Fear Doesn’t Lead to Faith: Becoming Your Child’s Safe Place
[Excerpt reprinted from Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting by L.R.Knost. Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages; Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood; and The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline by L.R.Knost also available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]
“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
“I need prayer to help me trust God.”
“I need to learn to trust God more.”
“I’m really struggling with trusting God.”
Over and over and over in Christian circles we hear these prayer requests and confessions. Again and again we try and struggle and fail to trust God with our lives, our decisions, our hopes, our dreams, our plans, our needs, our fears, our mistakes. We assign accountability partners and prayer buddies to help each other in our struggle to trust. We take classes and read books and attend seminars. And yet still, we struggle and we fail and we wonder why we find it so hard to trust.
Maybe the problem is that we aren’t asking the right question, though. Perhaps the question isn’t, “Why can’t we trust?” but rather…
“How can we trust someone we’ve been trained not to trust?”
Consider this scene:
“Father: You didn’t obey Daddy, did you?
Father: Do you remember what God says Daddy must do if you disobey?
Child: Spank me?
Father: That’s right. I must spank you. If I don’t, then I would be disobeying God. You and I would both be wrong. That would not be good for you or for me, would it?
Child: No. (A reluctant reply)”
(Tedd Tripp, Shepherding a Child’s Heart, p. 31)
“I have to hurt you to please God.” That is the message this child hears. And, one day, this child will be an adult who asks for prayer to learn to trust, if he even wants a relationship with Someone he believes demands that he be hurt by those he loves most, Someone he has been trained to distrust.
Parents systematically breaking down a child’s innate ability to trust simply makes no sense. The world will hurt, disappoint, and disillusion our children through the years, no doubt, but the brief season of childhood is a time to strengthen our children, not weaken them, and true strength is forged in gentleness, guided by wisdom, and steeped in peace. Our children need us to be their guardians, their protectors, their safe harbor in life’s storms:
Imagine a ship damaged at sea, broken and sinking fast, heading for the safety and shelter of the harbor only to be stopped at the end of the breakwaters, the line between storm-tossed sea and calm waters, and told to clean up their deck, fix their rudders, and examine their ship logs to see where they went wrong, all while still in danger of sinking in the rough seas.
Now imagine a child, roughed up by his own bad choices or suffering at the hands of her own human weaknesses, hoping to find a safe harbor in a parent’s healing embrace, but instead being punished, spanked, or sent to isolation in a corner or in their room…leaving them all alone in a stormy sea of human emotions when what they really need in that moment is to reconnect with us. In their most difficult moments, they need our wisdom and guidance and the reassurance that, no matter what mistakes they make, no matter how badly they fail, no matter how far they fall, we will always, always be there to help them and heal them and forgive them and love them.” (Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages)
Isn’t that what God offers us, even in our most difficult moments? Wisdom. Guidance. Reassurance. Forgiveness. Unconditional love.
“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
And yet isn’t that what we have so much trouble trusting in as adults?
Trust and fear cannot coexist, and God certainly doesn’t intend them to. That is why Jesus says over and over, “Do not be afraid,” throughout the New Testament. One stumbling block, though, is the use of the word ‘fear’ in translations of verses such as, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” (Proverbs 9:10) which lead us to believe that we must be afraid of God in order to honor him. But, while fear repels, wonder invites. The Hebrew word, yirah, which is translated ‘fear’ actually means, ‘to see or be seen clearly’ or ‘to have a heightened awareness of’ or ‘to flow’ as in ‘to flow with overwhelming emotion.’ In Hebrew, it is taken to mean ‘to overflow with or be overcome by trepidation’ only when used in the context of danger, but ‘to overflow with or be overcome by awe and wonder’ when used in the context of a good and mighty God. So, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” would more accurately read, “Being overcome with awe and wonder at the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
Perhaps if we parent our children the way God parents us, with mercy, understanding, and gentle guidance, our children’s ability to trust will be strengthened rather than broken, and as adults they won’t struggle to trust God as we so often do. Then, instead of running and hiding from God when life hits hard and the world batters and bewilders our children, perhaps they will go running to him, trusting that he will be there with outstretched arms… [end excerpt]
L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.