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Just to be fair, you should know I changed today’s topic at the last minute. Don’t worry, though – if you were looking forward to learning new ways to apply truth to your children’s lives, I do plan to discuss that next time.
Today, though I want to insert a short study designed to give us hope in our parenting.
Episode 37 was called “Parenting a Terrorist.” If you haven’t heard that one, I strongly suggest you give it a listen.
As you’ll remember, I mentioned that we should never fear terrorists and we should never negotiate with terrorists.
I also discussed the other type of fearful parenting where they experience anxiety over the dangerous direction their children are going.
And I acknowledged that though all of our children have engaged in terror tactics of one level or another, undoubtedly there were people listening who had experienced degrees of terrorism that most of us – Lord willing – will never encounter including violence, suicide threats, and running away.
Well, that discussion prompted one of our listeners to write an email. This individual has experienced such things in his home, and wanted to ask a soul-searching question:
“Would you still not have fear in the face of a child attempting to run away five times? Does ‘no fear’ mean that I just let him go and not try to find him?”
First, let me say that my heart goes out to every parent who’s experienced an attempted runaway. I’ve been in that situation many times with the boys in my home. And for those whose children have successfully run away, I pray that in some small way today’s episode will point you to the comfort that only God can give.
But before I continue, I need to encourage those of you whose children have not engaged in terrorism to this level, to please continue with us. At one point or another your flesh, the world, or demonic forces are going to tempt you to fear something in your family. You may be tempted to fear your children or your spouse. Perhaps it will happen on your baby’s first day at school. Maybe it will occur in the face of a viral outbreak. Maybe you’ll be tempted to panic during their first major surgery, their first time behind the wheel, or their first “F” in college.
Regardless of who you and your children are, Satan loves to persuade us to fear. I would argue that it’s the greatest weapon he has in his arsenal.
So, let’s look at some peace-infused, hope-giving Truth. Some of you may need to hear this today, others of you will need it in the near future, and some of you may need to share it with another parent when God causes your paths to cross.
Okay, so let’s start with a biblical understanding of fear.
Due to the brevity of this study, we’re going to isolate our discussion to biblical uses of the English word “fear” that deal with being afraid as we understand it. This means we’re not going to discuss the concept or reverential awe that all people are commanded to have for God.
Fear is defined as “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.”
In the example provided by our fellow listener, our junior higher runs away. We have no idea where he is, what he’s doing, or who he’s with. He’s already doing something dangerous; how do we know he’s not hurt? When will he come back? Is he coming back? If he doesn’t come back, what should I do?
First, it’s important to realize that the adrenaline flowing through your system at this point, isn’t fear. It’s a God-ordained chemical response designed to help you handle the additional stress. We’ve talked about this a lot in episodes 32 and 33. Unfortunately, we’ve become accustom to interpreting the adrenaline sensation as “fear.”
It’s not. It’s adrenaline.
Fear is an emotional response. It may be in response to the adrenaline or the situation itself or the concerns we have about the unknowns in the situation.
My infant has a high fever. Adrenaline kicks in to help me deal with the issue with a clear mind and limber body.
- I could react inappropriately to tingling in my chest and quivering of my arms and allow the sensation of extra adrenaline to freak me out.
- I could allow the fact that my child has a high fever to freak me out because I believe that having a high fever is dangerous.
- I could even dwell on the possible outcomes of my child’s high fever and get freaked out because of what might happen if the fever gets worse.
To better illustrate this point, I want to take you to I Kings 18.
This is the famous passage about the prophet Elijah and his victory over the prophets of Baal. You remember, the nation of Israel has come to Mount Carmel to witness the showdown between Elijah’s God and Baal.
Baal’s altar and sacrifice were prepared, the priests prayed and wept and cut themselves, but nothing happened. Then Elijah prepares his altar and sacrifice. And then, unlike the prophets of Baal, Elijah does everything humanly possible to make it impossible for his sacrifice to burn.
Then he offers one simple prayer and God miraculously incinerates the entire things – sacrifice, stones, and all.
The people acknowledge Yahweh as the one true God, the prophets of Baal are executed, and God crowns the day by breaking His three-year drought with a deluge.
That’s the story we all know and love. And we should. It’s an wonderful display of our amazing God.
But, do you know what happens next?
You see, there was a queen of the land and her name was Jezebel. She was a wicked, vindictive woman who worshipped the wicked, vindictive idol called Baal. So, when Elijah publicly humiliates the non-god, she flies into a rage and – in chapter 19 of I Kings – threatens to kill Elijah.
Then what happens?
Well, verses 3-4 of I Kings 19 says,
“Then [Elijah] was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.’ And he lay down and slept under a broom tree.”
How could a man who just experienced the greatest miracle of his life – the man who was himself the mouthpiece of the God of fire and rain – the man whom God had given the power to perform signs himself – how could he run like a coward because someone threatened to kill him?
There are two answers. And the same two things that drove fear and depression into the heart of Elijah tempt us to fear as well.
Elijah was afraid because he forgot who God was.
Logic would dictate that the God who had performed impossible miracles and allowed him to personally execute over 500 false prophets could protect him from an angry woman.
It doesn’t make any sense to fear Jezebel when you have God at your back. The only way someone could fear a puny human or a pathetic little speed bump in life is if they forget the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present, all-holy, all-loving God of the universe Who’s promised His divine care and protection for all His children.
That’s the only way.
Of course, Elijah has his reasons to somehow validate his fear and cowardice. Don’t we always have reasons to support our Failure Philosophies?
Throughout the rest of the passage Elijah says he just wants to die, but of course he’s being completely illogical. If he really wanted to die, there was a woman in Israel more than happy to oblige him. He didn’t want to die – that’s why he spent days running away. But it sounds good to say such things when we’re giving in to fear. It somehow legitimizes our plight to bemoan our lives.
But later, Elijah shows even more unreasonableness when he tells God, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”
You see, his lament was a tragic mix of truth and lies. And that leads me to my second observation.
2. Elijah was afraid because he believed lies.
Yes, Elijah had been jealous of the Lord. But our good deeds never outweigh our bad! It doesn’t matter how much good you’ve done in the past, don’t use it to cover up the bad you’re doing right now.
When our fear in parenting has driven us to neglect, we somehow justify it all by remember the days we parenting well.
It was also partially true that Israel had forsaken God’s covenant, thrown down His altar, and killed His prophets. But only partially. God was about to remind Elijah just how many followers he had in Israel.
We justify our fear when we lie to ourselves about our children. We say things like, “Every time I talk to my son, he refuses to listen to me.”
No doubt, he has refused your counsel in the past, but “every time”? I don’t buy it. Your superlatives are lying to you.
And lastly we see Elijah spouting a total lie. He says, “And I, even I only, am left.” Again, this isn’t true. But it sounds good doesn’t it?
If you find yourself over using the word “I,” take heed. There may be less truth to your words than you’d like to admit.
So, why was Elijah afraid? Was he afraid because the situation was legitimately dangerous? Was he afraid because of of the pain he may incur due to Jezebel’s threat?
Not at all. You see, Merriam-Webster absolutely nailed it when they said . . .
Fear is “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.”
Elijah believed a lie because he forgot the Truth about God.
And you know what brought Elijah out of his fear and made him productive again? I encourage you to read the passage. I Kings 18-19 is so exciting. It has the highs, it has the lows. It shows God’s awesomeness and man’s fragility at every turn!
But I will share this: God got Elijah back to a place of usefulness and courage by reminding him who God is, reminding him of the Truth of the situation, and re-tasking Elijah with a beneficial mission.
God showed Elijah His power by tearing the mountains apart and setting them ablaze. But He also showed His love and intimacy in the still, small voice.
He corrected Elijah’s lie by telling him that there were seven thousand God-followers in Israel.
And He gave Elijah three tasks to fulfill for God in God’s power.
So, pick a fear. Has your child run away? Did he break his arm? Has he gotten involved with a bad group of friends? Did you daughter just tell you she’s gay? Are your three-year-olds daily tantrums making you wonder what kind of teenager she’ll be? Is your highschooler failing all their classes? Is your baby sick? Did you son threaten to kill himself?
In these situation there are only four Christ-honoring things you can do.
- Remember Who God is. God is in control. God loves you and your kids. God knows what’s best. He’s a promise-making God. He’s all-powerful.
- Believe His Truth. The Bible tells us how we can have peace in the storm. It promises good when everything looks bad. It lays out exactly what we need to do through prayer and action and word to have victory in parenting.
- Work for Him. If your underage child has run away, by all means, look for him. Call the police, call his friends, search his favorite haunts. Don’t give up. But . . .
- Have Peace. Don’t give in to fear. Fear is the fruit of forgetfulness and folly.
Yes, God will give you the adrenaline you need to attack the problem. It’s designed to make your mind sharper so you can devise a plan, but also so that you can remember His promises. It’s given to you so that you can accomplish His will for your life . . . not so you can cower in a corner of the room or a corner of your mind.
As you rush your child to the hospital, or you enter that drug-den to reclaim her, as you talk to that other parent on the phone or conference with his teacher . . . use that adrenaline response to do it to God’s glory in His strength with His peace.
Fear is not an option.
I earnestly encourage you to open our episode notes as soon as you can. I’ve linked it in the description to make it easy for you to find. You won’t see any of my thoughts or opinions there today. The whole PDF is filled with verses having to do with our fear and God’s awesomeness. I strongly encourage you to download it. It’s a free PDF. Our episode notes are always free. We want them to be a blessing to you. So, get those notes, put them on your phone, print them out, do whatever, but definitely read them. Immerse yourself in truth about God. It’s the only way to conquer fear.
And if this topic resonated with you, you’ll be happy to hear that I plan to do a multi-part study on “Parenting at Peace.” This concept has revolutionized my life, and I can’t wait to share it with you.
My plan for the next episode is to discuss what I planned to discuss today. We’re going to look at some solid ways to effectively apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Application is the hardest part of teaching, but if we can’t help our children see how God’s Word comes to bear on their existence today, all we’re doing is lecturing.
If you haven’t liked us on on Facebook or followed me on Twitter @AMBrewster, I would heartily encourage you to do so. Both of those sites are filled with tools for life and parenting.
And share today’s episode on your favorite social media outlets. There are a lot of fearful parents out there who need to reminded who our God is.
And just like the listener who inspired today’s episode, please don’t hesitate to contact us at counselor@EvermindMinistries.com.
And remember – God is awesome. Fear is not an option.