It was a sunny, cool November day just before Thanksgiving when I learned my husband had cancer.
It was the most profound shock of my life, and not surprisingly, I was completely unprepared for it. Telling this news to our three kids, all of whom were teens at that time, was beyond difficult — they were certainly less prepared than we were to process the situation. We were all stunned and afraid.
Despite a lifetime of Bible study and prayer, I found myself on shaky ground with respect to my certainty about God’s promises. In vague and general ways I had imagined how I would respond to this type of life-altering news, but if you’ve ever been there, you understand there is absolutely no way to anticipate your feelings and reactions. I worried that I would be unable to demonstrate faith in God’s goodness to my kids, who were looking to me in ways they never had before.
A dear friend texted a Bible verse, and I made the decision to pray it every single day while my husband was undergoing treatment. The verse was Philippians 4:6-7, which says “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 that transcends all understanding will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus.”
I learned many things during my husband’s treatment, not the least of which was never to underestimate the power of a well-known Bible verse to bring about miraculous change.
In these two verses, God promises peace. And not just any old run of the mill peace – He promises a supernatural peace that will defy any human attempt to understand it. It was a promise I desperately wanted to believe, but honestly, I was skeptical. My basic nature runs straight to overthinking and worry. As a result, I’m not a person who’s particularly adept at cultivating inner peace.
But what I soon realized is God’s promise of peace meant I didn’t have to cultivate it. He would give it to me through his Holy Spirit. After the shock of my husband’s diagnosis began to wane, God amazed me with peace in ways I could have never believed had I not experienced it. My husband’s treatment was long and incredibly painful, and while the prognosis was promising, there were certainly no guarantees. My peace didn’t stem from the belief that my husband would be completely cured, but from a belief that somehow, in ways we could never foresee, God would be glorified no matter the outcome.
Perhaps you’re nodding your head in agreement here, or you might be sending a quick prayer of thanks that so far, nothing has rocked your faith in such a dramatic way. Maybe you are struggling through an issue with your teen that leaves you lying awake at night or facing a personal obstacle that seems insurmountable. One thing is for sure: anxiety, anger, and hopelessness can leave you feeling like the worst parent in the world. But God wants you to have the same peace He gave Jesus in the darkest hours before his crucifixion – a peace that is beyond description. As you parent your kids, here are three commitments you might make to help you recognize God’s peace for you:
Commit to praying through scriptures that promise God’s peace. Many Christians find that in times of stress they are likely to pray more. As you pray, begin to focus on those scriptures that deal specifically with peace[i]. Break them down and meditate on every word. For example, the above verses from Philippians give actual instructions that will help you find the peace God offers. Pray. Ask. Give thanks. One aspect of those verses that stood out to me was “guard(ing) my heart and mind.” Because God was guarding my heart and mind, I didn’t become bitter and hopeless. Satan uses our doubt and fear to drive a sharp wedge into our fellowship with God. Regular prayer times during which we remind ourselves of God’s promises limits Satan’s opportunities to get a foothold into our faith. This gives us more confidence to demonstrate God’s peace to our kids.
Commit to seeking and pursuing the peace God promises. Psalm 34:14b says “Seek peace and pursue it.” Peace is not something we create, it is something God provides if we are willing to trust Him and follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance. While He will provide it, it’s unlikely that it will descend out of the blue like a warm, comforting blanket. Seeking peace requires action on your part, but it is action that is in accordance with and in deference to the avenues God provides for you.
In times of fear and anxiety, be intentional to look for ways God is offering His peace. For instance, you might find that a daily walk helps clear your head of worries while giving you opportunities to praise God for a gorgeous sunrise or thank Him for the phone call from an old friend that boosted your spirits. Pursuing peace might look like getting back into a habit that’s been neglected, such as daily Bible reading or serving at your church’s thrift store ministry. You might pursue a new hobby that stretches you, such as writing or painting, and find it brings peace. Don’t be afraid to try new things – God’s peace can come in unexpected ways.
Be aware that pursuing peace might also mean letting go of things that create anxiety in your parenting. If the daily workouts cause you to feel more stressed than relaxed, cut back your commitment or let it go for a time. If your job is producing excess worry, look for ways to share the load or pull back. Seeking God’s peace requires you to be proactive in identifying those parts of your life that either bring you joy or weigh you down. To the extent you are able, release those things (and people!) that negatively impact your emotional and mental well-being.
Commit to an attitude of reflection rather than reaction. When dealing with tough situations, particularly with your kids, emotional reactions frequently become the default setting. Careless words usually lead to regret and added anxiety. Sometimes remembering to count to ten can calm the storm within you, leaving you better able to seek God’s wisdom. Committing to reflection before reaction eliminates unnecessary stress and brings you closer to that peace God promises.
Parenting might just be the toughest job in the world, because the stakes are so very important. It’s easy to overreact about the small things, and the large things can leave us floundering in our faith. Peace might seem hard to come by. But the good news is we serve a God who keeps His promises, and He has promised peace in every situation as you parent your kids.
[i] Examples of God’s promise of peace in scripture
1 Peter 5:7
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