parenting-with-faith-or-fear

A couple of weekends ago I took my son on a dads & lads weekend.  Since the car journey was about 4 hours to get to the activity centre I brought some conversation starter questions with me.

One of them was “what is something I always say to you?”

His reply to me was eye-opening.  Without hesitation he listed off “drink more, you look tired you should go to bed early tonight and get off your electronic devices”.

He spoke the uncomfortable truth.  Now each of these are important to me and it would be so easy for me to justify my nagging:

  • A friend of mine got kidney stones and was in agony.  He warned me to drink more to prevent the same happening to me.
  • At university I stayed up way too late which meant I was too tired to deal with life and as a consequence got into all sorts of problems.
  • I had an addiction to computer games which meant that in the early years of my marriage my wife was a computer widow.

Surely these are legitimate concerns.  But the truth is my nagging doesn’t come out of wanting the best, it comes from a place of fear.  I am concerned/worried/fearful (whatever I choose to call it) about their future and rather embarrassingly I realise that I haven’t taken these issues to God in prayer.

And so this is why this post has been delayed a week.  Sure I could have written what we should all do without actually doing it – Christians have been doing this for centuries – but I thought I would actually taste and see that the LORD is good and then pass that on to you.

Whenever something threatens us or those we love we always have two choices.  We deal with it in our own resources or we go to the place where change actually happens: on our knees (2 Cor 10:4-5).

If we choose the former and take control we will get stressed, we won’t be at peace because the truth is that we have no control over how the future will turn out.  We’ll end up nagging our children (or worse) out of fear.  This will do one of two things: they’ll think we’re over reacting and therefore ignore us and get their guidance from others (who may not have their best interests at heart) or they’ll become captives to fear too.  Neither of these are what we want for our children.

Where do we go from here?

Firstly we need to be honest with ourselves and our Father about our fears.  They need to be expressed to Him not to our children.  We don’t need to play games with Him as He already knows what we need before we ask Him (Mt 6:8).  So why pray at all if He already knows? Because by expressing our fears to Him we deepen intimacy.  We open ourselves up to more of His presence in our lives and that’s when we start to experience His peace and transformation.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7)

 So why don’t we ask God for help?  Or why do we ask for help but still try to keep control of the issue?  Because fundamentally we doubt either His goodness or His power or both.

We don’t have to be anxious as He’s a good father who gives good gifts to his children (Mt 7:11).  He isn’t frightened but laughs at the plans of His enemies (Ps 2:4).  God created Adam and Eve even though Satan had rebelled and would seek to lead them astray.  He wasn’t worried as Christ was slain before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8).  The solution was already available before the problem even arose!  There is no contest between light and dark.

If you’re still struggling with seeing His goodness or power then in Philippians it says:

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things” (Phil 4:8)

Unplug the news and internet clickbait that feeds our fears.  Read testimonies and plug into what God is doing around the world.  As you do, then your hope will rise as you realise that He is good and He is on the throne and He can bring about transformation that you seek.

I’m not writing this as someone who just says these words.  There are two times which stand out in my life where I experienced the “peace of God which passes all understanding”.  The first was when I was friends with my wife-to-be.  I was her teacher and she was my student.  We had both knew from God that we were going to marry, but we also wanted to do things right.  So we were waiting until she left school before we would date.  We were open about this and went to the head of the sixth form to let them know.  However, being careful one of my other students saw us in a car together.  We were worried that they would assume that something sordid was going on and we were so fearful of what would happen despite us doing the right thing.  I remember getting on our knees together and praying.  My wife had a picture of angels surrounding us in protection and I felt that Psalm 34 was for us which was the same message:

I sought the LORD and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.  Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.  This poor man called and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.  The angel of the LORD encamps those who fear him and he delivers them. (Ps 34:4-7)

The peace of God hit us like a wave.  And the outcome?  The student saw us both in the car but was somehow blinded so that they didn’t recognise my wife-to-be even though they knew her very well.  Amen.

The second time was when my wife was rushed into hospital in excruciating pain.  There they discovered that my wife had an ectopic pregnancy and were going to rush her into surgery.  We were devastated.  We didn’t want to have to choose whose life to take and we begged that God would receive Rachael before she went to surgery.  We phoned our church for prayer and I remember in the midst of this maelstrom a peace descending on us – a calmness that we just couldn’t explain given what was happening around us.

The outcome?  My wife had a visit from a kind doctor who said he had watched the surgery via the uplink and showed her images of Rachael who had burst the fallopian tube and had died.  Though it was sad we were so grateful to God.  When we asked to see this doctor again, no-one knew of him.  When we asked if we could have maybe a photo from the uplink video we were told that there was no video taken.  The Father in His infinite goodness sent my wife an angel to give her comfort and let us know that He had answered our desperate prayer.

I won’t pretend it was easy as we walked through our grieving process but I bought worship DVDs that we sat and watched with the volume up so our senses were filled with songs of Him.  We sought out worship songs of lamentation so we had something to sing to Him in this time when we couldn’t sing many other songs.  And He met us there over this time.

We’re nothing special.  The same can happen for you so that you can experience a feast in the presence of our enemies (Ps 23:5).  We can feast on His goodness and provision whilst our fears are looking on.  God loves our children more than we do.  He has better plans for them than we do.

So what happened with my son?

Since prayer I have found myself calmer inside.  Even though I still have boundaries on the time he can spend on his devices I’ve found that it’s coming out of a place of peace and so I’m more flexible and kinder than I was when I was in total control*.  I am operating now out of a place of faith that God has good for my son and am working in light of that rather than out of fear of the worst.  It’s meant that our relationship has improved – there’s more fun – it’s weird that by giving up control I have found more freedom to love.

I’ve also been honest about my failing my son by not trusting God’s working in his life and asked him to pray for me if I start losing it again.  Which he does.  I don’t need to fear this as I’m not the boss, God is.  And my job as a parent is always to point to the true Father than I am a mere shadow of.

May you experience the same freedom as you give your fears to Him.  May you operate out of a place of peace as you trust that He has the ending already known even if the route is not the one we would have chosen.  In Jesus’ precious name.  Amen.

Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ But he refused saying ‘people will pretend to be your friends and take advantage of you and you’ll end up losing everything.  Stay at home where you’ll be loved.’  The son did so, as he had no funds to go elsewhere but he always resented it and never learned the true depth of his father’s love for him.”

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like this one where I talk about God renewing all things.

*Please understand that this is not a blind faith that says everything is going to be ok and does nothing to bring about God’s holy will – we are co-workers with Christ we pray “your kingdom come, your will be done”.  The difference is whether we are operating out of faith or fear, out of trust or control.  And that makes a difference to whether we are parenting with grace and the spirit or law and the flesh.

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