6 Rules to Win the Parenting Game
Rule #3 Don’t Worry Trust God
Pastor Rachel Billups | 8 min read
Worry, anxiety, concern, fear–it all seems baked right into every single day. Even if everything feels calm when you go to sleep at night, there’s inevitably something to worry about the moment you wake up.
HOW BIG IS YOUR WORRY BUCKET?
How much worry are you comfortable carrying? I come from a long line of card-carrying worriers. When it comes to parenthood, there’s plenty of worry to go around.
My husband Jon and I brought our daughter Adeline home from the hospital nearly 16 years ago.
Still just weeks old, she had a gagging spell that justified an emergency call to the pediatrician. The doc said it was leftover meconium in her lungs and not to worry unless she turned blue. Jon and I had never done this parenting thing before! For those first few weeks we never took our eyes off little Adeline. We had to make sure she was still breathing! With every noise, every cough, every hard breath I was on my feet examining the situation. Nothing to worry about!?
Is this the right baby food?
Will this kid ever sleep?
Will she behave at preschool?
Did he remember his lunch?
Will they be safe drivers?
Will they ever get home at a reasonable hour?
what are they doing with all that free time?
Are they being treated well?
Are they treating others well?
Will they ever meet my expectations?
Are my expectations reasonable?
Worry isn’t just an annoying feeling that will not go away. It comes with a boatload of physical side effects: difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, accelerated heartbeat, fatigue, headaches, irritability, inability to concentrate, muscle aches, muscle tension, nausea, diarrhea, rapid breathing, sweating and in extreme cases trembling and twitching.
Chronic anxiety can lead to suppression of the immune system, digestive disorders, muscle tension, short-term memory loss, premature coronary artery disease, heart attack and more.
So what can we do?
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV).
WORRY = CONTROL
To feel worried is to feel threatened by a lack of control.
Worry fools you into thinking you are going to be able to do something about an experience that hasn’t even happened yet. It’s when you play out the worst-case scenarios over and over again in your mind.
What if it doesn’t go well?
What if they never talk to me again?
What if I can’t convince them?
You can’t sleep, you barely eat. Sometimes you are almost sick over it. When you finally muster up enough courage to have the hard conversation– Nothing happens. Nothing that warrants the destruction you’ve done to your body, heart, and mind! It leaves you wondering why you were so worried in the first place.
“Do not worry about your [EVERY DAY] life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6: 25-27 NIV).
Maybe we’ve misjudged the goal.
We ask God to give our kids a stress-free, comfortable life. It’s natural, perhaps even faithful to want the best for our kids. But what if the best involves struggle? What if the beauty of life is found through adversity? What if character is born out of patient endurance?
“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you (or at your kids) from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors, so don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” (James 1:2-4 The Message).
I’m always challenged by the courageous vulnerability displayed by some of the Bible’s heroes: Joshua and Caleb going ahead to scout out the land of Canaan, announcing, “the men are big but our God is bigger.” Or Esther and her determination to stand up for God’s people facing genocide, “If I die, I die.” Brothers James and John leaving behind their livelihood – everything they’ve ever known including their own father to follow Jesus.
Following Jesus isn’t safe. And if we want our kids to follow Jesus, safe can’t be our first thought for their destiny.
Do you want to keep your kids forever safe, forever in a bubble and forever walled-in by worry? Then don’t invite them to follow Jesus. Following Jesus will will take them to places you don’t want them to go.
Rule # 3 to win the parenting game: Don’t Worry, Trust God.
For the writer of Proverbs, the heart isn’t merely the center of feelings, it’s the place where your true person dwells. Your heart reveals your character, your values and what you truly believe.
God doesn’t expect blind trust. God still expects us to use our brain, remember?
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Luke 10:27)
That trust begins on the inside but makes its way out.
“…in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:6 NIV).
In all your ways, submit to God.
That Hebrew word for ways comes from the root word derek. It’s a directional term meaning, road, way, journey. In other words, what you do! In all your ways, as you walk through life, as your work out your parenting journey, as you let go of worry, submit yourself to God and God will make your paths straight.
You don’t have to have the perfect plan, the perfect parenting strategy, or even the perfect chore chart – all you need to do is hand over your worry to the Lord and God will make a way! Let go of your worry and God will work it out.
When God’s people the Israelites were hanging out in the wilderness, they had to trust God for daily rations of food. This white flaky honey nutty stuff called manna fell from the sky. They couldn’t gather too little or even too much and if they attempted to hoard the manna it just rotted.
God provided fresh manna every single morning because, God was worthy of their trust.
God provides what we need every day, as parents and as people. The provision will be made when the need arises. The words will be there when the conversation is hard. The best parenting strategy to is enjoy your kids in the moment and take the long view. Parents have struggled for the whole of human existence and we have a giant invitation from Jesus to let it go.
Simply enjoying our kids is the greatest gift we can give them. Joy is the best medicine for anxiety. God chose you. YOU are the best parent that your kid could possibly have. We don’t become parents to be perfect. We had kids to enjoy them! The less stressed you are, the more loved your kids feel. They can feel your stuff.
What if we started celebrating the small wins of parenting every day instead of focusing on the parent fails?
Those 10 diapers you changed before noon—celebrate that all systems are a go.
When your 3-year-old asks “why” for the 57th time, celebrate that they’re right on time with a cogitative milestone.
When your curious 5-year-old asks too many questions about the neighbor’s dead cat, celebrate their sensitivity to the fragility of life.
When your 8-year-old wants to play the 7th game of HORSE celebrate their excitement to develop their basketball skills.
When your teenager asks for a pre-paid debit card, celebrate that she wants to figure out what it means to maintain a budget.
Embrace the joy that every glass spilled, question raised, extra book read and three more kisses planted are simple gifts that every parent has the privilege of enjoying. It’s the everyday moments that fill our kids’ hearts and heads with love, joy, and laughter. And it’s ALL IN there: the daily stuff, the hard stuff, the piece of cake stuff, the I’d rather not smell that stuff, that makes parenting so great!
Jesus, who knew challenge first-hand, paved the way for us to experience worry-resistant life-to-the-full.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion (insert worry/insert parenting woe)? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 The Message)