I remember, in the days of my youth, when I was an amateur worrier. And then? Then I had kids.
Before children I never knew what it truly meant to worry. Once I was a Mom, I earned a PhD in Worrynomics- the economics of consistent, persistent, efficient worry.
I worried about microbes I couldn’t see, and if their grapes were cut in half so they wouldn’t choke, and if they knew to look both ways before they crossed the street, and if they understood stranger danger.
Plastic grocery store bags were no longer a simple device to bring home bread. Now they could attack my kids and choke them.
What about white bread? Vaccines? Processed food?
I never understood the many possible threats assaulting children everyday. It is amazing kids emerge from childhood.
When my children were all small, I eagerly anticipated them getting older. Not only could they pour their own drink and tie their own shoes, but I wouldn’t need to panic every time they might cross a street.
I thought it would get easier. I thought I would worry less.
For all you Mamas of adults (or have kids who THINK they are adults), you can stop laughing at my naiveté. Really, just stop. I know you have experienced the same head-slapping moment, when reality smacks Moms with the realization: not only is this not getting easier, but the worry is getting bigger and stronger and harder to control.
DESTRUCTION OF DREAM WARNING
For all you young Mamas, who think it is going to get easier some day, I am sorry to shatter your hope. But it never gets easier. Never.
Adult level decisions include adult level consequences. Watching your beloved children navigate options and temptations is enough to send any Mom to the hospital. And if you are trying to LET THEM be an adult and not offer your opinion at every turn, it gets even harder. Look out- callouses are guaranteed as you bite your tongue with regularity.
Personally, not being able to play cruise-director in their lives anymore left me with time on my hands. Since I wasn’t sure what to do next, I resorted to old habits. I worried. While very ineffective, it seemed better than doing nothing.
I trusted Jesus to handle the big things in my life. I counted on His blood to cover my sins. I relied on His Spirit to change my heart. I believed He created the World. But why didn’t I believe He could care for my kids? (And yes, I still call my oldish children, “kids.” I don’t care how old they get, they are my kids.)
Eventually I realized that my worry and my faith were having a hard time hanging out in the same heart. As a mom, to retain faith during the weeks on end when I didn’t even see my adult kids, I needed to make significant changes. For me to survive the evenings my new driver took the car out by his or her self, I required intervention. But what should I do? What tool would successfully replace the worry with trust?
Well Susan, you could pray.
“Well, of course I could pray. I mean, I believe He cares for my kids! I trust Him completely. Really. No. Really. I do. I just worry because while He loves them, they might not listen. I took them to church, prayed with them, talked about Jesus, taught them spiritual truths. What am I supposed to do now? Let the Holy Spirit do it all?
Oh dear. Apparently, my thinking needed a little work.
Substituting Prayer For Worry
It ended up, the only tool I really needed was prayer. But prayer can deceptively feel like I am doing nothing.
Sitting back and doing NOTHING has never been my action plan. I do. I am a doer. While a blessing and a curse, it is also an undeniable aspect of my personality. Trusting Jesus to completely take over felt incomplete. I needed an activity.
What I really needed was to see prayer as Jesus sees prayer.
Prayer is active. It is work. In Colossians 4:12 Paul states, “Epaphras … sends you greetings, always LABORING earnestly for you in his prayers that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.” (NASB, emphasis added)
Good 'ole Epaphras, "laboring earnestly." This is also translated: wrestling, struggling, laboring fervently, and striving. Hmmmmm. At some point I honestly assessed my prayer life and realized this description was not accurate of me. Maybe that was why it didn’t FEEL like I accomplished anything.
I began to think, if I prayed with the energy required to struggle or wrestle, I might be too exhausted to worry. I could at least give it a try. (Aren’t you blown away by the exuding faith from that last statement???)
I may not have entered into a wrestling prayer life with much faith, but now I can say that striving in prayer has grown my faith in Jesus more than any other activity. Years ago, on a TV interview, I heard the late Chuck Colson say, “I am more sure of the reality of Jesus than of my own.” At the time I wondered at such a statement. I believed in Jesus, but how could I KNOW Him that well?
A couple of decades later I now echo Chuck’s statement. Actively studying God’s Word has changed my heart to know Him better. And consistently laboring in prayer has tied that heart to His in supernatural ways I cannot explain nor take credit for.
I Still Worry
Full disclosure: I still worry.
But now the aching pit in my stomach and throbbing in my heart alerts me to the presence of that unproductive activity. The anxiety sounds the warning siren that I need to pray. If there are big concerns about one or more of the kids, then there needs to be big prayer.
The only way I can possibly obey the injunction, “Be anxious for nothing” is to obey the rest of the verse, “BUT in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6, NASB, emphasis added)
Well, lookie there. The idea of replacing worry with prayer has been the Lord’s all along!
So what is stopping us?
Let’s step out in faith and give it a go. Let’s take all that ugly, destructive worry and lay it down at the cross. Then we can hang out with Jesus, pouring our hearts out to Him. He will not only handle our anxiety, but He can also handle our kids! No problem is too big and no heart too hard for Him!
Do you need a little help developing your parental prayer life? That is WHY I wrote my new book, Unceasing: A Parent’s Guide To Conquer Worry and Pray With Power. I desire to equip parents to pray long and hard - to LABOR EARNESTLY - for their children. Because our kids never outgrow the need for our prayers to invade and wash over their lives.
Let’s pray for our kids, and never, ever stop.
You can hit the picture (which is an Amazon affiliate link) and purchase the book on Amazon in either print or digital format. Let me know what you think.