By: Pastor Jarren Rogers
There’s an entire branch of history that is concerned with asking the question: What if?
It’s called counterfactual history. If circumstances had been different at a particular point in history, how would the repercussions ripple into the present?
What if the Allies had lost World War II? What if the colonists had never went to war with Britain? What if Kennedy had never been assassinated? How would the world look different?
It’s amazing to think how our present circumstances could be drastically altered by altering just one event in history.
While such things are fun to talk about and to write books about, I think asking, “What if?” is natural for us. All of us tend to perform counterfactual history on our own lives.
When I was graduating from high school, I had my eyes on two universities, both equal in my eyes. I believed that I would be happy attending either one. So, after a lot of thinking and praying, I chose one. And I think I made the right choice. After all, that’s where I met my wife.
But I cannot help but think, what if I had when to the other university? I would have never met Annie. I would have never gained the friends I have now or enjoyed the experiences I had.
We don’t realize the significance of such crossroads in life until we look back and ask, “What if…”
These thoughts are nothing new. In fact, counterfactual history has been going on for a long time.
“If the Lord had not been on our side—let Israel say—if the Lord had not been on our side when people attacked us, they would have swallowed us alive” (Psalm 124:1-3).
The Psalmist asks himself: What if God wasn’t on our side in our time of hardship? We’d have been destroyed, that’s for sure!
When the Psalmists ponders the questions of the past, he realizes just how things could have been different had God been absent.
However, when we keep reading, we see that the counterfactual history on the part of the Psalmist has a significant result.
“Praise be to the Lord, who has not let us be torn by their teeth. We have escaped like a bird from the fowler’s snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (v. 6-8).
Asking “what if” prompted the Psalmist to praise. Only after realizing the disastrous results had God not delivered his people does the Psalmist worship the Lord.
Reflecting on the past is essential to our praise. There are many times God stepped into our circumstances without our realizing it. But when we look back and think, “What if things had been different? What if God had not been on our side?” We realize just how much our God is for us and how much he’s done.
Our past has brought us where we are today and it is peppered with the fingerprints of God. Sometimes, by asking “What if?” we sprinkle our past with black dust and God’s fingerprints are revealed.