Don't Catastrophize the Future

Ann Spangler
Ann Spangler

When everything is falling apart around you, you need to read, remember, and hold onto Scripture as though your life depends on it because, of course, it does.

I confess that I have not always held onto the story God is telling in the Bible all that well. There is the ever-present temptation to embrace another narrative, telling me that everything depends on me while very little depends on God. Carried along by circumstances, I make the mistake of "catastrophizing" the future--responding to life with frustration and anxiety, as though I believe that every difficulty will in the end overtake and overwhelm me.

This was nearly my condition not long ago. I was struggling with a difficult issue, feeling a sense of despair about a problem to which there seemed no good answer. I had a sense that things were going to end badly, perhaps very badly. The more I thought about it, the worse I felt. In the midst of my anguish, I reached for the Bible, desperate to hear something from God, who had seemed so silent.

I began reading where I had left off the previous day. As I read, the story came alive in a fresh way. It was about events that had occurred more than 2,500 years ago. The Israelites had recently returned from their captivity in Babylon. As I read, a question formed in my mind. The other tribes in the region were doing everything possible to sabotage the work the Israelites were doing as they tried to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Why were they so opposed to letting the Israelites worship their God? Suddenly it occurred to me that worship can be dangerous--at least, to God's enemies. The people in that region must have sensed that the Israelites alone would be pushovers but the Israelites with God would be a force too strong to be resisted.

Reading the story helped me remember the power of God, and I saw that this particular story might have application beyond the historical era in which it occurred. Come to think of it, I felt as though I were in the midst of my own personal battle, trying to believe that God would help even though I was tempted to give in to despair. I began to picture my home as a place where God dwells and my heart as God's altar. I worshiped him, thanking him for his love and faithfulness and praising him for his goodness.

As I worshiped, I felt the heaviness lift.

A few days later, the intractable problem I had been fretting about took a turn for the better. Though I hadn't realized it, God was already at work answering my desperate prayers. Though the enemy had wanted me to give up, the Spirit of God helped me find strength by reminding me of the story of God's people. Reading the Bible helped me remember, remembering helped me to trust, and trusting helped me to live in peace. Instead of catastrophizing the future, God helped me to bless the future by reconnecting to the story of his people.





Originally published February 18, 2020.