One of the scariest moments of my life came during a high school football game. For the first half, my family cheered on our hometown team with our closest friends and sweated profusely in the August heat.
By halftime, our youngest child was spent. We said goodbye and headed out of the stadium filled with 38,000 fans (we take high school football seriously in the South).
The moment we stepped beyond the gates, everything turned into chaos. People ran past us yelling things we couldn’t understand. Fearing the crowd over anything else, my husband grabbed our daughter while I slung our 5-year-old onto my hip. We ran to hide behind the nearest cars to avoid the seeming stampede. Confused, we asked a young couple near us what was happening. They replied, “There was a shooting!”
My husband and I quickly decided to run away from the stadium as fast as we could. As we slowed, our daughter had tears streaming down her face and our son’s eyes were wide with fear. “Mama, are we going to die?” my daughter asked. I reassured her I would not let that happen.
We made it to our car safely, but “safe” was the last thing I felt. Hours later, I watched our children sleep on little pallets beside our bed and worried what this experience would do to their sense of security. The following morning, we learned there had not been a shooting, or even a gun. A fight in the stands and shouts of “gun” set off a panic. But that knowledge didn’t erase my children’s fear. Or my own.
Letting truth replace fear
Fear is a tricky thing. On one hand, fear alerts us to danger, kicks in our fight or flight mode. On the other hand, it can paralyze or control us. Especially when it comes to our children.
When my daughter spent months in pain before being diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, fear took over those few moments I spent alone. I sobbed while imagining every worst-case scenario that fear threw at me. I begged and pleaded to God on her behalf.
But I didn’t pray as a mother who trusted an almighty God, I prayed in fear over what was ultimately out of my control.
Yet in those moments when I feel most vulnerable, God shows His love to me in the clearest ways to my flawed eyes. He takes what I see as loss and shows me what more I can gain from fully relying on Him.
It isn’t easy, and I will always be a work in progress when it comes to trust in the area of my children. But when fear and anxiety start to take control of how I parent these precious gifts entrusted to me, I have to intentionally look toward Him.
Here are four truths I remind myself of when fear threatens to control my motherhood.
1. God has control, not me.
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7
Fear gets me the easiest when I have no control. In those moments fear can get me to believe all the lies the devil wants me to: Everything will ultimately fall apart and I will fail. If I don’t have control, no one does.
But none of this is true. If kingdoms cannot fall outside the mighty hand of God, my small world will not crumble outside of His will either. Isaiah 14:24 tells us, “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand …”
2. My kids are ultimately His children.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. 1 John 4:18
As much as I love my children, God loves them more. Scripture also tells me that before He created those sweet babes in my womb, He knew them (Jeremiah 1:5). He loved them first.
That reality should make me loosen my grip just a little. If I believe He loves my children more than even I am capable of, I know He will work out all things for their good (Romans 8:28).
While my imperfect love is often driven by fear and keeping them safe, He will grow them spiritually in ways I can’t. For all the ways I can fail my children even with the best intentions, He never will. They are His.
3. My fear can keep them from pursuing their heavenly Father.
The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. Proverbs 29:25
A snare is a trap. You don’t see it coming, and once it has a hold of you it is difficult to escape. Scripture tells us fear is a trap. And often, our own fear snares our children when we aren’t looking.
When they are young, our kids trust us more than anyone else. So when a child sees fear in their parent’s eyes, they begin looking around for the threat. They become fearful even when they don’t know what to fear. Fear breeds off itself that way.
Our fear can take us from protecting our precious children to holding them too tightly. If I had let fear consume me after that night at the football game, I wouldn’t let my kids out of my sight ever again (trust me, it was tempting). Especially as they get older, I want my kids to trust God the most and learn to trust their own instincts. When I parent from fear, I send the message only I am to be trusted, not God. And a mother’s fear spreads to her children like wildfire, threatening to consume them, too.
4. The only way to combat my unhealthy fear is with fear of the Lord.
The fear of the Lord leads to life … Proverbs 19:23
First John 4:18 tells us, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” It sounds like a cliché that I need more Jesus to push all the fear out, but it’s true. I have to trust God is bigger than whatever I am facing. I have to trust His promises to me. Because I am not strong enough on my own.
To maintain my fear of God, I need to know who He is. I need to read about His mighty works, His deep goodness, and His unfailing love for my family. The enemy can use my fear against me, causing me to flee from God and seek my own way. Knowing God helps me resist.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil … In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one … and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:10-17)
The Monday morning following our scare at the football game, my stomach was in knots as I dropped my daughter off at school and watched her walk away from the car. I prayed for her safety and for fear not to control her life. Or mine.
That night, as I hugged and kissed her goodnight, she told me her friends were also struggling with what had happened. She asked me to pray for them. So we did. And I said a silent prayer thanking God for taking my girl’s fear and turning it toward Him. He won’t let it ruin her childhood, or my motherhood.
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