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What If…? Season 2 & Embracing Unanswerable Questions with Faith

What if the Marvel stories you knew had a different outcome? What if Nebula joined the Nova Corps? What if Ego turned Peter Quill against The Avengers? What if Iron Man didn’t make it back to earth at the end of the first Avengers movie?

Marvel has been asking questions like these since their original What If? comic run in 1977. Uatu, the Watcher, tells stories that have different outcomes than appear in Marvel’s mainline continuity. The What If…? TV series continues this tradition where, as Uatu states in the show’s opening monologue, “a single choice can branch out into infinite realities, creating alternate worlds from the ones [viewers] know.”

While I never got into the comic series, I have enjoyed the Disney+ run of shows. I did not expect, however, for many of them to include a series-long throughline, connecting each episode to a much bigger story. 

Another thing I did not expect was how the series has led me to think about my past decisions, wondering what my life would be like if I had made different choices. Have you ever caught yourself asking the question, “What if…?”

Pondering the paths our lives could have taken can be enjoyable. What if I had tried out for the basketball team? What if I had taken that job I was offered? What if I had spoken up instead of keeping silent? Unfortunately, thinking about those questions can also trigger worry and anxiety, especially because, in the present, those decisions are no longer in our control.

© Marvel Studios

We see this play out with the show’s tragic variant of Dr. Strange. In the first season, he struggles with the loss of his beloved Christine. Through his grief, he begins to question his actions that led to her death, and through the Eye of Agamotto’s power, he turns back time to change the outcome. He tries to make different choices, act faster, and learn enough magic to keep her alive. But nothing he does brings her back. It ends up turning him mad, and as a result, his out-of-control magic destroys his reality.

When we think Strange has finally learned his lesson, the second season proves he has not. In the last episode, Strange tries to reconstruct his reality and bring back Christine. He cannot let go of the question, “What if I could actually bring her back?” 

I know I’ve also gotten caught in similar cycles of thinking that have led me down paths of worry. Yet Jesus, in His famous Sermon on the Mount, asks, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matthew 6:27 ESV). 

Perhaps you’ve experienced this. You start asking, “Did I make the right decision?” or, “Did I say the right thing?” And the next thing you know, you’re worrying. 

“Maybe I was supposed to go another direction. In fact, maybe life would have been better if I had made a different choice.” 

While looking backward can lead to regret and anxiety, posing the same question a little differently can actually have a positive impact on our journeys.

© Marvel Studios

Captain Peggy Carter is the main ongoing character in this series, and she suffers a similar bereavement, separated from her beloved Steve Rogers. Even though it’s hard for her, she chooses not to let worries and past decisions guide her. Instead, she continues to move forward and put her mission first. In a way, she asks, “What if…?” about the future rather than the past.

I think we can learn from Peggy’s approach. While wondering about the past can cause worry and anxiety, dreaming about the future can make the question exciting and fun. What if I take a chance? What if I speak to the person across the room? What if I help a person in need? What if I step out of my comfort zone? Could something potentially go wrong? Of course, but there is also potential for success—for learning, growing, and developing as a person.

In His sermon, Jesus reminds us that God takes care of the birds and the grass, but that He values us even more. He will take care of us. Rather than worrying about the past, perhaps Jesus is telling us to look hopefully toward the future, take chances, and ponder the question, “What if I make this next choice for God and trust Him with the outcome?”


While everyone is susceptible to occasional worry, the National Institute for Mental Health says, “For people with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time. The symptoms can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, schoolwork, and relationships.” If you have recurring anxiety that’s interfering with your enjoyment of life, please consider seeking care and support from a licensed professional counselor.

 





Steve is a Youth Pastor in Colorado. In addition to writing for LoveThyNerd, he is also the senior editor and podcast host for NintendoFuse.com. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram @stevecullum

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