Holds the Future

Our God is sovereign over all things. Every molecule is under his control. He determines even those things that seem random in our eyes (Proverbs 16:33). He rules over the hearts of man (Proverbs 21:1). We may make our plans, but it is God who directs our paths (Proverbs 16:9). God's purposes and plans always come to pass. Nothing and no one can interfere with his plan. "For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose" (Isaiah 46:9-10). And whatever does come to pass is God's plan. This means that while our future is unknown to us, it is not unknown to God. When a difficult circumstance enters my life, I often repeat to myself, "God is not surprised by this." It's a refrain that reminds me that while I may be taken off guard, he is not. And because he is not surprised, it means everything is happening just as he planned it.

From the WCF Chapter V:

"God the great Creator of all things does uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy."

God is Good

God is good. "The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works" (Psalm 145:7). He cannot do anything that is not good. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change" (James 1:17). He never changes; there is no "shadow due to change." He is the Father of lights. In spiritual terms, darkness implies evil; there is no darkness in God. He is always good. As fallen creatures, it is hard for us to fathom what that means. Even our good deeds are often tainted by wrong motives. But God always does what is right. He is the source of all that is good and everything he gives us is good. 

Your Can Trust Your Future to God

Because the future is in God's hands and no one else's and because he is good and only does what is good, we can trust our future to him. We can rest in his sovereign care for us. The trials and circumstances we fear, while not good in and of themselves, are always used by God for our ultimate good (Romans 8:28-29). He is at work in us, making us into the image of his Son. The work involved in that process can be difficult and sometimes even painful work, but it is good work. And the end result will be glorious when his work is complete. We can look to the greatest suffering—our Savior's death on the cross—and see how it was used for good, to set us free from sin and bring us into right relationship with God. 

Yes, the future can be frightening. But God rules and reigns over it. While we don't know what will happen, he does. And because he is a good God, we can trust our future to him. We can know that whatever happens is not outside his providence and control.  No matter how challenging or difficult or hard the future might be, God will use it for our good. He will make us like Christ.