Dealing With Parental Anxiety
About the Guest
- Posts by Tim Challies A Family Update in Strange Times. https://www.challies.com/articles/a-family-update-in-strange-times/
- One Way To Make the Most of Being Housebound with Your Family. https://www.challies.com/resources/one-way-to-make-the-most-of-being-housebound-with-your-family/
- How We Worshipped on One Sunday in March. https://www.challies.com/resources/how-we-worshipped-on-one-sunday-in-march/
moremoreGrace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario. He is a book reviewer, co-founder of Cruciform Press, and has written a number of books including The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion (Zondervan, 2011), Visual Theology: Seeing and Understanding the Truth About God (Zondervan, 2016),...moremore
Bob Lepine, Dennis Rainey, Winfred Neely, Jeff and Debbie Schreve, and Tim Challies explain how they entrust their children to the Lord’s care.
Michelle: You know, I’ve heard it said that kids are messengers that we’re sending to a time that, well, we won’t see. And that’s certainly a noble thought, but doesn’t that instill some fear and worry in you moms and dads? Here’s author Wynter Pitts.
Wynter: You know, as parents, we say, “God, use my kids! Use them to impact Your kingdom.” But when that starts to happen, that can make us a little afraid as parents. It’s easy to say we want our kids to do that, and it’s hard to watch them; but we’re going to prepare them to be the ones that are going to stand out and fight against what’s happening in the world around us.
Michelle: We’re going to talk about how to survive those worrisome parenting decisions by turning our worry into peace on this edition of FamilyLife This Week.
Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. Have you ever had an irrational fear?—you know, something that you know is not going to happen; but yet, you’re still afraid that it just might? Like I have this fear of heights. To climb a mountain—well, actually, I was at the top of a mountain a while back; and I had a hard time getting down, because I’m scared. I’m scared of falling! Then, well, you know what would happen if I ended up falling all those feet down, down, down; tumbling down. It’s an irrational fear.
Parents, do you have irrational fears?—you know, afraid that your kid, while being buckled into your car, is going to be stolen when you turn your back? What about them just falling and breaking their neck when they’re playing outside/climbing a tree? Or what about, you know, the dog that seems to love your child; well, one day, they might just bite them?!
I know what you’re thinking. Those instances just might have happened. And maybe they happened to you. But still, worry does seem to be a natural part of life; right? I’m told by many moms that, when you have children, well, you’ll understand the depth of their worry. I’m not here to tell you: “You have to stop,”—that’s the Holy Spirit’s job.
You know, it was in the Sermon on the Mount, that Jesus gave at the beginning of His ministry, He said, “Do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink, nor for your body, as to what you will put on.” Well, that sounds pretty clear to me; but I’ll admit, it is hard not to fear, and to leave your worries behind.
Here are Bob Lepine and Dennis Rainey, talking about worry.
[Previous FamilyLife Today® Broadcast]
Dennis: I have been known to have some anxiety from time to time.
Dennis: One of my—
Bob: Let me see if—I’m just going to test your musical knowledge here.
Dennis: Oh, Bob.
Bob: Just test your musical knowledge.
Bob: I’m just going to see if you can pick out this song; okay? I’m going to sing a little bit of the song; see if you can pick it out. [Humming] You got it?
Dennis: Be Happy.
Bob: What’s the first part? [Singing] “Don’t worry; be happy!” I just thought that would be a good way for us to talk about your favorite emotion; right?
Dennis: I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite emotion! [Laughter]
Bob: Well, I guess that’s true.
Dennis: I’m all over love! [Laughter]
Bob: But you—if you’ve struggled with a negative emotion in your life, this has been the one; hasn’t it?
Dennis: No, no, no; I—
Bob: I’m not picking on you.
Dennis: I don’t feel picked on.
Bob: You have said this.
Dennis: I would say this is a propensity of mine—to worry.
Dennis: My mom called me a “worry wart,” because I caused her so [many] problems. [Laughter]
I’m not doing a good job juggling the things that I’m concerned about that have, ultimately, downgraded into worry.
Bob: Those three o’clock in the morning mornings, where you just wake up?
Dennis: Yes, yes; where you’re just stewing on stuff/thinking about it. It’s a waste of time.
Michelle: Just like Dennis said, “It’s a waste of time.”
Here’s what I was trying to show you—is that, for some people, worry is a part of life; it’s one of those thorns in your flesh. As you heard Dennis Rainey—who, like I said, is co-founder of FamilyLife® and he is who I would consider a giant in the faith—even he struggles with worry, but he knows where to take it!
You know, I know there’s a mom listening—and maybe it’s you—who is saying, “I have every right to worry! It’s a mom’s intuition,” or “It’s a mom’s prerogative.” And it’s not just moms; sometimes it’s dads. Dennis—he is a dad! You have to make sure that your child lives to ride that bike, to graduate from high school, and to walk down the aisle. Keeping them alive—well, it’s not small feat!
I want you to hear the story of a young man, who loved to push boundaries. There was one boundary that he pushed too far with his mom. Here’s author and pastor, Winfred Neely, talking with Dennis Rainey.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Dennis: Were you a worry to her?
Winfred: Yes! [Laughter]
Dennis: Give me a fist bump, because I was the worry wart to my mom. How did you worry her? Did you kind of push the boundaries?
Winfred: Push the boundaries is an understatement! I did some crazy—you know, I kind of look back at that person, and I ask myself, “Who was that person?!” That person, of course, was me. [Laughter]
Bob: Yes! [Laughter]
Winfred: I think about some of the things that I did—
Dennis: Tell them about the go-cart—the night you were entrusted by your mom to go ride some go-carts.
Winfred: Yes; well, as graduation from elementary school, this was a big deal!—a big accomplishment!
Winfred: Yes, celebrate. And so my parents, you know, they had kind of a tight hold on us, growing up. So I asked her if I could go with some friends of mine on a bus to another part of the city of Chicago. She agreed.
Bob: You’re like 12 years old?
Winfred: Well, 13.
Bob: And you’re going on the bus—
Winfred: I’m going on a bus—
Bob: —with your friends?
Winfred: That’s right.
Bob: Okay; alright.
Winfred: —to another part of Chicago, without any adult supervision.
Winfred: Some older teenagers were going with us. Now, she gives me some very clear instructions: “Okay, Winfred. You be back home by ten o’clock. Do you understand me?” “Yes, Mom.” So I burst out of the house, full of excitement. I get over here to Go-Cart Land; I just decided to ignore Mom’s curfew. I lost/I deliberately lost track of time. [Laughter]
Dennis: I’ve never heard—I’ve never heard that term before. [Laughter]
Bob: That’s put well; yes.
Dennis: It is! [Laughter] I did that, too, one time!
Winfred: I look back on it now. She didn’t know where I was!
Bob: There were no cell phones.
Winfred: There were no cell phones in 1968.
Bob: That’s right.
Winfred: We didn’t have iPhones. Now, we had phone booths! You remember Superman films? [Laughter]
Dennis: Yes; right.
Winfred: How Superman used to get into the phone booth and go—
Winfred: So we had a lot of phone booths around the city of Chicago! All I had to do was go into a phone booth, put a quarter in there, call Mom, and say: “Mother, I’m running late. I’m okay. I’m on my way.” That would have eased her anxiety. It never even occurred to me to do that!
Dennis: So how late were you?
Winfred: Well, I think I got back—it was way after ten. It was probably around
11 o’clock/11:15 at night in Chicago.
Winfred: —13-year-old. So I thought I would try the tippy-toe routine. [Whispering] “I’m just going to tippy-toe into the house”; you know? [Laughter] And my father was asleep; that’s interesting. That’s interesting; Daddy just decided, “I’m not gonna—okay, Lou”—that was my mother, Annie Lou—‘Ill let you deal with this.” [Laughter] Daddy went to bed; Daddy was asleep.
I opened the back door, and my mother came around the corner like Wonder Woman. [Laughter] I mean, I can still see it! I can still see the strange mingling of love and fury, at once, in her eyes.
Dennis: Oh, that’s a good description; yes.
Winfred: “Boy! Why are you so late?!” She gave me a piece of her mind; she was very disappointed that I did not respect the curfew.
Michelle: Ohhh, I have a similar story. I’m sure we all do—similar to Winfred’s. You know, I was old enough to drive—so, probably, about 16—I went out with some friends. My curfew was 10:30; and at 10:30, well—I made sure I was safely at my best friend’s house, just a mile down the road. You know, all good; right? I mean, in my teenaged mind, “Sure!” No; when I arrived home at midnight, my mom was sitting by the front door! Yes, I can understand what Winfred was talking about with the love and the fury! [Laughter] Which one won out that night?—I’m not exactly sure.
But you know, it’s one thing to be the child and have your parents worry about you, but it’s another thing to be the parent and worry about your children. Winfred Neely has been on both sides of that equation. He’s grown now; he’s married to Stephanie; has a family of his own. He remembers when they were young missionaries in Africa, and his son, Sterling, got very, very sick. Of course, he began to worry. Here’s Winfred.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Winfred: You know, malaria was common; so it was not an uncommon for missionaries in that part of the world to, you know, get malaria. I mean, it’s almost like the common cold. So they have medicines you take and things like that, and you’ll be okay in a few days.
We thought Sterling had malaria, but there was something else. Stephanie noticed it first, that there was something going on with him. We were giving him the malaria meds, and he was not getting better. He was becoming lethargic, breathing was labored. We took him to a pediatrician in Dakar, and he started treating Sterling for typhoid.
Now, that really got to us, because we had seen a number of things happen during this season in our lives. You know, just, “What is God doing? Why is He allowing this to happen?” We know that God is good; but when you are in a situation, where you cannot—as one preacher says—“You cannot trace God’s providential hand, you’ve got to learn to trust His heart in situations like that.”
The fact that Sterling was sick, in combination with these big theological questions that we were raising, deepened our anxiety. Again, we had to release Sterling to the Lord. Now, we did what we were supposed to do. We gave him the appropriate meds; we made sure that we kept him hydrated; we carried out our responsibility, understanding, ultimately, only God can restore him. That’s what we did: we prayed, and we experienced the peace of God in the midst of this situation. And the Lord restored our little boy to health.
Dennis: So what’s been the biggest faith challenge to that spiritual muscle that you’re talking about? What’s been the number one issue that you had to take before God and say, “God, I don’t know what You’re up to, but I want to trust You with it”?
Winfred: This is going to seem strange. It’s my own feelings; it’s my own feelings.
In other words, because of the way that I’m wired, I have a tendency to go with my feelings. My feelings are telling me one thing—
Winfred: —God’s Word is telling me something else. So now, I have a decision to make: whether I’m going to go with my feelings or whether I’m going to go with Scripture. When I have gone with Scripture, Dennis, I have found—whenever I trust God and take God at His Word, based on Scripture—I have found the peace of God is released in my heart and mind through the ministry of the Spirit of God. That’s been my biggest challenge.
Interestingly enough, I’m 63 years old now, and I think it was when I was in my 50s when God starts to wean me off of my feelings so that I learned to take Him at His Word. I want to suggest that that’s one of the big problems in post-Modern/post-Christian culture. It’s this feeling-driven—we are too driven by feelings. We have to stop making these decisions, based on how we feel; find out what God’s Word says about any particular issue, and take God at His Word.
Winfred: Then, when we do that, we will experience peace; and that’s a big challenge. That sounds easy, but it is a major spiritual breakthrough in one’s life.
Michelle: Wow! Just what Winfred Neely is talking about—it does sound easy: “Stop worrying! Stop worrying!” It sounds so simple, but it also is very, very hard.
Hey! We need to take a break, but when we come back, we’re going to take a look at what the definition of worry really is and “How do we just lay those burdens and those fears at the foot of the cross?” We’ll take a look at that when we come back. Stay tuned.
[Radio Station Spot Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. Today, we are talking about fear and worry and just “What do we do with those runaway emotions?—how do we reel them back in?” You know, when I’m on top of that mountain, and I’m scared to get down, what helps me is when I really step back from the situation and specifically define what I am scared of: the outcome.
If we’re talking about that, we really need to know, “What’s the true definition of worry?” For that, we turn to pastor and author, Jeff Schreve. He is joined by his wife, Debbie. They’re talking with Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine, just all about worry.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Jeff: Worry is the uneasiness that we feel in view of an anticipated loss, whether real or imagined, of something or someone we value. For instance, if my daughter is driving from Texarkana to Houston, I may worry about her safety; because—especially when she was really a novice/rookie driver—we would worry, “Oh, is she going to make it?” “Call us; let us know…” We were probably increasing her opportunity to get in a wreck as we were texting her all the way; you know? [Laughter]
Nothing happened on any of those occasions, but we would be anxious about it because we anticipated, “Hey, this could happen.” So, you know, most of the things we worry about, as individuals, never happen. There was a statistic done—I can’t remember the exact number—but it was so high of the things we worry about—you know, 50 or
60 percent of those things will never happen—but we still worry.
Bob: And let me—because I’ve been picking on Dennis here about the fact that worry is an issue for him—let’s be honest, that a person who never worries about anything, is irresponsible/is, maybe, in denial. The person who goes, “I’m not worried about anything!” We’re supposed to be alert to our surroundings; we’re supposed to be cautious and on guard. When does worry become sinful?
Jeff: Well, I think that, you know, Jesus told us, “Don’t worry.” In Matthew, Chapter 6, which I talk about in the chapter on worry, three times in ten verses: “Do not be worried,” “Do not be worried,” “Do not worry. Don’t be anxious about tomorrow for tomorrow will take care of itself.” I think anytime that concern moves into worry and “I’m fretting about this,” and “I’m wringing my hands about this,” we have crossed the line. Now we’ve gone into where it’s not just, “I’m responsible”; but now, I’ve crossed over.
Bob: So, can I tell when my concern becomes sinful worry? Is there a line I can cross?
Jeff: Well, I think when you lose your sense of peace. You can’t sleep at night; that thing is going through your mind. You know, what it boils down to is: “Wait a minute! I’m not trusting God here,” because God didn’t create me to be all tied up in knots over this situation, whatever that situation might be. So, I think that once you feel like: “I’ve lost my sense of peace. Hey, I’m worrying about this thing.”
When I worked in sales, I had a company car. It was such a different feeling dealing with a company car versus my own car; because [with] the company car, the company paid for everything. So, if I took it in for an oil change, and they showed me my air filter, and it was a little black, and they said, “Should we replace this?” I’d say, “By all means. Replace it!” Or if the tires are getting low, “Let’s get new tires.” Whatever needs to be done—because it’s the company’s car—it needs to be top-notch.
Now, if it’s my own car, we’re not replacing the air filter; because I have to pay for it. The tires: “Well, surely, we can get another few thousand miles out of them.” It’s just so totally different. And if the thing—if somebody wrecks it—if it’s sitting in the parking lot; somebody runs into it—it’s the company car—“Okay; just take it to the shop, and let’s get it fixed.” Here’s the thing: I never worried about that car because it wasn’t mine.
Now, when you understand that everything in your life is a company car—your spouse, your kids, your job, your 401k; everything—it doesn’t belong to you; it’s God’s. He just lets you drive it; He lets you use it. Then, you don’t have to worry. It’s kind of like losing your hair—once it’s all lost—and once you give everything over to the Lord, then, you don’t have to worry about it anymore; that’s His worry, and He’s responsible to take care of His children.
Michelle: What a great reminder from Jeff Schreve that everything belongs, ultimately, to God; it isn’t ours. And if it belongs to God, that means that it’s His responsibility to handle it. Our fear/our worries are not going to change anything. God is in control.
And you know, God’s still in control, even with things like COVID-19. There is a lot of fear/a lot of scare going around right now. But we need to pull back and remember, “God’s still in control.”
The other day, I talked with pastor and blogger, Tim Challies. He gave some great advice on how we should avoid over-reacting during this trying time. Here’s Tim.
Tim: I think the church’s role is to express love, primarily to one another. The primary reach of the love of a Christian is to other Christians, so Christians should be prepared to love one another and then to love others.
One easy measure is to say, “If I am feeling, at all ill, I’m just not going to go to church.” “Why is that?” “Because there are elderly people in the church. Whatever we do know about the virus, we know they of all people are more susceptible to it.” I don’t want to think, “Well, I’m young and healthy, it won’t really bother me,” and then go and spread it to other people. Out of love for them, I may not go out; or out of love for others, I may not go to the store and stockpile/just cram my basement full of food. I might get enough to love my family/care for them—but hoarding and stockpiling—maybe, that’s not loving to others.
I think one of the ways you can look outward now is, maybe, to get in touch with neighbors—especially perhaps elderly neighbors—and just offer your help. I think if Christians just think, “How can I love others in my local church and in my community?”—it’s a good place to begin.
Michelle: How can we be having conversations with our children during this time about how we are to love others?
Tim: I think kids are scared of the situation. Children tend not to do very well with uncertainty of the best of times. Then, when mom and dad are a little rattled, they can be a little rattled. I think we can acknowledge their fears and then reassure them that God knows all things, that this virus is not a surprise to Him, and that He’s up to something in it.
And then, I think just modeling God’s love to others. God loved us, at great expense to Himself; so we can be willing to reach out to others, even at the expense of ourselves. Our temptation, as Westernized 21st century Christians, is to look to government and say: “Government, help us,” “Government, save us.” God institutes government for His own good purposes, and they will offer help to us; but ultimately, I think it is a call for us to express our lives upon God and to trust in Him as the ultimate One, who is going to bring an end to this eventually.
Michelle: True. How do we do that?—how do we rely on God?
Tim: Well, we go to God’s Word and we see what is true about God. In times like this, we can focus on what is true about a virus, what is true about the world out there, what is true about the situation out there; but all those things will change.
The one thing we have that is true and fixed, and always unchanging, is God Himself. He is always our starting point. Whatever else is true, let’s focus, at least, the first bit of our attention on what is true of God: God loves us; God cares for us; God will never leave us nor forsake us; we’re secure in Christ; we have comfort in life and death. We can go on and on and list all those great promises of God; so whatever—coronavirus, or earthquakes, or famine—whatever else is true there, we first fix ourselves in what is true about God and then what’s true of us in Christ: “What is true of us, who have put our faith in Him and received His forgiveness?” He is the thing that is fixed and unwavering when everything else seems uncertain.
Michelle: A great biblical response from Tim Challies concerning COVID-19.
You know, the unknown sometimes just weighs us down, but we don’t need to fear this. You know, our kids are watching our reactions. They are watching, and they are learning; so ask yourself, “What are you teaching them?”
You know, when Jesus was talking about worry, He also said, “Look at the birds of the air. They do not sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” He finishes this thought by saying: “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” So give your worries over to Him. Bring your cares and your fears to Him, because Jesus longs for us to fully trust Him.
Tim Challies has a lot of information, pointing us to a biblical response to COVID-19. We have links at our website, FamilyLifeThisWeek.com.
Well, one thing I am not going to worry about is next week’s program. Do you remember what Jeff Schreve said a little earlier about “everything belongs to God”? That includes your children, and it’s His responsibility to take care of them. Next week, we’re going to talk to Jeff and Debbie’s daughter, Sarah, as she went through a potentially life-altering health scare—talk about something to worry about! Oh, wait! We’re not supposed to worry; are we? We’re going to talk about that next week. I hope you can join us for that.
Thanks for listening! I want to thank the president of FamilyLife®, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. A big “Thank you!” to our engineer today, Keith Lynch, who doesn’t worry at all. Thanks to our producer, Marques Holt, who might worry a little bit, but probably not, and to Justin Adams, who is our mastering engineer. I know he doesn’t worry, and to Megan Martin, our production coordinator. Do you worry at all, Megan? “None; absolutely none.” She has learned from today’s program.
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