Fear has never been more real and present in my life than during my first year of motherhood. I spent many nights lying awake, watching the silver light from the moon creep across my ceiling, worrying about the safety of my son. When he was an infant, I counted his breaths in the dead of night, desperately trying to rid my mind of any thoughts of infant loss. When he was getting teeth, I worried about the lumps on the back of his neck, which the doctor told me were nothing to worry about. When he began to crawl, I worried he would find a penny on the floor and think it was food.
Paul certainly offers some incredible advice to new and frazzled parents when he says in Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
Even though this verse had been hanging on my bathroom mirror for years, it offered little comfort to me as a new mom. I was afraid, plain and simple. The enemy had identified my weakness and had led me to believe I had much to fear. God’s protection became a distant memory as I took the burden upon my own shoulders of keeping my son safe. I eventually stopped watching the news and tried to avoid social media, but no matter how hard I tried to hide from the reminders that our children are never safe, I couldn’t keep myself from the constant barrage of stories involving freak accidents and mysterious illnesses in children.
Unfortunately, this fear goes well beyond the new and vulnerable parent. Everyone, no matter what stage of life, must constantly face this epidemic of fear. Today’s culture not only encourages us to be afraid, it seems to leave us no other option. There are reminders everywhere that this world is indeed falling apart. Worse yet, today’s secular culture does not provide the slightest ray of hope as it exaggerates and manipulates each political or social event for its own benefit.
This culture of fear insinuates to parents of all ages that we can somehow prevent any sort of sickness or injury in our children if we just do everything by the book. Society trains us to believe we must rely upon ourselves to stay safe—that if we just eat right, watch our kids closely, earn enough money, pass enough laws, we will be safe.
This is a lie. No one can deny the reality that the enemy is among us. He is sneaky, and he wants each one of us to be afraid. He identifies our weaknesses and whispers lies accordingly. This verse is just one of many warnings we receive about the presence of Satan: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
I remember the moment Satan’s power over me as a vulnerable mother began to dissipate. It was a few minutes before worship one Sunday, when my son was nearly a year old. I was rambling to a more experienced mother about my sleepless nights and constant watch of my son. She listened in love, then said some of the most liberating words I’ve ever heard, “Tara, you cannot keep him safe.” It was with these words that I was finally able to let the Lord take control of my parenting and the safety of my son. I finally began to accept that my son is not my own. He belongs to the Lord.
Now a few years have passed since that first year of constant anxiety. As a mother of two, I can confidently say I have nothing to fear, although God does need to remind me of this quite often. His reminder comes in this promise to me and all believers in his Word: “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).
Despite my Christian faith, I had lost sight of God’s promises of protection. We all have weaknesses, and we certainly all have fears. The reality of life on earth is that, without God, there is much to fear. However, Psalm 118:8 says, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans.” These words remind Christians that we are not to succumb to the desires and fears of this world, but instead to trust in our loving Father.
The effects of a radical atmosphere of fear in North America and beyond is evidenced by violence, protests, racism, anxiety, depression, paranoia, and an increased level of self-interest, as each and every person focuses on self-preservation. If our only hope is in this world, then we certainly do have much to fear. This, however, is not where our hope is to reside.
Because of Jesus Christ, these earthly battles are already fought and already won. As we scramble to protect our children, our livelihood, and our earnings, Jesus Christ asks us to seek peace and protection in him.
God’s holy and living Word serves as a constant reminder that we are perfectly protected in the arms of Christ—that we should fear God rather than people. It is important for us to be hopeful and to continue to pray that today’s culture of fear will cause unbelievers to seek safety and solid ground in Jesus Christ. There is nothing more liberating than the knowledge that our lives are not our own; we and everything we love belongs to God, so we are to live out our earthly lives exuding this peace—a peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7).
Tara Kranz is a member of Grace Lutheran Brethren Church in Bismarck, North Dakota.