What emotions spring to mind when you think about parenting?
Hopefully there are some lovely ones – joy, anticipation, love, trust, amazement. Some others may sneak in there too – anger, sadness… maybe even occasional disgust.
Here’s an emotion that I think, at one time or another, is pretty universal for parents:
It’s not always a bad thing. Fear of your child being run over causes you to hold on tightly to their hand when you walk by a busy road. Fear of your child choking causes you to chop up their food.
But let’s be honest – fear isn’t simply about these things, is it? We fear all sorts of things, and many of them aren’t nearly so rational. Or if not irrational, at the very least we fear things that we have very little control over. We fear things about our children’s futures that we can’t possibly micromanage enough to control the outcome – they’re simply too complex.
We fear hypothetical illnesses that we have no reason to assume are imminent. We fear that we’re not doing the right things to encourage their growth in language, social skills, sporting prowess, academic ability, or whatever it is. We fear how they’ll make friends, how they’ll behave in different situations without us there, how they’ll cope in this world that’s changing in ways we don’t like.
Here is the heart what we want you to see in this post, here’s what we want to believe more deeply: most of our parenting fears are not real. Most of our fears are stories that we tell ourselves, that we choose to believe. We need to stop listening to these stories, and instead listen to the story of the gospel.
Let me take one example to help you see this.
We fear how our children will cope in a world that’s changing in ways we don’t like. Different fears for the future will play out for different people. We see a political direction that makes us uncomfortable or a shift in the values that our culture celebrates that don’t align with ours. We see ways that it’s becoming more difficult to be a Christian who holds to a Biblical worldview. We see the threat of global warming and the slowness of the world’s response and we wonder where it will end up.
We see these changes in the world around us, we follow the trajectory of their stories, and we don’t like the plotline that we can see coming.
We imagine a story of where the world is going, we believe that story, and the result is fear.
Now listen to a different story. It may look no different, externally. The political story may continue to develop differently to how we’d like. The moral decline of society might continue; intolerance may increase; the world may increase in temperature.
But need that result in fear? Well of course, we should be concerned about these things. Humanity is called to be stewards of this world, and so we want to see that done in the best way possible – whether it’s ecologically, societally, morally or politically.
But fear? I’m not sure the story needs to go there.
Here are two wonderful verses that are true for you, and are true for your children:
“ Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.””
Here are two things that mean that you don’t need to fear the way this world is going – even if your worst case scenarios play out.
God cares about our children. He really does. But more than that, he is sovereignly in control of even the minutiae of what happens in this world. The story of history is not outside of his control. God assigns us deep worth, and he is in control. So whatever happens to us, whatever happens to our children, fear need not be the emotion that we experience. We can trust God. His sovereign hand is active, and he acts for his children who he deems to be of deep worth.
And for those of our children who are Christians, that truth can be taken a step further. However the future plays out, there is a wonderful, mind-boggling truth that we can cling to. Our children have the Spirit in them. Even if the world is terrifying, they don’t need to be a slave to fear. They have the Spirit of sonship. They are adopted into the family of God. They know God as father. They don’t need to have fear, whatever’s going on, because the God of the universe is their father, and he’s caring for them. They don’t need to fear, and nor do we.
The story of our fear is that our children will be crushed in this hard world. The story of the gospel is that our God is good and in control whatever happens, that he’s a caring Father. This is all made possible because of what Jesus has done.
Do you see how this makes a world of difference? Here’s what we said earlier: most of our parenting fears are not real. Most of our fears are stories that we tell ourselves, that we choose to believe. We need to stop listening to these stories, and instead listen to the story of the gospel.
The story of the gospel means that we can have a radically different perspective on the stories that bring us fear. There are truths and promises that we can cling to that rewrite our stories of fear.
So here’s the challenge. Next time you feel fear taking over your parenting, ask yourself this question: what story am I choosing to believe? Understand that, understand how the gospel tells a different story, and pray that the Spirit of Sonship would speak words of comfort to your heart.
Fear is pretty much a universal emotion in parenting. But it need not be. The story of the gospel means that we can be liberated from fear, into the freedom of the gospel. Praise the Lord!