Which diaper should we use? Is she breathing? Why is she crying?
The first days of parenting are terrifying! Every decision seems momentous. And for some of us, life doesn’t get more comfortable any time soon. Fear, worry, second-guessing ourselves can become a way of life for a parent, especially, it seems, for moms.
One day we were enjoying a nice dinner with a friend at a local restaurant. Rachelle, our first child, was happily eating her food with her fingers when suddenly she choked and turned purple! I was trapped in a circular booth and could not get out. Our friend was on one end and jumped up, and dislodged what she was choking on, and saved her life. In an instant our lives could have been devastated.
Nathaniel had gone with me to a business partner’s apartment. I had forgotten something in my car, and I asked my friend if she’d watch him while I ran to my car. She said yes, but she got a phone call and didn’t notice that he walked out her door looking for me. I saw him across the street from me getting ready to step off the curb just as a car came speeding down the street way over the residential speed limit. Terror gripped me as I tried to figure out what to do. I screamed at Nathaniel in a voice more authoritative and more powerful than I’d ever heard come out of me before, and he froze. As soon as the car passed, I ran to him and scooped him up in my arms.
Annie was just under a year old and sick. She could not keep anything down, and it had been three full days. I had talked to the advice nurse when she first got sick, but I knew I needed to get her in to see the doctor. The doctor checked her out thoroughly and told me she would be fine. She just had a bug. My mama intuition told me he was wrong. This was more than “a bug.” He saw my expression and guessed, “You’re not leaving here until I admit her, are you?” And I said, “No, I’m not.” They admitted her and ran tests. The diagnosis: e coli. She was not only dehydrated but seriously ill. She stayed in the hospital nearly a week before she was well enough to go home. I had been through numerous surgeries with my two older kids. As stressful and frightening as those had been, being in the hospital with a sick child was completely different. It was a new kind of frightening.
Ryan, our youngest, taught us a different kind of fear when, as a teenager, he developed close friendships with many friends from a completely different faith than ours. He sometimes asked questions that made me feel uncomfortable and concerned that he might choose to follow their faith rather than ours. Thankfully, instead, he has developed a deep commitment to God and a love for evangelism. God has given him a gift to be able to share his faith with people of many different beliefs.
I know, if you are a parent, you could add your own list of experiences that brought a stab of terror to your heart. I am very thankful that each of these situations had happy endings. I know that is not always the case. And each experience we have, regardless of the outcome, can serve to lock us into fear.
We may get locked into the comparison trap, worrying about what others think of our parenting skills and how our children have turned out.
We can get locked into the protection trap becoming helicopter parents that hinder our children’s development into responsible adulthood.
We might become locked into a crisis cycle where we create drama when life doesn’t provide it for us.
Or we can get locked into faith and peace walking by God’s grace even when our children are scaring us to death or breaking our hearts.
Battling fear has been a lifelong war for me. I think I’ve been caught in all of these traps at one time or another, and I can share with you that when Christ sets us free, we are free indeed. But it’s not always an immediate or easy freedom.
Here’s what I found:
I needed scripture—not just reading it and hearing it—I needed it deeply planted into my heart and mind like a trench to hide in during the battle. I needed it poured over me like a protecting shield. I needed it to be my first thought the minute I realized I was afraid—again.
I started with 2 Timothy 1:7. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (NLT)
And I moved on to so many other verses that became like lifeblood to my soul.
Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled. (Romans 15:4, NLT)
So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15, NLT)
Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. (1 John 4:18, NLT)
I needed to talk. I needed someone whom I trusted enough to share my sin with. Fear is contrary to what God wants for our lives, and so often we carry shame or guilt when we experience it, or we rationalize it instead of calling it what it is—sin. It is a lack of faith and trust in God. But I still needed to talk about it to process it and to come to the point of not only confession, but rejection of the fear and acceptance of Christ. By that, I don’t mean becoming a Christian, but stepping deeper into my commitment to Christ and knowing Him more. In my fear, I was holding back in my surrender to Christ. I believed in Him and trusted Him for my salvation, but I was reluctant to trust Him with my fears and my family. I believed lies about Who God was, His character, and His goodness. Full surrender meant fully trusting God and Who He is and putting my fears in His hands.
Again, scripture came to the rescue in these conversations as well. Scripture and confession walked hand-in-hand in helping me navigate this jungle of feelings, beliefs, and realities.
Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. (2 Corinthians 12:9, NLT)
I needed prayer and worship. Prayer and praise strengthened me and carried me through it all. When we experienced the huge earthquake in Taiwan in 1999 where thousands of people died, I would close my eyes to go to sleep at night, and pictures would flash through my mind of our building crumbling and my kids being on one side of the rubble with me on the other. I couldn’t reach them, but I could hear their cries. It was horrific. I would open my eyes and pray. I knew where those thoughts and pictures came from—from my fears and the Enemy taking advantage of them. I forcefully rejected them and held on to the reality that we were safe, and that even if we were to have something that devastating happen, God’s grace was sufficient to carry us through. Not only would God’s grace be sufficient for me during a crisis, but it would be sufficient for my children as well.
When fear tried to trap my heart, I would pray and worship God. I would sing songs of hope and faith. I especially, over the years, have clung to a simple chorus we sang as teenagers:
“Thou, O Lord, are a shield about me
You’re my glory and the lifter of my head
Thou, O Lord, are a shield about me
You’re my glory and the lifter of my head
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
You’re the lifter of my head.”
The lines, not even the whole song, of another old praise song would come to mind:
“…whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You, I will trust in You,
let the weak say, I am strong in the strength of the Lord…”
And we even wrote a song together as a family:
“I will never be afraid; God is by my side.
I will never be afraid; God is by my side.
He loves me, He loves me; I will be alright.
I will never be afraid; God is by my side.”
Praying for our very real situations that could have ended much differently than they did, worshipping God for Who He truly is, and singing songs that offered encouragement and words of strength helped carry me through my darkest times of fear and worry.
I know we hear it over and over again as Christians—read your Bible and pray, trust God, hide His word in your heart. But, honestly, I can tell you, without these simple habits of faith, I think I would have crumbled and given up by now. Life is hard. Parenting is one of the hardest callings I’ve ever had. These habits of faith are not just items on a checklist or things I did, going through the motions. They were a lifeline and source of truth and strength. They literally sustained me through the heavy, dark, frightening moments of life. And ultimately, they set me free from the prison of fear and worry. They equipped me for the struggles we’re walking through today. They grounded me on a foundation that I hope and pray can never be shaken.
So that is my prayer for all of us today. Lord, build a foundation of faith rather than fear in our lives and families. Help us to let Your word grow deep, deep roots into our hearts and minds so that we do not become entangled in the lies of the Enemy or held captive by our worries and fears. And help us find someone we can trust to talk to, to share our hearts with, and to confess our sins to.
I thank God that He calls us to be parents and grandparents, and I know His grace is sufficient for whatever situations come our way if we will trust Him with them. I’ve seen parents walk through the darkest of times and face the most challenging fears and come out victorious because of our great God. I trust Him, and I hope you do too.