Preparing For The Worst Will Never Prepare You For The Best

I am not creative enough to prepare for the worst and neither are you.

All we can do is prepare for what’s possible.

Yet, our imagination is our furthest reaching perception of what is possible. Thus, both what we perceive as possible and impossible are limited by our own nature.

There is nothing to say that worse or better things that are beyond what we imagine cannot happen.

What will we allow to influence this perception?

Undoubtedly we are limited by our preparation rather than enabled by it. Being prepared for the very best may be limiting to things that we mistakenly thought were not possible and did not prepare for.

Preparation does not equate to control.

Just the same preparing for the worst does not limit it to what we prepare for. In truth, all we ever do is make concessions to what we think might happen that we would like to prevent.

We are in fact preparing for what we believe is possible, but by preparing only for the worst we live the worst. We yield the worst. We see the worst in other people as we train ourselves to look for it and we reap the worst.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” We should not limit this idiom. By preparing to fail, you are failing to prepare.

Backup plans have long been one of the biggest excuses for lacking commitment, long been considered by some a form of wisdom and yet Cortés conquered Tenochtitlan by first intentionally sinking his ships on the shores of Mexico.

“Cortés addressed his men: he was responsible for the disaster, he admitted; he had ordered it done, but now there was no turning back. They could hang him, but they were surrounded by hostile Indians and had no ships; divided and leaderless, they would perish. The only alternative was to follow him to Tenochtitlan. Only by conquering the Aztecs, by becoming lords of Mexico, could they get back to Cuba alive. To reach Tenochtitlan they would have to fight with utter intensity. They would have to be unified; any dissension would lead to defeat and a terrible death. The situation was desperate but if the men fought desperately in turn, Cortes guaranteed that he would lead them to victory. Since the army was so small in number, the glory and riches would be all the greater. Any cowards not up to the challenge could sail the one remaining ship home. No one accepted the offer. Some two years after the destruction of the Spanish ships, and with the help of their Indian allies, Cortés’s army laid siege to Tenochtitlan and conquered the Aztec empire.” (Pg. 43, “The 33 Strategies of War”, Robert Green)

Cortés and his men were spurred to success because it was their only option to survive. By destroying the backup plan, a deeper commitment to success was created.

Confidence in being prepared for the worst is merely disguised despair, a belief that things will get worse. Hope for anything more is only an idea until you are positioned for the breakthrough, until you are prepared for things to turn out, then it becomes a belief.

It’s by preparing for what is impossible in hope that we begin to be free of fear. Hoping for the best is not enough. Hope followed by action results in possibilities.

I am not writing to discourage limiting your opportunities or tell you not to prepare for bad things. I am saying commit. Commit to things you thought were impossible. I am writing to console those who have lost tremendously. I am writing for you to do more than hope for the best.  I am writing to actually prepare you for it. I am writing to remind people that preparing for the worst is not always possible, that you will be helpless at some point in your life, but that everything you lose, you stand to gain.

When disaster strikes fear is but one of our options to respond with. Fear and despair are close relatives. Living with despair rationalizes fearful preparation while hope is waiting for acknowledgement. It’s not fear that prepares us in this sense because fear is always limiting.

“Instead of your shame you will have a share that is twice as much. Instead of being without honor, they will sing for joy over all you receive. So they will have twice as much in their land, and joy that lasts forever will be theirs. For I, the Lord, love what is right and fair. I hate stealing and what is wrong. I will be faithful to pay them what they should have. And I will make an agreement with them that will last forever.” Isaiah 61:6-8 New Life Version (NLV)

The reality of fear is that it traps us. It lies to us about what is possible and it limits what we see to keep us complacent. God longs to free us of this settlement and replace what is lost. As a God of love, he seeks to restore. This is a process we allow for when we freely give of ourselves in his kingdom. There is no loss or obstacle for which he does not already have the resources to provide for and he longs to lavish these rewards on his people.

In a cynical “Prosperity Gospel” critique, it’s easy to look at this scripture and say, “Well, the only thing God’s going to give you is salvation when you die.”

It’s not by faith alone that God rewards us in this manner; it’s by living out his love in sacrifice that relationship with his limitlessness is made possible. Just like the manna in the wilderness, God fulfills his promises, providing all that we need. We can choose to take credit for everything we have, or we can acknowledge that it’s by his blessing we have anything at all.

Take risks for God.


Destroy the ships.

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