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Minimalism from a Biblical Point of View —

Biblical Minimalism© is "a complete, whole-person release of anything unlike Jesus, a letting go of everything that hinders us from following Him wholeheartedly and single-mindedly, and a relinquishing of all that brings us under bondage to this earthly, very temporary life." Cheryl E. Smith

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Letting Go of "If Onlys" and "What Ifs"


"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."  
Jesus' words in John 14:27

How many times have you uttered the two little words, “if only?”  “If only I hadn’t gone so far into debt.”  “If only I had been more respectful of my parents and their needs.”  “If only I had spent more time with my kids.”  “If only I hadn’t gained so much weight.”  “If only I hadn’t spoken such unkind words.”  “If only I had chosen a different path.”  “If only I had listened to wise counsel.”

How about those other two little words, “what if?”  “What if the bottom falls out?”  “What if something bad happens?”  “What if I try again and fail again?”  “What if other people talk about me?”  “What if this relationship doesn’t work out?”  “What if I never find my purpose?”  “What if we can’t make ends meet?”

Your “if onlys” and "what ifs?" may be worlds-apart different than mine, but there’s a good chance, if you have lived very long at all, you have amassed a huge pile of “if onlys” and "what ifs?" all your own.

These are the things “if onlys” and “what ifs” are made of.  “If onlys” communicate remorse and regret over the past.  “What ifs” convey fears and anxiety over the future.  Both prevent us from living in complete joy in the present.  If you are like me, you may teeter between the two on a regular basis.  It sort of feels like an irreconcilable, futile tug-of war, lamenting one minute over things I wish I had done differently in the past and dreading unforeseen potentially bad things that may or may not happen in the future.

Can you envision just for a moment how much happier and more serene present life would be if we decluttered all “if onlys” and “what ifs” and never uttered those four words again?  “If onlys” and “what ifs” are a complete waste of time and energy because the truth is, we cannot go back and make alterations, nor can we see or control what happens beyond the moment in front of us.  “If onlys” and “what ifs” hold the power of rendering us incapable of experiencing joy in the beautiful parts of our own reality and they rob us of being able to live the peaceful life we all crave.

Remember the serenity prayer, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference?”  (Written by Reinhold Niebuhr)

Acceptance, courage, and wisdom are quite possibly the three main qualities we all need on this path to a minimal life.

Acceptance of the things we cannot change—

What we sow will grow, and it is impossible to go back and unearth any of the seeds we have planted.  We will never find a sense of peace until we make the choice to let go of regret and embrace that what has already happened cannot be undone.  Regrets are past deeds for which we refuse to forgive ourselves.  Surrendering the grudge we are holding against ourselves is extremely liberating and conducive to peace.  It is completely okay to finally forgive yourself for doing the things you wish you hadn’t, leave the past where it happened, let it go, and walk on.

Courage to change the things we can—

Since we can’t rewrite the history of our own actions, why not focus our energy on learning the lessons our regrets have taught us and start courageously applying that knowledge to present and future behavior?  Why don’t we stop obsessing over what we can’t do and redirect that energy to what we still can?  While we can’t change the way we may have treated departed loved ones, we can recklessly and wholeheartedly love and care for the important people who are in our lives today.  Whenever possible, we can say we’re sorry to people we may have hurt along the way.  We can nourish relationships with our children and do our best to make up for lost time with them, regardless of their current age.  We can scale back on unnecessary commitments and obligations and set our current priorities in order.  We can pay off past debt and stop buying things on credit.  We can make better eating choices, start exercising, and lose excess weight.  We can do whatever it takes to change career paths and start doing something we really love.  We can start today by mustering the courage to do the things we wish we had done in the past.  Life is incredibly short, no one is getting any younger, and there is no time like the present.  Start today to make the changes you wish you had made years ago.

Wisdom to know the difference—

There is a sense of relief that can be found in the mere act of compartmentalizing the things that bother us.  Just as it helps us feel more productive to place unwanted physical possessions into minimizing boxes that are labeled, “Donate,” “Sell,” “Trash,” and “Put Away,” tossing troublesome “what ifs” and “if onlys” into the “Things I Can Change” and “Things I Cannot Change” categories will help us feel that we are making progress and taking a step in the right direction.  Making the distinction between what we can change and what we cannot change empowers us to take control over hypothetical circumstances and realign our thoughts with what is real and doable.

The enemy of our souls wants to steal, kill, and destroy everything good in our lives.  If he can convince us to dwell on "if onlys" and "what ifs," he can take our eyes off the blessings God so faithfully and bountifully pours into our lives.  Jesus came to give us life.  Not just existence, but life that is abundant.  "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."  John 10:10

“If onlys” produce regret.  “What ifs” generate anxiety.  Both are toxic to our well being, and regardless how much progress we may have made in minimizing stressful situations and letting go of excess physical possessions, they can rob our newfound peace and cause our otherwise simple lives to feel unnecessarily complicated.  The next time you are tempted to say, “if only” or “what if,” make the intentional decision to think of something about present life that you are thankful for, turn your eyes upon Jesus, and thank Him for that instead.

22 comments:

  1. Cheryl, this is such a thought provoking posting because it is so true.
    We do just as you said, and why, why do we do that to ourselves?

    " Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."
    What a fantastic Scriptural verse we have to claim.

    Thank you for this reminder ♡

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    1. Yes, I just love that precious verse! I don't know why we can't get to the place where we just trust God and stop being suspicious of Him. I totally understand what you mean. Thank you so much for your visit, Debbie! I hope all is well with you, sweet friend. :)

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  2. Oh Cheryl, thank you for this: "Can you envision just for a moment how much happier and more serene present life would be if we decluttered all “if onlys” and “what ifs”" I always loved decluttering before my days with chronic illness, and have "regretted" not being able to continue that here. But not only is that "regret" harmful to me, I see how it's not true! God is working to declutter those things in my heart that don't belong there, to bring in His simplicity of spirit, His Spirit in me. Thank you for these precious words of encouragement today dear friend! Blessings and love to you!

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    1. What a blessed thought to know that God is decluttering the things in our hearts that don't belong there! So much of the time, we focus on minimizing the outward things and physical possessions, but oh, how much more important it is that we stand back and allow God to purge out the things in our hearts that are not pleasing to Him! So sweet to get your precious comment today, dear friend. I am praying for you and trusting you are feeling better.

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  3. Dear Cheryl, so nice to find a new post from you! I got on the scale this morning, and found I have now lost 20 pounds. But what did I do?? Instead of being grateful, I just thought about how much more I have to lose, and "if only" I had't gained all this weight! That I'm now only where I was three years ago when I felt I had to lose weight (before I gained the 20 more!). I took that joy right out of my spirit with my whiny "if onlys"!!
    I pray you are doing well. Thank you for these precious words of encouragement. xo Deborah

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    1. Thank you ever so much for your sweet visit and kind words! HOORAY FOR YOU!!!!!!!!! WOW!!!! 20 pounds is HUGE!!!!! I am beyond proud of you!!!! Yes, sweet friend, just toss those "if onlys" in the past where they belong and celebrate that you got those excess pounds off, and you will continue to move forward into even more weight loss, and you WILL reach your goal, by God's grace!! I'm here, cheering you on and praying for you and, again, I am SOOOO proud of you!!! Much love and many hugs to you today!!

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  4. Oh yes, my friend...I have been there more times than I care to admit. I even wrote a post or two about the subject. Isn't it funny how easy it is to express this truth to others but still be guilty of it as well....we are certainly imperfect humans, aren't we. Regardless, this post is so true and so well written...thank you for sharing it. And guess what? We are now neighbors...well, kinda. We have been here in TN a couple of weeks now and living a very minimalistic life, camping in the RV in Adam's backyard. Hopefully will get moved down the mountain and onto our property very soon! HUGS!

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    1. Oh, isn't it the truth! How imperfect we truly are! I am so thankful for God's amazing, abundant grace that He so lavishly pours into our lives every, single day and for His awesome mercy that is new every morning when we wake up. I am so happy you got moved and settled in your new home - well, at least your new temporary home! I loved reading your post today and hearing about your adventures. I can't wait to see your new permanent home and how pretty you decorate everything. You are on an amazing adventure. So exciting to see how God unfolds it! Hugs back to you today and much love!

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  5. Thank you Cheryl! It's funny that you wrote this because I've been planning to write a post on wanting to a "do over" in life.
    I appreciate your words of wisdom.

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    1. A "do over" in life. How often we can wish for that, but really we are all where we are by God's design and orchestration, and in reality, we are right where we are supposed to be! It is a comfort to rest in that. I will never forget a line I saw in a movie where a preacher was talking to someone, and he said, "Sometimes you just have to trust what God did and did not allow." Wow. Such amazing truth in that statement. Thank you for your kind words today, Regina!

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  6. Dear Cheryl ... what a powerful post led forward by one of my favorite verses. Oh the opportunities we've lost along the way because we got stuck on the questions ...

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    1. How very true, my friend! I so appreciate your visit and kind words! God bless you today!

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  7. Such a powerful and wonderful post Cheryl. Mercy...wish I had a dollar for every time I have said those words lady! Praise the Lord for new beginnings, a fresh new day in life though. Pray you have a wonderful week dear Cheryl. Hugs and blessings, Cindy

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    1. Boy, oh boy! Your family and ours could buy a condo on the beach you love so much if we combined our "what ifs" and "if onlys" and got a dollar for each one of them! LOL!! We'd be rolling in those dollars and never have another financial concern!! YES, praise Jesus for new beginnings and for His love that covers our multitudes of sins and missteps. Sending much love and many hugs to you, sweet friend!

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  8. Oh very interesting post darling
    xx

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  9. Good morning Cheryl! I somehow missed this post when it came out. I'm so sorry. And you know what? I feel that you wrote it just for me. I constantly think and say, "what if" and "if only". Mainly about my health issues and retirement plans. Everything we had planned to do in retirementis now in question and my "what ifs" got even louder. I'm going to print this post out and re-read it often. May God continue to bless you and you share His word with all of us. You have touched my heart today with these words of encouragement and love.
    Blessings always,
    Betsy

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    1. Oh, bless your heart, sweet friend! You have been through so much lately, and it is such an encouragement to know this post ministered to you. God has you in the palm of His mighty hand, and I know He will lead and guide your every step. Praying for you and sending much love to you today!

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  10. Cheryl, I don’t know how I missed your post but I needed it for today. What ifs and if onlys can be paralyzing and cause us not to place our trust in the Savior. Thank you for using your God-given talent of writing to share God’s love and forgiveness. Wishing you a most blessed weekend sweet friend!

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    1. Aw, that is wonderful how the Lord saved this for you until you needed it most! I am so thankful if it blessed you. Your comments are always such an encouragement to me. God bless you, sweet friend!

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