When I was expecting my first child, I remember someone telling me that having a child means that your heart will forever go walking around outside your body. It turns out that is a quote from Elizabeth Stone, an author and educator, and it also turns out that it’s true. Without God to lean on and trust, I truly don’t know how parents handle all the worry that comes with having your heart walk around outside your body. It can be all-consuming if you let it. Thankfully, we do have a gracious Father who is all-powerful and loves our children even more than we do. That is an incredible comfort to me as a parent. Read on for insights from two other parents on how to combat the worry that comes with being a parent.
— Nicole Balza
WORRY CAN BE an overwhelming topic. I believe everyone struggles with it. I don’t know what the actual statistics are, but I am quite certain once you become a parent, worry increases by a lot.
A few years ago I wrote a blog about why we worry. While I know worry can have many nuances, I narrowed it down to three main reasons:
- Worry gives us a perception of control.
- Worry makes us feel like we care more.
- On the other side of worry there is freedom, and we are unfamiliar with freedom.
However, understanding why we worry doesn’t necessarily help keep it from getting the best of us.
Here is what I’m learning about living the life of a parent and ultimately the life of a Christian—surrender is key.
Surrender = acceptance of what is + faith that God’s intent for us is good. This formula is a huge weapon against worry.
Acceptance of what is: Sometimes this means we need to pause and recognize what is—not what we think it is, not what we think it might be, but what it actually is. So often we are worrying about the stories we are making up in our heads. It is important to realize what is actually going on.
Faith that God’s intent for us is good: How would our perspective shift if we were to truly know this and believe this? God’s love for us is unchanging, perfect, and abundant. He wants what is good for us. After all, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31,32).
So often our idea of “good” is what makes us feel comfortable. When something causes us pain or discomfort, we automatically label it as bad. But if we recognize that God has so much more for us than simply feeling comfortable, we may be able to embrace the discomfort—especially with the knowledge that God’s intent for us is good.
Surrender: We need to open our hands and offer our lives and our children’s lives to God’s care. He loves them more than we do. He pursues them more than we do. He desires a personal relationship with them even more than we do. Sometimes I look at my children and wonder how anyone—even God—could love them more. But he does—unconditionally.
Surrender seems like a strange antidote to worry, but not when we are surrendering to
- our heavenly Creator, who made us for the intent of loving us;
- Jesus, who gave up so much to remove any barriers for us; and
- the Holy Spirit, who dwells in our hearts and empowers us to “let go and let God.”
How do we, as parents, not let worry get the best of us? Remember that our heavenly Father has the best for us.
I BATTLE WORRY.
I worry about my daughters and their families. I worry about the one who recently has moved hours away and how her family will adjust. I worry about the daughter who has started a new job and the pressures that will bring. I worry most about the daughter, her spouse, and her two sons who live without Jesus.
How foolish I was when my kids were growing up. Then, a part of me believed that once my daughters got past diapers, lice outbreaks at school, catty sixth-grade classmates, and the heartbreak of high school crushes, my worry wars would ease into an armistice.
A cease-fire never materialized. Instead, worry launched attacks on even more fronts.
I’ve reached two conclusions:
- Worry is not a war to win but a daily battle to fight.
- The best weapon I have is thankfulness.
Thankfulness. Thankfulness for the blessings I recognize and those I don’t. Thankfulness even in disaster.
Early in my ministry, I complained to a friend about ministry challenges. “Jim,” he asked, “have you thanked God for those obstacles? That’s what God says to do in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, ‘Give thanks in all circumstances.’ ” He emphasized the word all.
Worry is not a war to win but a daily battle to fight.
I looked up 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to make sure that verse existed. It does. Then I found similar verses. Philippians 4:4,6 are examples. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! . . . Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, . . . with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” That theme is echoed in Ephesians 5:19,20, “Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
How does the weapon of thankfulness work? Thankfulness refocuses us on the ironclad guarantee that God can never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Thankfulness focuses us on Jesus—his perfection, crucifixion, and resurrection for us.
Thanksgiving defends us from worry’s every thrust and parry. Worry attacks: “Your grandkids won’t ever put down new roots. Their new friends will cause them problems.” Thankfulness repels the attack: “Loving Father, Jesus’ resurrection assures that my grandchildren are under your constant care. I thank you for your unshakeable grace.”
Worry tries to outflank my defenses: “Your fallen away daughter and her children are beyond your God’s grace.” Thankfulness cuts through worry’s battle lines: “Father, thank you that in Baptism you put your name on my loved ones. Thank you for acting on my prayers for them. Thank you that your life-giving Word is always at work.”
Thankfulness for God’s grace provides victories each day. It drives off worry with the truth that we are the dearly loved children of God. With the truth that his power and wisdom direct our lives. With the truth that his grace surrounds us.
Arm yourself with the weapon that defeats worry. “Give thanks in all circumstances.”
Authors: Multiple authors
Volume 109, Number 03
Issue: March 2022