Addicted To The “If Only”

Lindsey Jodts, Groups Pastor, South Barrington | June 24, 2024

So the Lord gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their ancestors. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord gave all their enemies into their hands. Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.
Joshua 21:43-45

Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed. Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,
“So I declared on oath in my anger,
    ‘They shall never enter my rest.’”
And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world.
Hebrews 4:1-3

Every Lenten season, I take a sabbath from social media. What started many years ago as an attempt to develop a healthier relationship with technology quickly became a helpful and necessary annual rhythm. 

I love social media—I love seeing what is going on in the lives of people I know, hearing thought leaders and content creators talk about their lives and world events, and, holy smokes, are people funny. There are endless videos of funny people making funny videos or commentary to share with friends. 

Social media isn’t all delight, though. It can quickly reflect the systemic issues of our culture—comparison and name-calling, consumerism and jealousy, fear and judgment. While it can be easy to see some of the more egregious harms that social media can cause (like bullying, fear-mongering, or misinformation), the more subtle harms can be the most problematic and pervasive. The comparison. The greener grass. Seeing the best version of everyone else. The “if only.” 

That’s the discontent the enemy has wanted for us from the beginning. If only. If only Eve had knowledge and wisdom like God. If only the Israelites hadn’t listened to Moses. If only Jesus were the conquering king the Jewish people expected. If only I had this job, this home, this life, this… different thing. 

As they wandered in the desert, rather than quickly usher them to the next thing, God asked the Israelites to rest. To rest from gathering food and trust there would be enough. To rest from walking mile after mile and trust that they’d make it to their destination. To rest from the fear of defeat by giants and enemies in their promised lands. To rest from the ways of being in the world that left them wanting more, and trust that God was present and providing all they could need. 

But instead, they chose to rebel against that call to rest and found themselves wandering, and asking “if only.” If only we hadn’t left Egypt, where at least we had food! If only we hadn’t trusted Moses who brought us out here to die! If only we hadn’t followed this cloud that is leading us to defeat by our enemies!

Ultimately, rest is about trust. It’s trust that we will be provided for and that we are in the place we should be. This kind of sabbath rest comes from trusting the Lord with our whole selves and stories. It’s trusting that Jesus overcame the confines of our finite world and has more goodness to offer than we can ask or imagine. It’s letting go of the “if only” and embracing the possibilities and peace along the path of Jesus. 

Next Steps

What “if only”s do you believe? Without judgment, spend time finishing the sentence “If only ___________, then _____________” with whatever thoughts come to mind about your current season. Then spend time releasing each “if only” to God. Consider ways you might fast or sabbath from anything that might be a source of your discontent (like a social media fast, a break from shopping, or a sabbath from pop culture news).

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