The world today has a pretty set opinion regarding anxiety: Expect it. There's danger all around, and as Mother Gothel sings in Tangled, "It's a scary world out there!"
Over the past 15 years, the world has changed in huge ways through the internet. Today, we have immediate access to more parenting tools, knowledge and wisdom than ever before. But has that reduced our anxiety? Absolutely not! It's almost the opposite of what conventional wisdom might say: the more helpful information and aiding technologies we have, the more fearful and anxious we're becoming! And with so many opinions at our fingertips, parenting only becomes a more daunting and scary task. Take, for instance, this quote from a recent article for The Ringer:
Pregnant women can use Belly Armor to shield their unborn babies from laptop radiation. There is an array of belts meant to be strapped to bellies that play music. You can even perform at-home ultrasounds. Technology has transformed parenting from a homespun or Dr. Spock–guided process into a data collection service that rivals CIA practices... The result is that modern parenting, like all things tech-connected, is becoming more paranoid by the day.
Anxiety and parenting go hand in hand these days.
And yet God commands us, "Do not worry," "do not be anxious," and "fear not." These commands fly in the face of the culture, but tell a complete story: at the heart of the parent needs to be a rock solid anchor of peace.
But how do we get there? What does this peace look like? And why does it seem that I can be doing so much, learning so much and trusting so much, but still find nothing but anxiety? The truth is that there are two components of this God-given peace that need to be present in equal balance in the heart of the parent - and they both need to fuel one another. When either piece falls out of balance, we fall into anxiety.
Let me state that again: if we are to have peace as parents, there are two components that need equal weight in our hearts. Neither one without the other will provide safe peace. We need them both: a trust in God's sovereignty, and wisdom.
Ultimately, God's sovereignty is the source of peace - the unyielding reality that God is in control of every moment, aspect and truth in this world. As has been said before, there is nothing that comes our way - or our children's way - that has not first passed through the hands of our powerful and almighty God.
Philippians 4:6 is the poster-verse for this concept: we don't give into anxiety or fear but we rather bring our requests, fears and concerns to God. And as we do, we're given the "peace of God that will guard" our hearts and minds.
Our God is sovereign over every moment, aspect and detail of your children and parenting. The influences they're receiving, the food they're eating, the schooling they're getting - God is sovereign over every part. That comment that they heard last week at school? God is sovereign there too! This is a reality that guards our hearts and leads to peace.
But there's a second component we need to couple with that deep knowledge of God's sovereignty: wisdom. It's not enough to merely know God's sovereignty, because trust without wisdom is not blind and honorable faith: it's foolishness. Let me explain.
When we talk of wisdom, the book of Proverbs jumps quickly to mind. In chapters 7-9, Wisdom and Folly are personified as women, with Folly actively trying to seduce a young man to come into her house as an adulterer. She's smooth, persuasive and alluring.
Imagine if this man follows Folly, all the while thinking, "This doesn't seem like something I should do... but God is sovereign and I'm going to trust him to keep me safe." Is he going to be kept on the right path? Is his life going to be honoring to God? Absolutely not. He's a fool! He foolishly rested in God's sovereignty without wisdom.
And yet this is what we do often with our children: "This doesn't seem wise, but God wouldn't let anything bad happen." We choose to use God's sovereignty as an eraser for God's wisdom - but ignoring the clear marks of his wisdom leads us into foolishness. That comment that our children did overhear? Yes, God is sovereign in that, but wisdom might also dictate that if we continue to hear these things or face these situations, an intentional change might need to be made.
Peace is found in a balance in our hearts between a rock-solid knowledge of God's sovereignty and a faithful pursuit of wisdom. When we over-emphasize one, or outright ignore the other, we fall into anxiety or complacency.
The only place to find this balance is in healthy, life-giving community. Our tendency is always to under-emphasize one aspect over the other. But, in community, friends and family can call out our foolishness or our lack of trust and graciously point our hearts back to the path that leads to peace. Eagerly search for these communities, and talk to your friends about these two twin sources of peace.
Our hearts as parents need to be grounded in peace. And God will be faithful to lead us there, as we follow, trust and listen to Him.
Heavenly Father, I'm so in awe that you would promise peace. When I look around at this world - and especially when I consider my children being raised in such a world - it's so easy for my heart to fall into fear and anxiety. And yet you promise that I have a path to peace! Thank you!
God, I'm tempted to either ignore wisdom in my parenting or to forget your faithfulness and sovereignty. Please help me to balance both in my heart. Surround me with men and women who will point my heart back to a balance - who will help me to see life as it truly is. Help me to make wise, well-informed decision for my children, and then to faithfully trust that you will carry them.
You've promised that what you began, you will be faithful to complete. You were the one who placed me on this parenting journey, and I trust that you are faithful to bring it to completion.
- Are you more tempted to under-emphasize God's faithfulness or wisdom?
- When were you most anxious in the last few months? Was that anxiety more related to wisdom or God's faithfulness?
- How do you guard your heart against under-emphasizing wisdom or trust in your parenting journey?
- Who do you have around you who can call you out when you're struggling in this balance?
- Proverbs 7-9: Read the account of the young man who needs to pursue wisdom.
- I Kings 10-11: King Solomon was the wisest man in the land, and yet he unwisely surrounded himself with temptations. They were his downfall.
- Matthew 6: Jesus speaks strongly of God's sovereignty in every situation. But he strongly cautions against abandoning wisdom as well.