Teaching Your Children to Trust God and not Fear
Thunder booms in the distance signaling an approaching storm. In Mississippi where we lived at the time, thunderstorms are a regular event. At night, they can be a spectacular display of heavenly fireworks. They are wonderful manifestations of God’s greatness and power. There is only one problem. We have a child that is afraid of the thunderstorms at night. A typical conversation on a night when the thunderstorm comes might go like this.
Karen: “Mommy . . . Mommy . . . Mommy!”
Me: As I get up, “I will go.”
Me: “Daddy is coming.” I make my way to Karen’s bedside as I had many times
before. “What’s wrong?”
Karen: “Daddy, I’m scared of the storm.”
Me: “Here, Daddy will lie down with you.”
This happened so many times that I lost count. I don’t even try to remember. After many weeks, I knew something had to change. I truly needed my rest. I was back in school working on a post-graduate degree and working whatever time there was left in a day. I tried a different things to keep her from fearing something that reflected God’s awesome power so beautifully, but nothing worked. I reasoned with her about God being in control. I talked about the beauty of the storm. The one sure way to calm her fear was to lie with her until the storm passed. I was the attending parent because we had a baby that Gini, my wife, attended during the night. When some other need arose other than nursing an infant, it was my duty. I enjoyed meeting these special needs of my children. It was during those times that I learned that I was never as important to anyone as I was when a child called my name in the middle of the night.
“Daddy, I’m scared”; is a statement heard by almost every father at one time or another. It can be a simple response to an unusual activity like riding an amusement ride for the first time. It can also be a deep, inner expression of fear your child has. Most of the time, we do not have any problem recognizing the difference. I guess the majority of fathers know how to handle the former. When your child is expressing a deep, real fear, it often takes time and effort to help the child overcome or learn to handle the fear adequately.
As I have faced these situations as a father, I have tried to respond with Scripture, a truth from the Bible, or a biblical principle. Through a well-known Bible teacher, I learned how to apply biblical truth or principle to many problems that we have faced as parents. You see, God placed inside each of us, children included, a curiosity about who He is. As parents, we need to learn to answer a child’s question about something larger than us, about something hard to understand, or something that causes fear based on God’s Word. While a child may not comprehend all that we are trying to say to them, something wonderful happens if we will but point the child to God.
What we have to remember is that this is one of the first spiritual lessons we can teach our children. In our rush through life, we need to “stop and smell the roses” occasionally. It takes time to help a child see the evidence of God in creation. Whether it is a storm, a butterfly, a flower, or anything else, we are responsible as parents to point to creation and teach our children that God created all these wonderful aspects of our world.
One of the most memorable occasions happened when our third daughter was between two and four. Karen was a delightful child and loved being out-of-doors. The only thing on earth that bothered her in the least was thunder and lightening. Now you can understand how and why a child might be afraid of a thunderstorm. They can be loud, awe-inspiring, powerful, and intimidating.
After some weeks or months, the Lord reminded me to tell Karen that the storm taught us something about the God we prayed to each night. He is mighty, powerful, majestic, wonderful, and overwhelming when He revealed Himself to us. Now I did not say all that to Karen at age two or three. What I did was take the truth found frequently in the Bible in such passages as:
- Psalm 24:8—Who is the King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, The LORD mighty in battle.
- Psalm 50:1—The Mighty One, God the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.
- Psalm 68:33—To Him who rides in the highest heavens, the ancient heavens; behold, He sends out His voice, His mighty voice.
- Psalm 93:4—Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, The LORD on high is mighty!
- Psalm 145:4, 12—One generation shall commend Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts. . . To make known to the children of man Your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of Your kingdom.
These last two verses give good insight to what I told Karen about the thunderstorms and God. We forget far too quickly that the most profound truth may be stated with such simplicity that even a child can receive and trust in it. I cannot tell you for sure that Karen knew that God, the invisible Creator, was behind the storm, but after several nights of reminding her, she found comfort in this truth.
Let’s look at what the Psalmist said in Psalm 145. The Lord is great, unsearchable, mighty in acts, and majestic in His kingdom. The God we serve and worship is powerful. His acts in creation reveal His invisible attributes, His eternal power, and His divine nature (Romans 1:20).
Now how do you tell a three year old about the power of God? Gini and I settled on two words to use with the children when the storms bothered them; Karen, as I stated, was most sensitive. When she would hear or see a storm coming looking out her window, I would go to her bedside and remind her that God made and controlled the storm. I don’t remember how many times I was up with Karen, but I remember that I began telling her that the storm taught us about God. Lightening would flash and thunder would boom, I would then say “mighty God; powerful God.” I would ask her to say this phrase with me. After a time, I could simply go to her and ask, “what does the storm teach us about God?” She would respond, “Mighty God, powerful God.”
As the weeks and months progressed, my time of comforting Karen grew shorter and shorter. It was much easier to give her the comfort she needed by pointing to the God we read about as a family and the God we prayed to as a family. I believe that the Lord gave me a simple answer to a real need in her life. Since that time, Karen has personally trusted Christ with her life and had other occasions to learn how he would meet her needs. Perhaps this short story from our family can help you meet your child’s needs when fear is the issue.
What about other fears—does the Word of God help us meet those needs as well? Your child may be afraid of the dark—who created the dark and can be found everywhere in it—Psalm 139:11-12. Perhaps your child fears certain animals that do not pose a threat—Genesis 1:24-25. Dreams may cause your child to awaken in the night and be afraid as they did Karen some ten years later.
We had moved to work in a new ministry. I was commuting to work so the family could be more settled in a rural location. Karen began to wake in the middle of the night and come to our room. She would stand beside the bed until both of us awoke. After several occasions like this, I told her to come get me, and I would lie down with her. Again, I might lie beside her for an hour or more. My rest seemed more important than ever. I queried her about her dreams, but she could never remember exactly what caused her to be afraid. She simply said she was having bad thoughts.
This was disconcerting. I thought if I could just get her to tell me what made her afraid, I could convince her that there was no reason to be afraid. As you might guess, that never worked. At this particular time, the loss of sleep seemed more trying than ever. I did not think that I could afford to keeping getting up for an hour or so in the middle of the night two or three times a week. Finally, it dawned on me that fear was often an attack from the enemy, Satan. I had experienced that before—a fear without definition, but overwhelming. The Holy Spirit had prompted me to recite Scripture when that happened to me. Karen and I planned a time for me to show her this principle.
I began be showing her the passage in 1 John 4:4, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them; for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” We read the passage together and marked it in her Bible. I told her she could read that verse every time the Devil wanted her to be afraid during the night. I suggested some other things to read like a Psalm or something from the Gospels. I told her to also pray 1 John 4:4 out loud to God or something else she read. A few nights later, Gini and I heard her turn the light on, get her Bible, and read a while. After several minutes, she turned the light off and went back to sleep. I would guess that not more than a month went by and Karen stopped waking at all during the night. A child acting in faith defeated the enemy.
There are at least two lessons for us as parents we can learn from these experiences. First, we are willing to trust God with great big, overwhelming issues, but He has an answer for every problem in life if we will listen to Him and seek Him first rather than last. Second, our children are more likely to trust and understand God’s ways than we often think.