Judges 1-3; 1 Corinthians 7
How often do you entertain an idea that starts out with "what if..."? The phrase in it of itself is not a bad one. In fact, you need to ask "what if" sometimes to set goals and dream. But saying "what if" in the mindset of falling into temptation and truly thinking the grass is greener elsewhere than with God is a dangerous road indeed. Another phrase that can stand as a dangerous one is "if only". We'll see the dangers, and even some benefits, of these phrases play out in today's reading.
As the Israelites continued to fight and try to drive out the other nations that were in the Promised Land after Joshua's death, we read that they weren't so successful anymore in totally driving out the people. The reason is unknown as to why they couldn't successfully drive them all out, but there could be many reasons - tired, would rather compromise than fight, didn't have a solid leader anymore, etc. The Lord was still with them, however, and they were able to live with the people rather than lose the battle completely. Not fully completing the work God leaves for you can be something that causes you to ask "what if" and say "if only." He intends good for you, yet you also need to work for it.
We see the generation of Joshua die out and the people growing up forget what God had done for their ancestors and begin to find other means of happiness outside of God. Speaking in terms of "if only" or "what if" can lead us down some dangerous roads. We can be like these people who forget what God has done for us in the past and start exploring more exciting ways to experience life. While those things may seem exciting at the time, they lead to devastating circumstances. Because of our "what if" we can fall into the trap of what this world says makes us happy and forget what truly makes us holy and ultimately happy.
Many people play the "if only" game when it comes to their relationship status. Paul devotes an entire chapter of 1 Corinthians on this. It is an issue for many now, as it was an issue then. His advice - stay single. As a married woman, I can say I am very happy God placed a husband in my life. However, there is this delusion that many young people (I'm guessing mostly women) don't see through until they are married. They think marriage will solve all of their problems, when in reality there comes a whole new slew of more complicated problems. This is fine and all, but if you marry before you realize only God can fulfill that loneliness, you are in for rocky road ahead in your marriage, and you'll be more miserable than you were when you were single.
The good news is if we fall into the "what if" trap, God will deliver us if we cry out to Him and turn away from the things we thought were better than Him. As promised in Deuteronomy, God comes back to the people when they cry out for deliverance. Despite us betraying Him and putting other things first, like a spouse, child, or other idols, we can give God His spot in our lives back, and He'll come open to us and give you grace. He delivered Israel through the judges He sent in Othniel and Ehud to get Israel back on track. Even though Israel continued to turn away, in the time of those judges, they were on the right track because those judges respected God. Keep God first, and all else will fall into place.
Beware of the traps that come with the "what if" and "if only" statements we make. Those are statements that cause us to be discontent, regretful, and questioning God's place in our lives. Put God first in your life and all else will fall into their spots. Even if you turn away and forget God's place in your life, He is there waiting for you to come back.