A response to that voice that says "what if?"

July 13, 2008 | 16 comments

When last weekend rolled around, I started to feel stressed. I knew that the week ahead was going to be much more busy that usual, and I worried about whether or not I could handle it all. First I had the America liveblogging, in which I was going to have to answer questions about some of the most controversial topics in the world with little to no time to prepare; I had a big writing deadline Friday and hadn’t even started on the piece; and in the meantime my husband and I had had a few other difficult issues arise.

Despite the fact that I had lots of help from family and friends, I kept feeling tempted to worry about the week ahead. I was trying to put it out of my mind and enjoy my weekend, but all sorts of “what ifs” kept bubbling up and causing me anxiety.

At some point over the weekend I came across a catchy little quote (via Ouiz) that not only relieved my worry about the upcoming week, but has stuck with me ever since:

God gives grace for the situation, not the imagination.

At first glance this seemed like yet another quote that I’d see on a blog or an email forward, smile and nod at its truth, perhaps even add it to my “good quotes” file, and then promptly resume not incorporating it into my life in any way. But for whatever reason, this one stuck.

It’s ultimately the same lesson that my wise commenters gave me back in this post, that Melinda Selmys discussed in her recent article about fear and the Christian life, and that I once learned from a powerful homily. It’s a restating of the age-old Christian wisdom to ask God only to “give us this day our daily bread, ” i.e. to ask for what we need today, right now, and not waste energy speculating about what we may or may not need next week or next month or next year. Yet hearing it phrased this way has helped me incorporate it into my life more regularly. Not is the catchy phrasing easy to remember, but I think the word imagination is a powerful one here. It’s helped me internalize the truth that when I feel stressed about anything other than the events that are occurring at this moment right now, it is entirely a product of my imagination.

I just thought I’d pass along this little quote in case anyone else finds it as helpful as I have.


  1. razzler

    Wow. This has been hitting me so much recently. The power, both good and bad, of imagination. I may have a post of my own brewing.

    Thank you for the quote.

  2. noe

    I’ve always been comforted by the similar thought in Matthew 6:34 – “Suffient to the day are the troubles thereof.” Combined with “Give us this day our daily bread” I have God’s assurance that I will receive the grace to handle that which is before me right now. As the Israelites found with the manna in the wilderness.

  3. Hairline Fracture

    I really needed this today. Thank you so much.

  4. Ouiz

    Not sure where you saw it, but I can tell you that my Bible study leader used to use that quote, and it stuck with me too… I’ve been reminding myself of it ever since.

    Mighty helpful, since I’m a rather fearful sort, and oftentimes can’t figure out why God isn’t flooding me with the supernatural help I need to face death, illness, tragedies, national disasters, war, etc etc etc.. It takes a few minutes, but eventually that phrase comes back, and I realize that I will be given the grace WHEN I need it — not now when I’m just freaking out over what ifs.

    Reminds me of Corrie Ten Boom and a discussion she had with her father. She was fearful that she wouldn’t have the strength to stand up for Jesus when it counted, and her father asked her, “Corrie, when we’re going to take a ride on the train, when do I give you money for the ticket? Days ahead?” She answered, “No, you give me the money just before I get on the train.” “So it is with Our Heavenly Father. He will give us the grace that we need when we need it. Not before.”

  5. Rocks In My Dryer

    Wow. You have no idea how badly I needed to hear that. God gives us just what we need, but not a moment too soon.

  6. Jennifer F.

    Ouiz – I was just SURE I saw it on your site…although went I went to search for it I couldn’t find where you posted it. Anyway, I’m giving you credit since I’m 99.99% sure that I heard it from you. 🙂

    Thank you all for your comments!

  7. TTM

    Great ‘blog you’ve got here! And a great quote too.

    Peter Kreeft (Catholic author and Professor of Philosophy from Boston College) has a very deep, almost mystical lecture on The Imagination, based on the writings of C. S. Lewis. It sure is an interesting faculty; one that can both lead us to worry vainly, and lead us to know God in a mysterious way that reason cannot.

  8. Elizabeth

    I am so happy I found your blog.

    And yes, that quote resonates with me. We are moving 5 kids, a dog and an entire house this Saturday. I am stresssssseeeddd ooouuuuut!

    But I’m going to think about this quote today as I pack boxes. Thank you.

  9. Lela

    Thank you, thank you, so significant for me, right now, today, this morning. Thanks again. The truth sets us free.

  10. The Sojourner

    Thank you. I needed that reminder badly today.

  11. Sandy

    Noe, I love that verse “sufficient to the day are the troubles thereof.” Ouiz, I was going to post that Corrie ten Boom story, too. It is one of my favorite illustrations for “grace for the moment.” The lyrics to Chris Tomlin’s “Your Grace is Enough” go through my head when I’m praying for grace for.the.moment.

    Thanks, Jen, for the new quote.

  12. Ouiz

    I can’t be the only one to have used that quote… but I think I used it in someone’s comment box recently. If it was me, perhaps that’s where you saw it???

    Anyway, your posts — as always — are inspirational! Thank you!

    Sandy — wasn’t that a great illustration that Corrie ten Boom’s father used? That one sticks with me as well.

  13. Amy Jane (Untangling Tales)

    Have to throw in the quote I use (in what I *imagine* to be the same situations):

    It’s not that I believe in miracles, I *depend* on them.
    –Anne Lamott.

    I think both approaches are opposite sides of the same coin. Mine falls this-side up more, though.

  14. Boo

    thank you so much.

  15. Elizabeth

    Thanks for the quote!
    I really like that one, I’ll have to put it to practical use.
    I just found you today and obviously have a lot of back reading to do. My step-son is considering the Church for the first time in his life, and I found your writing so very clear, I will have to show it to him.
    Pax Christi, EJT

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