If Only or But Now

Posted by on Jan 14, 2016 in Blog, Gary | 6 comments

Man walking

If you’re thinking about the calling on your life, then you’re thinking strategically. An essential part of the discovery process is looking back at your life strategically or analytically, in order to discovery clues about your calling through the things you’ve loved and the things you didn’t, the things that wounded you and their inherent messages, the people that came into your life and their affect. In other words, seeing and understanding what both sides were up to throughout your life (the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan).

When exploring the terrain of our past, it’s easy to walk into the quicksand of “if only”.

If only that hadn’t happened to me
If only I had married
If only I had married someone different
If only I had gone back to school
If only I had come to Christ earlier in my life
If only my financial situation had been different
If only I got that job
If only that had not happened to that ministry
If only I were smarter
If only I had a different personality
If only I had said yes
If only I had said no
If only I had someone to help me

While the actions of other and our own actions have consequences, which Pascal refers to as the “dignity of causality”, there always remains the overriding principle of the sovereign work of God. Scripture makes this very clear repeatedly, but perhaps non clearer than in:

We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

With this being true, it is unhelpful for us to spend any time in the bog of “if only.” We are better served on the solid, rich soil of “but now.”

I can think of no better statement of “but now” than Gen. 50:20 when Joseph said to his brothers, who tried to destroy him, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

You see, we can say as the beloved of God:

Yes, that happened to me, but now God…
Yes, I wish I had gone back to school when I was younger, but now God…
Yes, things have been hard financially, but now God…
Yes, I have not had a lot of support, but now God…

We can live in the “if only” or the “but now God”.


6 Responses to “If Only or But Now”

  1. Thanks, Gary. Very helpful advice for me.

  2. Wow, this is timely. 2015 was a turbulent year with much potential for second-quessing career decisions, financial decisions, child-rearing practices, and the list goes on. I struggle with brooding over these things, what I might have done differently, why something isn’t “working”, etc. Joseph’s story is a great whole-life picture that helps.

  3. Gary,

    Remembering is a powerful thing. Your words today help me to remember what a) I already know b) What I think I already know c) What I have known in the past but forgotten by today.

    Your post is timely for me and helpful for setting my trajectory with God for this coming year.

    Thanks! Buz

  4. Scott Wilson says:


    I live in the “if only” in my mind way too much. I’ve been really working on this.

    Thank you,


  5. Hi Gary.

    Really great article. I think over the years I’ve tended to resort to this topic with a sort of “stop crying over spilled milk” mindset. And that is very close to the “just get over it” mantra — not very helpful. But, the way you’ve framed this up is really good. It’s much more redemptive while also acknowledging the pain, frustration, and regret that often comes with “If only…”.

    I’m going to try to make THIS my new mantra. When I catch myself begin heading down the “If Only…” path, I’m going to replace it with “But Now God…”. So good.


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