When (Bad) Fear Hijacks My Parenting, God is My Refuge

When stressful situations arise that involve our children, and they undoubtedly will, parents often are quick to push the panic button, dialing up friends for help, spouting off advice, or flying off the handle with their emotions.

The Bible gives parents a different starting point when it comes to how wise parents respond to their circumstances. Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

Fear of the Lord is defined as respecting, having awe for, and worshipping the Lord. The Christian is already on the right track when he submits his life to Christ. To believe that God sent his Son, Jesus, to earth to die for my sins on the cross, and to defeat sin and death in his resurrection, inherently assumes the correct posture of self toward God. The humility—forced or not forced—that results in admitting our need for a Savior exhibits the wisdom of which Proverbs 1:7 speaks.

(Bad) Fear Takes the Wheel

Yet, even as a Christian parent, I can live out of “bad fear”—a fear that drives me to my own control and self-reliance instead of reliance on the Lord. My actions stem from a heart which has forgotten who God is and what my relationship to Him looks like. Instead of taking my actual, physical, real concerns to God first, I operate out of my self-reliance, equipped with an iPhone, calendar, and a “can-do attitude.” I dress up those actions with phrases like “help,” “teaching,” “discipline,” and “safety and protection.” Most of the time I do not realize that I am acting out of bad fear until my actions aren’t working or my children aren’t cooperating. I go from self-confident to panicked or angry.

Whether it is parenting a teenage driver, preparing a child for a tryout, enduring alongside a teenager through semester exams, or navigating the rollercoaster of adolescent relationships, our “bad fear” can hijack even our best intentions.

It is not bad to seek to help, teach, discipline, or protect a child. What is bad is when I forget who is actually directing and doing the helping, teaching, disciplining, and protecting. Of course, as an earthly parent I do have some measure of influence. I can give driving experience. I can provide lessons. I can encourage good study habits. I can be a good listener.

But I cannot be the end-all, be-all, satisfaction-and-safety-guaranteed parent that I so often long to be.

Jesus Take the Wheel

Instead, Proverbs 1:7 says that as a parent seeking wisdom, I need to fear the Lord. I need to come under the tender yoke, wing, and gaze of a Heavenly Father who is the parent I long to be, but never will be.

Acknowledging that you, the parent, need help and guidance because you cannot do it alone, is to fear the Lord. When we bow before the King, presenting our fears for ourselves or our children to him (which often are valid), we are in the right position of created towards the Creator. Submitting before God, laying our needs and our child’s needs at his feet,  reminds us of our limitations and releases us from feeling like we have to play god in our child’s life. In prayer, ask Him what He would have you do to help your child get ready for a tryout or a test. Trust Him that whatever the result is, He is still good.

The Heart of the Matter

When I take my parenting fears to the Lord in prayer or journaling, he reveals what is in my heart. Most often for me, I have forgotten that the Lord loves my child more than I do and that His plans, not mine, are perfect and for His glory, not mine. Essentially, I have forgotten who He is.

My concerns aren’t always instantly gone, and I still do have to parent, but my heart has been softened by the Holy Spirit. I am called to repent, turning away from choosing my own way and not God’s. I am called to ask forgiveness from my child for acting out of fear clothed in anger and frustration. In fact, when I acknowledge my sin and ask for forgiveness, I am witnessing to my children about Jesus.  He redeems even my bad fear by teaching me to exhibit to my child what it looks like to repent and turn back to the Lord, to live out of a good fear of the Lord.

Instead of parenting as if I don’t have a loving God who sees and knows me, I parent in light of having a Heavenly Father who sees and hears the struggles, pains, and joys of being a mom.

Proverbs 14:26 says, “In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge .” Refuge means a shelter, hope, or trust. It’s a place that protects you from something. The Lord ultimately is our eternal refuge thanks to Jesus Christ. But He is also our refuge in the here and now.

Bring your parenting fears, your failures, your hopes, your praises to the Lord. Bring it all. When we acknowledge that He is God and we are not by entrusting those tender, difficult, hopeless, or hopeful places to His care, we find refuge- a place of hope. Hope not in yourself, not your child’s achievements or lack thereof, but hope in a God who loves and sees you and your child. A God who, knowing who you are and who your child is, still chose to die for you and still chose relationship with you above His comfort and place in heaven. Come, in awe, admiration, and wonder to the Lord.

Dawson Cooper lives in Birmingham, Alabama with her husband, Wil, and three boys (ages 7,10, and 15). She graduated from Wake Forest University. While at Wake Forest, she began freelance writing for a local magazine. She has been writing for Rooted Ministry since 2017. She also works as a lead floral designer with Marigold Designs. Dawson and her family attend Covenant Presbyterian Church where she is involved with leading a youth small group. When she isn’t at or driving to her boys’ various games, school events, or activities, she enjoys reading, playing tennis, and enjoying a good meal with friends. 

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