Teachable Moments

Teach Your Children to Fight Their Fears With One Good Question

God is the author of all of our emotions, including fear.  Fear is a normal human emotion that tells us something in our life has put us at risk.  Our safety and security in some way is precarious and we may be in danger.  Fear conveys a message and requires us to stop and assess how we are and what is going on.

Fear comes in all shapes and sizes – from all out panic to being just a bit nervous.  It can be either intense to the point that you can’t function or annoyingly present but not a big deal.  

Children need help identifying what they are feeling, why they are feeling it, and then figuring out what to do with it.  So, we start by asking out children some basic questions about fear.

  1.  What does fear feel like?  Fear doesn’t feel the same to every child.  They don’t experience it the same and nor will they exhibit it the same way.  Find out from your child exactly what fear feels like to them.
  2. Why is fear present?  Fear comes from somewhere.  Figuring out why your child is fearful, no matter if it doesn’t make sense or seems silly to them, helps us help them determine how to deal with it
  3. Finally, what do I do with my fear?  Depending on what is causing the fear and how intense it is, we can figure out whether the child needs to talk something through, change some behavior or environment, or think about their thinking (meta-cognition).  No matter what, however – we always pray.

For this article, we’ll deal with how to combat those fears our children may have that weigh them down and get in the way of everyday life.  These are fears that don’t serve them well and need to be addressed head on. Never ignore this type of fear – it will only get bigger and more debilitating the longer we pretend it doesn’t exist or isn’t a problem.  

SO, what do we do with a fear that is causing problems in our everyday life?

Charles Spurgeon, a famous English Preacher in the 1800s, once preached,There are some fears which would die immediately if we dared to question them.”   He taught this as he was teaching on Isaiah 51:12-13 which itself has a question that gives the key to facing our fears.

Spurgeon says that for every fear that stops us from living with joy and strength, we need to learn to ask a question and it is in the question we find the answer to our fears.

Here is a list of fears with the question that confronts it and then, the answer Spurgeon gives to the question which fights the fear.  It is remembering the answer to the question that is the key to fighting the fear. BUT – handling fear always STARTS with asking the question.

Fear of people being mean (bullies, rejection, unkindness)

QUESTION: Who is in control of those who attack you?

ANSWER (by Spurgeon): Isaiah 51:12, 13 asks, “Where is the wrath of your enemy?”  And the answer comes, it is under the control of God. Even Satan, your fiercest foe, was created by God; God rules over him, God does with him just as he pleases.  God will be with you and can alleviate and help you stand up to those who attack you. Never forget who is on your side!

Fear of someone ruining my reputation (bad messages on social media, gossip, slander)

QUESTION: You say that your enemies are doing all that they can to destroy you, but can they destroy the divine promises?

ANSWER (by Spurgeon):  The Lord has promised to give his sheep eternal life; can they take that promise from you, or make it of no value? They may fight against you, but can they keep you out of heaven? They may threaten you, but can they make the covenant of grace to be of no effect? Since eternal things are safe, we can be content to let other things come or go just as God wills.  Keep an eternal perspective; this life can be very hard and disappointing, but God is with you, loves you and your real home is heaven. This pain won’t last forever.

Fear of death (severe or terminal illness, dealing with grief or potential death)

QUESTION:  What will happen when you die?

ANSWER (by Spurgeon):  If you cannot answer that question, let Paul answer it for you: “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” [Romans 8:38-39].  When we die, we see God and will be with Him face-to-face.  Until then, we live with Him here by the Spirit, looking forward to when we are actually with Him.  Turn the fear of death into the anticipation of heaven.

Dear Reader, we must stop listening to our fears and instead, talk back to them.  Do not let your child get in the habit of accepting whatever thoughts come into their head and assuming they are true merely because they exist.  Talk back to your worries; question your fears. And in asking the questions, seek your answers in God’s sufficient Word. There we find the answers to our fear.

Blessings to you dear Friend as you seek to help your children walk in a way that combats fear and allows faith to flourish.

With peace to you always – Elizabeth

Teachable Moments

My Best Advice on…Advice

“NOW, what do I do?” is every parent’s nightmare question that is a living reality.  I’m sure if I had a nickel for everytime I asked that while raising my children, I’d be a trizillionaire (or whatever word works for being mega-rich because as a parent, I often felt clueless).

Those who either heard or saw my confusion and consternation loved to give unasked-for advice.  Their advice usually started with something like, “when that happened to me….”, as if they knew all about my life because they had already lived it.  OR, “what I did that worked..”, as if they had the magic answer to any parenting situation, or my favorite, “what you should do…”, which means there is a universal code of parenting that I should know and must obey if I want to raise children that aren’t enemy #1 to society as adults.

Most of the time, unasked-for advice works the same as asked-for advice; the key isn’t the advice, it’s the person who is listening to the advice.  I was the one who made the difference. There were times I learned from advice, and times I didn’t.  There were a few significant points of consideration that all had to work together in order for me to be counted among those “who have ears to hear”.

Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived (1 Kings 4:30), has some wise words of advice about advice.  So – he’s our go-to guy on this matter and here are 3 things he has to say and my tidbits of commentary to enliven them for you.

Resolution to Receive

Listen to and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.  (Prov. 19:20, NIV).   The New Living Translation puts it this way, “Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life.”  Seeking wisdom from a variety of sources is the path to wisdom.  How can I do this?

  • Keeping a look out for those persons God puts in my path, so I can ask and listen to their opinions is a consistent and intentional goal.
  • Seeking advice which leads to wisdom is my responsibility (it isn’t someone else’s job to make me see reason – hopefully).  
  • Great advice won’t just drop in my lap; I need to seek it out.  
  • Living in our virtual realities with Alexa or Siri as my all-wise advice givers isn’t going to cut it.  Some good ideas and information from these techno wizards is expected, but no matter what algorithm Facebook comes up with, I can’t replace advice from people I respect, who love me, and will take time investing in me personally.  I am just one in many billion to Google, Alexa, or Siri but to the people around me, I am one in a million that they actually care about. Who better to seek advice from than those who know and love me best?

Facing Your Fears

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.  Prov. 12:15, NIV)  The Contemporary English Version says, “Fools think they know what is best, but a sensible person listens to advice.”  Even though most of us would like to see ourselves as teachable and open to the opinions of others, what would stop us from listening to advice?  Our fears – we need to face them and then, face them down.

  • “I’m afraid of what you would think of me if I ask for help.”  This person believes asking for help is a weakness, not a strength.  The opinions of others are more important than the opinion they have of themselves.  This needs to change.
  • “I have to pretend to know what I’m doing so you’ll still believe in me; I’m afraid if I don’t act like I have it all together, you won’t respect me.”  This person believes that the only reason someone respects them is because they can do something well without anyone else’s input.  This takes independence way too far and actually weakens the position of the person.
  • I’m afraid you won’t like me if I ask for help; I’m sure I’m a bother.”  This person believes that if asked, others believe that giving help is a pain, not a privilege.  This is actually not the case. Most people love being a help when they can be. Bonus verse:  Oil and perfume make the heart glad, So a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend. (Prov. 27:9, NIV)  Part of friendship is being there for one another; don’t push your friends away when you need advice, draw them closer.

Self-Protection is really Self-defeat

Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory. (Prov. 11:14, NIV)  Trying to live a godly life in which we flourish daily is tough.  How does advice get me what I need and what I want out of life?

  • Be Open and Open-Minded.  Ditch the self-protection and be vulnerable in sharing what is really going on in your life.  Tell the truth to the counselors you trust and seek out their honest opinion.
  • Be a Systematic Theologian.  Look at the WHOLE of Scripture and how it puts together a bigger picture of our life and who God is in it.  An “abundance of counselors” would indicate that we shouldn’t just take one verse and run with it; instead, take the time to study a topic or idea thoroughly from a full-biblical perspective to make sure it is well-informed.
  • Be Patient. Whatever goal we have set for ourselves, we need to remember that it may take a while to get there.  Getting advice from a number of different counselors takes time and patience in order to persevere to the right answer.

Dear Reader, “Once a parent, always a parent!”  And no matter how old my kids get or how long I am at this parenting-thing, I still need encouragement and advice.  If you will take one piece of advice from me, face your fears, defeat your self-protection and seek advice from an abundance of counselors you trust and who want to invest in you personally so you can receive their advice and flourish in the life God has given you.  Seek wisdom and you will find it.

Blessings to you – and thanks for taking the time to read my advice…on advice.  Fondly yours always – Elizabeth

Teachable Moments

New Things

What is it like to introduce two young children (who have never been swimming) to a hotel swimming pool for the first time? I got to witness the introduction of this fascinating new activity while at a retreat with some friends who had 2 small children.  At the hotel, the children, who loved their baths, were expected to make the adjustment to the pool seamlessly. After all, isn’t a swimming pool just a bigger version of a bathtub?  For one of the children, it was just like that – easy, fun and exciting. The other one – not so much. They did not see the joy of an extraordinary size bathtub as a good thing, but rather something to be feared and if possible, avoided.  I could see the terror and confusion in the eyes of this little one who was wondering why in the world their parents would want to go into such a large body of water anyway. This was obviously dangerous.

The problem was not the pool, nor the parents, nor the child.  There really wasn’t a problem, but it was a matter of perception. And this idea of perception when it comes to “new things” is not a new problem for people; rather, we can find it existing all the way back to the people of Israel. Recorded in Isaiah 43:19, God spoke to Israel through Isaiah saying:

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

In Isaiah 43, God reminds His people of who He has proved Himself to be again and again to them, and assures them that because of who He is, they can trust Him no matter their circumstances. This chapter speaks both to the past troubles of the nation in which they experienced God’s protection and His necessary future discipline of them due to their disobedience.  And yet, there will come a time when the discipline is done and God will do a “new thing” and if observant, His people with eyes of faith will see what God is doing in their midst.

As believers in Christ, we can learn from Israel’s relationship with God; we can have the same assurance as the Israelites did that God does not abandon us when something troubling or terrifying comes our way.  He does not give up on us even when we have sinned and need His discipline. We may feel confused or alone, but we can be assured that our God is at work even when we can’t easily perceive it. God may need to ask us just like He asked Israel – do you perceive it? Or rather, don’t you see it?  Don’t you sense it? I am doing a “new thing.”

New things are sometimes hard to face and we may not want to see what God is up to.  Or, we may be lost in the wilderness and we just can’t see it. I know my friend’s young daughter, as she gazed at the humongous pool of water, couldn’t possibly believe that all would be well.  It was new; it was scary, and she couldn’t see why her parents would want this for her. The good news, her parents introduced her to this new thing and she soon realized that this opened up a whole new world.  What helped her acclimate? She hung on to her Dad for dear life as he slowly entered the pool. Because she trusted in him, she buried her face in his neck and just “went with it.” As his daughter, I could see the faith she had in him to protect her.  God was Israel’s Savior (Isaiah 43:3) and He is ours (Luke 2:11). And just as this little girl had faith in her Dad, we can have faith in our Heavenly Father as His children to save and care for us as we enter into the “new things” He has made for us. We can trust Him to care for us even if we have been disobedient and needed His discipline.  Our God is faithful to us and is about doing “new things.”

As Parents or Grandparents, how do we apply Isaiah 43 to our relationships with our children?

  • Remember WHO God is when you are trying to figure out what is going on in life; you can’t comprehend what God is doing until you are sure of who He is in His being
  • Have you experienced a wilderness time in your spiritual life?  Are you perceiving God doing a “new thing” and leading you out of it?  Give testimony to His grace through your words and actions – speak of His grace and then, pass the grace on to others by serving at church, in your community or in your family.
  • Study Isaiah 43 and learn the many ways God revealed Himself to Israel.  He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8) and as such, He is the same God who is with us.  Tell your children who God is and how He revealed Himself to Israel and how you see His attributes in your life.  

May “new things” bring us closer to Him and allow us to worship Him and may we be “perceivers” vs. “unbelievers” to our God who is definitely at work in our lives even when we can’t readily see it. Like my friend’s child first afraid but then full of faith when new things arose, may we also hold on to our Father God and perceive with faith the “new things” God is doing in our lives.

Dear Friends, blessings to you!  I pray for you to have eyes to see and minds to perceive what God is about in your life this week!  

Fondly yours, Elizabeth