Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

Dealing with the “What-If’s” and “If-Onlys” of Life


Recently I was reading Paul Tripp’s daily reading in his book New Morning Mercies and came upon this quote:
“The Bible tells you that real peace is found in resting in the wisdom of the One who holds all of your “what-ifs” and If-onlys” in His loving hands.”
This got me to thinking about our lives. We have many choices to make every day. Many of them are small – what to wear, where to eat lunch, what TV program to watch tonight, etc. – but some are quite significant. Think of the following significant choices you may have, or will, face:

  • Am I going to go to college, and if so, where?
  • Will I trust Jesus with my life and live as a follower?
  • Who am I going to date, or marry?
  • Where am I going to work, and live?
  • Am I going to have children?
  • How am I going to balance my career, family and church responsibilities?

A few months before I retired, a long-time friend said that he and one of my former leaders had been talking about me. Specifically, they were talking about why I had only progressed to the level of a manager in our organization. I could take that a couple of ways. First, that they believed I had the talent to have progressed further, and second, they were wondering why I hadn’t. I mentioned that I had made some decisions early in my career that may have impacted my career progress. For example, I chose not to relocate with the organization when that was the expected path for advancement in the department I was working in. Another key decision was to attend seminary, rather than pursue an MBA, industry or technical designations. A third decision was not to pursue a position a mentor had told me about because of the significant amount of travel it would require. Regardless, I told him that I had no regrets.  I was at peace with how my career had turned out. My wife and I always prayed about major career decisions (Do we move? Do I pursue this job, in that department? etc.). Looking back at my life I can see God’s guiding hand and sovereign control throughout my career.Do you have regrets? Do you look back at decisions you made and wished you would have made different ones? Paul Tripp writes that we can leave our “what-ifs” and if-onlys” in the hands of the One who loves us and rules all things.
I recently read Alistair Begg’s excellent book The Hand of God: Finding His Care in All Circumstances. The book is about the biblical doctrine of providence as expressed in the story of Joseph, one of my favorite characters in the Bible. Begg shows us that through the events of his life, Joseph understood that God sovereignly orders all things that come to pass and preserves the lives of His creatures for His purposes. He tells us that the doctrine of providence brought Joseph, and brings us as well, comfort in the face of great difficulty and sorrow. We may not have been sold into slavery, thrown into prison and then risen to second in command in our country, but we can see our life through the lens of Romans 8:28, a much-loved verse:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 
So, don’t dwell on the “what-ifs” and “if-onlys” of your life. Your particular path may have taken a number of twists and turns, and some of them may have been painful at the time. But I believe that God has placed you just where He wants you to be to serve Him. Or, as Alistair Begg has said “There is no ideal place to serve God except the place in which He has set you down”.
How about you? Do you have regrets about decisions you have made? Do you find yourself dwelling on the “what-ifs” and “if-onlys” of your life?

Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence – married to my best friend Tammy, a graduate of Covenant Seminary, St. Louis Cardinals fan, formerly a manager at a Fortune 50 organization, and in leadership at my local church. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop, and to use their strengths to their fullest potential. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinder themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony, and Achiever, and my two StandOut strength roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book of the Bible, and Colossians 3:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 being my favorite verses. Some of my other favorite books are The Holiness of God and Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul, and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. I enjoy music in a variety of genres, including modern hymns, Christian hip-hop and classic rock. My book Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace and Tammy’s book Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold are available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

2 thoughts on “Dealing with the “What-If’s” and “If-Onlys” of Life

  1. Thank you Bill Pence. I have been attempting to focus in on the teaching of Gods Providence. Dwelling in its wonderful truth. Thank you for this.

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