Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” John 11:32 ESV
Martha and Mary had virtually the same words for Jesus as they meet Him for the first time after the death of their brother Lazarus. That little phrase in verse 32, “Lord, if you had been here,” reads in The Message Bible, “Master, if only you had been here.” While the word choice of “if only” expresses the emotions of the moment, it also calls into question affairs of the past.
How many times have we ever thought, “If only this other thing had happened.” If only the market hadn’t crashed. If only I’d not bought this car. If only I’d not taken this job. If only I’d turned right instead of left. The “if only’s” of life go on-and-on. They’ll bug the daylights out of us if we let them. It doesn’t matter whether the “if only” was our choice or someone else’s, the idiom still plagues us as thoughts of second-guessing the way life could have been.
Here’s the problem: “if only’s” can be one of the great destroyers of faith. There’s a spiritual principle governing the way those loving God choose to look at circumstances. Romans 8, verse 28 reads:
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Our musings of “If only” question whether “all things work together for good.” They basically ruin what we know and understand God’s goodness to be. If you believe God leads you, then walk in the confidence of what you know His goodness is all about—nothing wavering. To the person who loves God and is walking by faith according to His purpose, all the affairs of life are in God’s guiding hands working together for good.
Relief from anxiety and doubt occurs if only we’ll choose to believe He works for our good!
J. Robert Hanson