The day my daughter had been preparing for since she began her high school career came like the speed of lightening. Her bags were packed; she was ready to depart on a plane to start her college career across the country. She was leaving the shelter of our home and heading into the dark abyss of my unknown worries.
My nerves circled the “what ifs.” What if she doesn’t make friends? Who will take care of her when she is sick? Will she make wise choices? Everything about her personal security captured my thoughts. As my worries cascaded down a slippery slope, I was reminded of the Scripture someone graciously prayed over me years ago when she faced an earlier school transition.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6).
What a lifetime of blessings God has provided me in that moment of prayer. God’s whispered wisdom from Philippians 4 has served my anxious heart over the years of raising both my children. Even now as a parent of young adults, I find that worry still often takes center stage. In fact, my tendency toward worry may be more prevalent now, as my perceived sense of control over their security diminishes. While I am still my children’s mom, I feel like an outsider who waits for opportunities to sprinkle wisdom their way.
Worry can distract us from God’s promises. Our brooding over all the “what ifs” takes our eyes off God instead of leading us to trust him and his provisions for our children. Our anxiety gives us a false sense of control. In our distress, God gently calls us back to him with our thoughts and concerns.
God’s Promises: A Better Way to A Peaceful Heart
In the middle of a parental anxiety spiral, it is hard to remember God’s promises. Our minds flood with all the ominous possibilities instead of relying on the Holy Spirit to intercede for us. In the same passage that meant so much to me all those years ago, God tells us specifically how to replace our overly concerned thoughts with something better: “… 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).
When we center our thoughts on what can happen to our children instead of on Jesus, worry takes away our ability to trust and hear from God. In Philippians 4, Paul tells us when we look to God with our concerns, he brings us not the peace of the world but God’s perfect, guarding peace (Phil. 4:7). He promises to watch over our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.
Because of Jesus’ perfect life, his sacrifice on the cross, and his resurrection, we are guaranteed a future in a place where we will never have to worry again. Until then, he provides us his spiritual protection and power while we raise our children in the fallen world. The gift of the Holy Spirit, who is our down payment, walks besides us as our Counselor to remind us to keep our eyes, mind, and spirit on the heavenly prize. He longs for those who have placed their hope in him to be fully his. He urges us not to let worry evade our hope in him.
Tools for Parenting in Peace
Parenting tips should always point us back to God, not to our own devices or control. Here are some practical tools to keep our eyes on Jesus rather than our worry. Learning to take our eyes off worry and lean into God’s promise, we can focus on what we have control over and leave our fears to the Lord.
Turn over worry to God.
With the Holy Spirit living within us, we can capture those anxious thoughts. We can give our worries to God, and then wait for his peace, which exceeds all understanding.
I go back to the Philippians prayer when worry creeps into the crevices of my heart. God’s Word tells us to come to him in prayer and petition, thanking him as we present our requests. We are promised the peace of God in this action of humble reverence. When I meditate and give thanks for whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8), I find my focus changes from fear to truth. This thought pattern enables me to let go, entrusting my children to God.
Walk with other believers.
Being in community with other believers can also provide support as we navigate the vast waters of our parenting “what ifs.” In my times of worry, sharing my fears with my two prayer partners it vital. They always point me back to God’s Word as they pray alongside me and my worry.
Look for believers who will hold you accountable and point you back to God—to his direction, not the world’s. If you don’t currently have this in your life, I promise there are others who are eager for it as well. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to join you on your parenting journey. God intends for us to be in fellowship with one another, not alone in parenting.
Make time for praise.
Worship music is another tool in my belt for peaceful parenting. Hearing Scripture-filled lyrics are a comfort cushion to my heart and a sure way to bring my gaze back to God. Making time for corporate worship and singing with others who are walking similar paths is also balm for the soul. It is vital to our wellbeing to be able to sing in unison our fears, worry, lament, and joys to our Heavenly Father. I encourage you to walk toward the church with your fears instead of running away.
It is important to remember what God has done for our children. Make a list of his provisions in their lives and praise him for the way he has acted on their behalf. God is faithful and he will continue to watch over our children. I recently began sharing each day with my prayer group three things I am grateful for in my life. This practice encourages us to redirect our eyes to God’s care in our lives instead of focusing on the fear of the unknown.
Release what we don’t control.
One thing I have had to do in my life is to monitor how much information I take in from social media, the news, and other sources of information I read. When I read about the ills of the world, I can internalize it and make it my parenting worry when in fact it was never mine. We tend to take on others’ fears and anxieties when exposed to them, so be thoughtful about the content you consume each day.
Ask for help.
Finally, it is important to not confuse general worries/fears with worry that requires professional counseling by a Christian counselor. Worry unchecked can be a more serious sign of anxiety and depression. Either way, seeking a professional to guide you in seasons of darkness and fear is vital. You can find a professional in your area by searching the American Association of Christian Counselors website or by talking with your church leaders or another trusted believer.
Each season of our lives brings new transitions in parenting. My daughter made it through her college years and is now on the opposite coast living out her adult life. I still worry about her, but I’m growing. As parents, may we learn to trust God with our children’s lives, remembering Jesus’ words: “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).