By Patrick Showers, Associate Elementary Pastor
Woodland Hills Church
As parents, we’ve all experienced children overwhelmed by fear. The sources of their fear may vary from a monster under the bed to a new classroom to snakes to vegetables. Whatever the source, their fears are real and troubling to them. Our responses to their fears vary, as well. You may become the bodyguard standing between them and a billy goat at the zoo. Then there are those times when you are their psychologist and get to the root of their fear, especially when they are scared of a place you know they are going to love. You’ve been their comforter, their encourager, their support, and even their crutch when fear rears its ugly head. I bet you’ve even been fluctuated from telling them to toughen up and face their fear or bribing them to try something new.
Fear is not just part of a child’s life. Parents have fears, as well. We fear that we are not doing a good job, that our kids will be hurt, or that we haven’t done enough or provided enough for our kids. Some fears keep us up at night or on our knees during the day. We don’t always see the effect fear has on our decisions or choices. Fear can lead to worry, which becomes anxiety and drives our behavior and decisions.
This scenario can be easily observed in a child’s life. For example, at 2 years old, my son was scared of dried leaves, which I still don’t understand. In warmer months, he loved being outside, but as leaves began falling on the ground, he started to get skittish when outdoors and eventually refused to go out entirely. This may seem foolish to us, but are we so different? It wasn’t that long ago that I realized my fear of kids getting hurt got to the point where I wouldn’t let them climb anything, not even into the top bunk without an adult ready to catch them. Once I had multiple children, I couldn’t keep up with their desire to climb and soon realized no one was getting hurt in spite of being up high without a parent as a safety net.
I’ve often wondered how God views our fears. The Bible describes Him as our Father and we are His children. Does He see our fears in the same way we view our children’s fears? The Bible repeats God’s response to fear in variations in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, saying, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”(Joshua 1:9).
Another well-known Bible verse provides more insight into this command by saying, “God didn’t give us a spirit that makes us weak and fearful. He gave us a spirit that gives us power and love. It helps us control ourselves.” (2 Timothy 1:7).
God’s response to the fear of His children is He reminds us…
- That we are His Children
- That He has equipped us to deal with whatever comes our way
- That He will be with us
- That the best response to fear is to overcome it by controlling our response to it
Whenever a person overcomes a fear, they show great courage and determination. The process of conquering a fear transforms their heart and strengthens their resolve. In the same way, God reminds us that by standing against our fears, we will be courageous and become stronger for it. As a parent, He has equipped and empowered us to overcome fear, yet He is nearby to support and encourage us, as well. What a great example for us as parents to emulate. We can equip our children on how to deal with fear by modeling it and by walking them through possible responses to fear. We can empower them by reminding them that they are able to tackle every fear, especially knowing their identity in Christ. Then we can remind them that we are available when they need us, but even more importantly, God is there all the time. When our child has overcome a fear, we can celebrate his or her courage. The story of this victory becomes a testament of strength and a reminder of his or her ability to be strong and courageous. Another important element is to recall these victories as often as needed and, most of all God, knows us, knows our children, and knows how to transform us from fear often to fear not.