the worst thing that could happen

When talking to to someone about a difficult choice, I sometimes ask, “what’s the worst thing that could happen?”

Sometimes the answer is, “I don’t know.” I ask them why they are fearful. Sometimes the answer is “I might offend that person.” I ask them if the opinion of that person actually matters. Sometimes the answer is, “I might fail.” I ask them what the worst thing about failing is.

When we honestly consider the worst thing that could happen to us in a particular situation, we can make informed decisions. we can plan alternatives. We can decide the risk is not acceptable. We can realize that there are no good reasons for our fear.

Regardless of the outcome, the threat loses power over us.

But what if the worst that can happen actually is the worst thing we can imagine? What if the worst that could happen would be torture, would be death? That was the outcome that the ruling council began to plan for Jesus. As they listened to people who were excited about Jesus bringing Lazarus back to life, they began to fear for their lives and livelihood. They began plans to kill Jesus.

Jesus knew. John writes,

So from that day on they plotted to take his life. Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the Jews. Instead he withdrew to a region near the desert, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.

But here’s the thing. His departure was not about running away, it was about timing. Over and over, Jesus talks with his disciples about being betrayed and killed. The worst thing the rulers could imagine, the thing that they thought was the end, was exactly what Jesus was planning.

Interesting. If there’s resurrection, somehow death’s not a threat.

2 thoughts on “the worst thing that could happen

  1. Richard

    Thanks for the reminder, Jon. My wife was an instructor for the Dale Carnegie Course from 1990 to around 2000 or so. One of the textbooks for the course is Dale Carnegie’s “How To Stop Worrying And Start Living”, written over 60 years ago. In Ch. 2, Dale outlines a “magic formula” for solving worry situations:
    1. Determine the worst that can happen;
    2. Accept it, if necessary;
    3. Do your best to improve upon the worst.

    Timeless principles are timeless because they work; but it’s easy to forget that those principles need to be passed on to the next generation. I find myself assuming that, because I know the principle, everybody else does, too. The older I get, the more I realize that part of my purpose is to give away the gifts of wisdom that I have received, and to not do so is very selfish.

    Seems to me this is what Jesus was doing as well. He identified the worst that could happen (crucifixion), accepted it, and did His best to improve upon it by preparing the Apostles to continue spreading the Gospel after His ascension. And He sent the Holy Spirit to help.

    Thanks also for bringing the perspective of resurrection into the picture. Indeed, if death has been conquered, we really have nothing to worry about!


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