Do parents ever stop worrying about their children? Grace Fox, a mother of three, exposes the fears that top a mother’s worry list and tells how prayer can move a parent from fear to freedom.
Do parents ever stop worrying about their children? Grace Fox, a mother of three, exposes the fears that top a mother’s worry list and tells how prayer can move a parent from fear to freedom.
Mom 1: The doctor said everything is fine, but I keep thinking that something is going to go wrong with my pregnancy or my delivery or that something is going to be wrong with the baby when he gets here.
Mom 2: You know, I want to be a good mom, but what if I drop my newborn? Every time I put her down for a nap, I think, “I need to stay in here while she sleeps.” Or I find myself listening to the nursery monitor to see if I can hear her breathing. I feel like I’m going crazy.
Bob: Have you ever found yourself as a parent anxious about your children, about their safety, about what’s going on in their lives?
Mom 3: Well, I usually don’t even let them play next door, because I’m worried that they’re going to pig out on junk food. In fact, I didn’t let my kids go to a friend’s birthday party because I knew that it would be one giant sugar fest.
Mom 4: No, sleepovers are absolutely out of the question.
Mom 5: Sleepover? Try sending your teenager on a mission’s trip for a week. I thought I’d have a heart attack.
Child: Bye, Mom. I’m going over to Betsy’s.
Mom 6: Okay. I know she’s been driving for a year and she hasn’t had any problems, but I still worry every time she leaves the house to go somewhere that something bad is going to happen.
Mom 7: You know, Melissa’s friends seem like they’re good kids, but what if they’re really not?
Mom 8: I feel like I’m a bad mother. I just know my kids are going to resent me because I have to work and I can’t be home with them all day.
Mom 9: Well now that he’s gone, you know, I just . . . I worry about him. So I make him call me every day from college just to let me know he’s okay.
Bob: The right kind of praying for your children can help alleviate some of those fears. At least that’s what Grace Fox learned as she met with a group of moms regularly to pray for her kids.
Grace: That changed my life. I think part of that was the method of praying is praying God’s Word, but we always begin that time with praise. We didn’t sit there and discuss our concerns and requests for twenty-five minutes and then say, “Oh my goodness. We have only five minutes left; we’ve got to quickly pray.” But we got together for an hour a week and we prayed during that hour, and we always began with praise.
So it was taking Scripture and turning it into praise and turning it back to God because that, I found, guarded our thoughts where they needed to be rather than on all of our concerns for all of our kids collectively as a group of moms there. It was huge; the list of prayer requests was huge. But it was saying, “You know what, we’re concerned but we know that God is bigger.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, December 2nd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Grace Fox joins us today to help us understand how we move from fear to freedom as parents.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. When you think about the issue of fear, on a scale of one to ten, and maybe that’s not a fair number to give it, but just in terms of the impact that has in most families, do you think fear is a big issue?
Dennis: I do. I think we bring it into a marriage and our family as we get married. I think we as creatures are horribly fearful people. There’s a reason why there are 365 “fear not’s” in the Bible, one for every day. I think God recognized that – well, there was a little phrase that people used to use when I was a kid growing up – “You’re a scaredy cat.”
Bob: “Fraidy cat.” Yes, I remember.
Dennis: Scaredy cat or fraidy cat. I think it’s because it’s a part of our DNA. There are all kinds of passages in the Bible. Joshua was going to go into the land and God spoke to him and told him “Fear not” three times. “Be courageous; fear not, for I am with you.”
We have a guest with us who has done a little research on this subject, both biblically and sociologically. I want to get to that in a minute. Grace Fox joins us on FamilyLife Today. Grace, as a Canadian, welcome to America, to our international broadcast. We’re heard across the border, and we’re glad you’re here, aye?
Grace: Aye. Thank you so much, I appreciate that. You’re making me feel right at home.
Dennis: She and her husband, Gene, have been married since 1982, they have three children, and they serve as the National Co-Directors of International Messengers Canada, which is a missionary sending unit taking people on short-term trips to Eastern Europe.
Grace: Right. Actually it started in the United States. It’s about 30 years old there, so we have several hundred volunteers that join us every summer on short-term mission trips in Eastern Europe. We launched the Canadian branch three years ago.
Dennis: Great. She’s written a book called Moving From Fear to Freedom and I mentioned that you did some research. You actually did a study about fear.
Grace: Right. At women’s retreats and conferences where I spoke. I invited women to just share their thoughts with me on fear issues because I know what I struggled with and I wondered if I was unique to that or if other women related. So about 350 women responded, ages 19 to 80, and I was amazed at some of the answers they gave me on their sheets.
Bob: Amazed because . . .
Grace: Amazed because it showed me how deep fear really ran.
Dennis: So back to Bob’s question, you would agree that we as human beings are scairdy cats?
Grace: Absolutely. I think that sometimes we don’t even recognize it for what it is. When I speak at women’s retreats sometimes I have women who come to me when it is done and they will say, “When I heard what the theme of this retreat was going to be I thought that it didn’t apply to me, so I almost didn’t come, but I did just because I could spend the weekend with my friends. But, oh my goodness, now I realize why I’ve been stuck as I’ve been because I didn’t realize that the root of some of my attitudes and behaviors was based in fear.
Dennis: So what were some of the fears women expressed?
Grace: There were fears like the fear for my child’s well-being. Actually there were categories, so I’ll get to the categories in a minute, but some of the specific fears were like this: “I had an affair and nobody else knows, nobody, not even my best friend and certainly not my husband, and I’m deathly afraid he’s going to find out, or that anybody will find out, and then what’s going to happen? What will they think of me?”
One woman said, “For a little while we lived in an apartment building and I was always afraid that my baby would fall off our 12th floor balcony.”
Another lady said, “My mother died when I was just a girl, and I’ve always been afraid that I’m not going to be able to raise my kids well without her advice there for me.”
The list just went on and on. Military moms – “I’m afraid for my kids’ safety on the field.”
Dennis: Yes. And some of the others you list are fear about the future, fear of getting old . . .
Dennis: Fear of losing material possessions, and of really being loved.
Grace: Those are how they fell into categories. Literally I took those sheets home, put them into file folders and when I figured that I had all the answers I was going to get I just started laying them out on the living room floor, and they fell into piles. So, you know, categories, like the fear for our kids’ well-being, the fear of the unknown future, the fear of the storms of life, the fear of growing old and all of those related issues, the fear of rejection, the fear of inadequacy. That’s how their answers fell into place.
Bob: When you stacked those out on the living room floor, were there some stacks that were much taller than others?
Grace: Yes. The number one fear with this demographic was the fear for our children’s well-being, and it was twice what the next fear was.
Grace: That one surprised me. I had no idea that that was . . . But one woman even said, “I’m not even a mother yet and I’m afraid for my kids’ well-being.”
Dennis: So what are they expressing in that? Is that financial, spiritual?
Grace: Well, I think health is a biggie with moms and kids, and safety is another one – kids getting involved with drugs, making wrong decisions, getting involved with the wrong crowd.
Bob: You know, just last night we were out at an event together, Mary Ann and me, and our boys were there, too. Our youngest son is 16 and he was with his 22-year-old brother, and they were in a different car. They were coming after us, later than us coming home. We got home and Mary Ann said, “I’m going to go up to bed, but wake me when the boys get home,” and I said, “Why?” and she said, “Just so I know they’re home.” I’m thinking, “They’re 16 and 22.” I said, “What do you think might happen?” She said, “They could drive off the road, they could be in an accident.” She just started listing all of these things.
Dennis: Yes. The problem is moms like Mary Ann, near the end of the child-rearing years have seen too much of life and we know what the possibilities are.
Bob: I don’t want to be naïve. I know those things can happen, but I didn’t get home last night and think, “I’m real worried about the boys getting home.” Do you think women wrestle more with this protection of children issue than men?
Grace: Absolutely. It’s the whole nurturing thing that we’re born with. I call it the “umbilical effect.” Call it that if you want, but when I look at how my husband and I were different with our children, my husband would be wrestling on the floor with the kids or throwing them in the air. I watch how he plays with our grandbabies now, and they’re laughing as he kind of flips them through the air, and they’re going, “This is fun!”
I’m just kind of holding my breath and waiting for one of them to crack their head. I look at it a whole different way. Moms just are more prone to scoop those children up and hold them close and keep them safe, and the dads are playing and saying, “Yea, it’s okay, it’s okay.”
Dennis: So you have a mom who is a nurturer. She wants to care for her kids and yet she is concerned about their well-being, both in the near term and the long term. What’s the antidote? How do you coach her to handle her fears?
Grace: I think one of the biggest things that impacted me as the mom of three young kids – well, two things actually – one was learning to pray Scripture, because it’s so easy for us as moms or dads or whoever to pray for our kids and just say, “God bless them. Keep them safe today, please” and send them off like that. But there’s so much more we could be praying into their character or praying that God would give them wisdom.
One of the prayers that I’ve prayed for my kids for years as they were growing up is that God would put within their hearts the fear of the Lord, because that’s the beginning of wisdom. I’m thinking that if they could grow up with that fear of the Lord in their hearts and in their heads, then a lot of these things that I could worry about or fear as a mom would be sidestepped.
Dennis: One of the most important resources I think FamilyLife has ever created in our history was a little book a number of years ago that is called, While They Were Sleeping. It’s a book about how to pray for your children by character topics.
Bob: Specific character qualities. There are a dozen of them and it’s a week-long prayer guide so one week you’re praying for your children to have integrity and honesty and the next week you’re praying for them to have another character quality. A lot of parents have trusted that and they get to the end of the book and they just start praying over at the beginning again and just keep praying these things for the lives of their children.
Grace: Well, you know you’re praying according to God’s will when you’re praying his Word within the context that it’s written. If we’re praying that our children will grow wise and that they will seek after wisdom as for hidden treasure, like it says in Proverbs 2, then we know we are praying what God wants for our kids, right? And so we can pray in confidence believing that he’s on our side with that. And that doesn’t mean that bad things aren’t going to happen.
We live in a world where bad things happen, and yet again we go back to God’s Word and we pray that he will be able to take even those bad things and bring beauty from ashes and turn those things into something good. It’s so important to be able to know God’s Word and apply it in that context of raising your children.
Bob: Grace, Mary Ann and I have laughed about this. If she’s fifteen minutes late somewhere I’m thinking “She must be running late.” If I’m fifteen minutes late somewhere, she’s thinking “He must have been in a wreck.”
Bob: There is something in this nurturing heart of a women, this need for safety, security, nurture and protection, that can be – and I don’t want to sound harsh, here – but it can be idolatrous or sinful. A woman can be paralyzed by an irrational fear, can’t she?
Grace: Yes, and it can definitely lead to, I think, disobedience. You know, I almost hate to say that, but it’s true.
Dennis: In what way?
Grace: I’m thinking – I’ve talked to some women who have heard – my kids have all been on short-term missions trips. My son left right after high school; he went out with Operation Mobilization for three years aboard the Logos II and traveled the world, doing ministry that way. I’ve heard other women say, “You let your kids do that?” I said, “Yeah.” I said, “It hurt. It was hard, I was worried for them, but I had to give them up because they’re only mine for loan. They’re not mine for keeps. I need to encourage them to pursue the purpose that God has for their lives.”
But a woman who is just engulfed with a fear for the child’s well-being is not going to want to let that child go, and so you might have a mom like some of these women I’ve talked to who will say, “I could never let my kid do that. That would just kill me to let them go.” I’m thinking “But you don’t want to be depriving them of the joy of walking in what God has called them to do. You just don’t want to do that.”
Dennis: Bob had a daughter who went to Vietnam, and I watched Bob process it. He was kind of swallowing about that young lady.
Bob: She’s twenty-two years and going to be halfway around the world, and we’re going to miss her and there’s a little bit of uncertainty about what life in Vietnam is going to be like and where is she going to go to church and those kind of things.
Dennis: I listened to Bob process all of that, and then my daughter, our youngest daughter, went to China to an orphanage and lived in a room where there were no screens and there were mosquitoes and fleas and the conditions were not five-star hotel conditions, let’s say, and I worried about her.
But I think both Mary Ann and Barbara probably absorbed those periods of time different than how Bob and I did as men. I do think women – my mom was like this. She was a worrier, and I used to say to her, “Mom, I’m an adult. I’m a man. Don’t worry.” But it was like telling her not to care. She cared, and I think within a woman and within her bent is a desire to want to make sure her little chicks get all the way to maturity and keep on going being safe.
Bob: So the question is, when does normal godly care for a child and for their safety cross the line and become unhealthy, sinful, preoccupation or fear?
Grace: I think that’s when a mom starts hindering her kids from becoming what God has created them to be, when a Mom cannot really encourage them to pursue what he wants them to be doing.
I know a young woman who has really wanted to go with us to Romania and do some work among young adults who have HIV/AIDs. Oh, she wanted to go. I’ve met with her for coffee to discuss it, and I know that’s her heart. Her parents – and she’s in University, a junior in University now – but her parents have just told her flat out, “Under no condition are you going.”
I’m just broken for her, because I see this is a young woman who sounds like she has God’s handprint all over her life for missions, but her parents are saying, “No.” For whatever reason, if it’s their fear for their daughter’s well-being, then somebody’s going to lose out in the end.
Bob: So what’s the antidote here, for a mom who really cares about her kids, their safety, their protection? She doesn’t want to be unhealthy in that, but she wakes up on a morning and she finds herself worried about her kids, and are they safe today, and what’s going on? How does she deal with that?
Dennis: Let’s say she’s praying. She’s already done what you’ve said; she’s taking that child to God in prayer daily, and yet she still can’t get peace, peace and confidence as she moves forward.
Grace: A couple of other things – I would say get together with some other moms to pray for their kids. That changed my life. I got involved with the Moms in Touch group when we lived in the states for several years, and that changed my life. I think part of that was the method of praying is praying God’s Word, but we always began that time with praise. We didn’t sit there and discuss our concerns and requests for twenty-five minutes and then say, “Oh my goodness. We only have five minutes left; we’ve got to quickly pray.” But we got together for an hour a week and we prayed during that hour, and we always began with praise.
So it was taking Scripture and turning it into praise and turning it back to God because that, I found, guarded our thoughts where they needed to be rather than on all of our concerns for all of our kids collectively as a group of moms there. And it was huge; the list of prayer requests was huge. But it was saying, “You know what, we’re concerned but we know God is bigger.”
And so, little by little, over time, over years of meeting on a weekly basis, our thoughts were changed, and so our focus was changed, rather from these huge concerns for our kids to who God is and how big he is. I really think the secret is in knowing God.
Dennis: I really agree, and I think that’s one of the problems in our lives. We don’t believe the truth about God and we need to read good books as well as the Bible, obviously, but good books about the character of God.
I think of Randy Alcorn’s new book If God is Good. . . , just reminding us of the goodness of God. I think of A.W. Tozer’s book, Knowledge of the Holy, just a great reminder of who God is and that he’s God and we are not.
Dennis: Now, there is one side of fear that we haven’t talked about here that I want you to just touch on briefly, and that’s when a child seems to be fearful. I remember back when September 11, 2001 occurred and America had been attacked. Children absorbed that fear in various ways in families. I was on talk shows talking about how to help your children process that fear.
Children experience fear and they need adults to guide them in knowing how to process it. Coach a mom and a dad, or for that matter, grandparents in how to help a child do that.
Grace: One thing not to do would be to say to a child, “Oh that’s silly. You shouldn’t feel that way,” because the truth is they do feel that way and we need to acknowledge that. But to be able to say, “I’m hearing what you’re saying. Let’s talk about that some more,” and then try to encourage them to engage in conversation more to try to understand what the root of it is. But then to, I would say, pray with them, to just sit down with them, put your arm around them, spend time with them and never, ever brush off those feelings that they’re having.
Bob: When our kids were little we had music cassettes or CDs that were Scripture put to song, and one of them – and I don’t remember what the verse in Psalms is, but it’s the verse that says, “When I am afraid . . . “
Grace: “. . . I will trust in You.”
Child with Music: From Psalm 56 verses 3 and 4:
When I am afraid I will trust in You
I will trust in You
I will trust in You.
When I am afraid I will trust in You,
In God whose Word I praise . . .
Bob: We used to sing that at our house all the time.
Child with Music:
When I am afraid I will trust in You (Bob joins in)
I will trust in You, I will trust in You.
Bob: You’ve been there, haven’t you?
Grace: I sang it to my granddaughter about two weeks ago. We had the same tape.
Dennis: We kind of laugh about that, but those catchy little tunes can catch in the soul of a child. . .
Dennis: . . . and can really help them know how to direct their fears into prayer.
Dennis: In your book – in fact, I’m going to ask you for permission to put this on our website – but you have four things here about “How can I help my child to deal with fear?” I’d like to list these on our website, but I’ll just give them to our listeners real quick.
Remind them of God’s faithfulness to them in the past. In other words, remind them of the stories of how God has provided for them in previous days.
Secondly, teach them to take their fears and to tell their fears to God. And then as we’ve mentioned here, praise him that he’s bigger than all their fears.
And then a third, memorize Scripture, which we’ve talked about.
Fourth, very important, and I think as a parent I get convicted about this, model an attitude of trust. Let them hear you express confidence in God and his ways. Make sure your countenance and body language reinforce the same message.
I remember back to 9/11 again, when America was attacked. I felt like the adults, the parents, and I felt it too, I felt like we panicked a bit. We were afraid. We’d never been attacked in our lifetimes as it happened. I think it took us a while to get some spiritual equilibrium to know how to do that fourth thing you talked about there, which is really to illustrate to our kids, model to our kids how we do trust in God.
Bob, another way of course we can model all this for our kids is to get great books like this and read them and process them with our spouse and be able to apply this in our lives.
Bob: I’m thinking of that list, and I’m thinking that works not just for kids; that works for grown-ups as well.
Dennis: That’s a good list.
Bob: As you said, we’ve got it on our FamilyLife Today website. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com and we’ve posted the list there. In addition, you can get a copy of the book Moving From Fear to Freedom by Grace Fox. This may be a book that you want to go through a chapter a day as you read through it, or maybe you’ll go through it with a group of women as you begin to tackle this issue in your life, so that fear does not become a spiritual stronghold that you have to deal with.
Again, the title of the book: Moving From Fear to Freedom: A Woman’s Guide to Peace in Every Situation. We have the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Order from us online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call toll-free 1-800-FL-TODAY, I-800-358-6329, that's 1-800 “F” as in Family, “L” as in Life, and then the word “TODAY.” When you get in touch with us we’ll let you know how you can get a copy of the book.
A quick reminder about the matching gift opportunity that we have going on during the month of December here at FamilyLife. We’re very excited about this, hoping that we will hear from many of our FamilyLife Today listeners during this month.
In fact, we probably need to hear from more listeners this month than we’ve ever heard from before, so we’re hoping that you’ll consider either going online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or calling us at 1-800-FL-TODAY and taking advantage of this matching gift. Every time you make a donation, whatever the donation amount is, it’s doubled dollar for dollar, and so we hope to hear from you.
Again the website, FamilyLifeToday.com, or call us toll-free 1-800-358-6329, and we appreciate whatever you can do. We hope you’ll pray for us this month; hope you’ll pray that we’ll be able to take full advantage of this matching gift opportunity.
We hope you’ll be back with us tomorrow. We’re going to continue talking about moving from fear to freedom with our guest, Grace Fox. I hope you can join us.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
Song: When I am afraid I will trust in you, In God whose word I praise.
Child: I trust you, Lord. I really do.
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Song—When I Am Afraid - Psalm 56:3 & 4
Artist: Steve Green (with some kids)
Album: Hide 'Em In Your Heart - Bible Memory Melodies, Vol. 1 (p) 2003 Sparrow Kids
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