One of my school teachers was a bit quirky and just scary enough to keep even junior high boys on their toes. He was the only teacher who insisted on being called by his nickname, but we did show respect to him, always. He didn’t take any guff. Nor did he take excuses. If excuses were offered or worries expressed, he would mutter something about “imaginary horribles.” He never explained that; he just muttered about it, but the thought has stayed with me for the rest of my life, and I have since found many of them.
Imaginary horribles are always future, of course, because all past horribles are real. But the thing with imaginary horribles is that they almost never come to pass.
Imaginary horribles descend on us in flocks when we are trying to make a huge decision, that is, a decision with lifelong consequences. We worry that this may happen, or that may not happen, or vice versa. Some really important action won’t work out, or someone will be upset and destroy a relationship, or we may get hurt or lost or broke. Or…
Before we moved to a new place, we were afraid we wouldn’t be able to get a job and support ourselves.
Before we adopted bi-racial children, we wondered if our relatives would accept them/us.
Before we moved to a new neighborhood, we were concerned with whether it was safe.
And what happened? We got the needed jobs, the grandparents loved the babies, and the neighborhood was wonderful. Not a single one of our imaginary horribles actually happened.
Before we made decisions for our children, we thought about all the things that could possibly go wrong. Well, we didn’t actually think about all of them, because kids can make more stuff go wrong than parents can ever imagine. And that’s the point. The reality of things going wrong rarely has anything to do with our imaginary horribles.
We waste so much emotional energy on things that may never come to pass and sometimes don’t deal effectively with the things that do happen.
Imaginary horribles cripple our ability to think clearly and plan effectively. They frighten us out of trusting the Lord.
One of the biggest problems with our imaginations is that they naturally tend toward evil. Almost from the beginning, in Genesis 6, God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” God started over with Noah and his family, and, shortly, He had the same problem. Jeremiah’s writings contain repeated and repeated warnings to man regarding “the imagination of his evil heart.”
If you can imagine, God knew that would happen. If you can imagine, He addressed the problem ahead of time. And, would you believe, He showed us how to deal with it, before it ever happened.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3: 5, 6, ESV
II Cor 10:5 talks about, “casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” GNV
Imagine that – controlling our own thoughts, bringing them to a place of obedience to our Savior, trusting God.
If anyone in history had the right to sink into the Slough of Imaginary Horribles, it was Mary the mother of Jesus, when the angel informed her that she would become pregnant with God’s child. Being stoned to death was a possibility under Jewish law; being divorced by her betrothed was a likelihood. Being shunned by society was almost a certainty. Yet she refused to allow these not-so-imaginary horrible possibilities to affect her choices. She said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38 ESV She must have known Proverbs 3:5 and 6. At least, she lived it.