6 Reasons Christian Parents Need to Stop Parenting Out of Fear

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Sometimes I wish there was a formula for spiritual formation and discipleship that guaranteed that my children would respond to Jesus and develop the type of faith that is strong enough to carry them through life’s ups and downs. Some days I just want to know that I am a Christian parent on the right path.  And if I could keep my kids from having to face unnecessary struggles along the way, well maybe I would want access to that formula too.

As a Christian parent don’t you find yourself thinking about ways you can protect your child from the types of things that could destroy them?  In your heart, don’t you hope that they will be good kids who stay out of trouble and who also love Jesus with their whole heart, soul, mind, and strength?

I know I do! But then I realize I might be trying just a little too hard to be smarter than God when it comes to knowing what is best for my children.

I want to be the the type of Christian parent who…

  • Teaches holiness without being legalistic
  • Shows grace and still disciplines effectively
  • Knows the difference between wise parenting and over-protective parenting
  • Models a life of joy, freedom and excitement over following Jesus
  • Truly trusts God with the spiritual lives of my children

There really isn’t a handbook for being the Christian parent described above and certainly there isn’t a perfect formula for growing kids who become lifelong Christ followers, but there is something that will kill our efforts to disciple our children:

FEAR.

Here are six ways fear unravels our discipleship efforts as parents…

  1. Fear imagines endless scenarios of “what might happen” and urges us to control as much as we can to avoid anything unpleasant or hard–even when we give lip service to God being the one in charge, we can live our lives without really trusting that He is.
  2. Fear focuses us inward on our own strength and not God’s
  3. Fear drives us to protect and preserve in relationships rather than giving and receiving out of love
  4. Fear looks for reasons to distrust others and forces others to measure up to our standard before we truly accept them.
  5. Fear makes us irrational.  Literally, the parts of the brain that assess risk and control logical decision making are overrun by the parts of the brain that favor short term solutions, sudden reactions, and overwhelming emotions.
  6. Fear focuses on controlling outward behavior and environment rather than shaping the heart.  It tends to lean toward legalism and feels threatened by those who are deemed “unsafe.”

But if I am honest, I AM scared for my children…what do I do about it?

Fear is a natural human emotion and parents will always have moments of fear and worry over their children, but our awareness of our fear and how we respond to fear make all the difference in discipleship.

And Christian parents aren’t the only ones guilty of parenting out of fear.  We live in a time of extreme parenting, where many parents go to great lengths to try to secure their children’s future by controlling how they play, what they eat, how they are schooled, what activities they are involved in and on and on and on.

Somehow we have been deluded into thinking that keeping kids happy, healthy, busy, and safe are the parenting ideals we should be going after.

Ironically this is happening while as a society we are not paying attention to things that nurture our children’s soul’s–the inward life.  So we end up being trapped in this pattern where we focus a lot of attention on how our children are spending their time and how they are behaving, while actually hindering our children from becoming who they were created to be.  And then we wonder…what is wrong?  We tried SO hard to do the “right” things.

Fear also focuses us inward so that while we may be SO VERY CAREFUL to protect our own children, we are overwhelmed or even worse–UNAWARE of the needs of other children in our communities and our world.  and that doesn’t seem anything like what Christians are called to do in this world.

We become so shallow that we engage in things like the so called “mommy wars” of our day where we compare and ridicule those who don’t parent just like us because they lure us into a false sense of security that since our way of parenting is better, our children are guaranteed a better life.

Related: The Mommy Wars

But what if instead of parenting OUT OF FEAR, Christian parents became aware of their fear and confessed it.  How does your parenting stack up to Scripture?  Evaluate your parenting against God’s words about fear.

What Scripture has to say about fear…

Have I not commanded you, be strong and courageous.  Do NOT be afraid. Do NOT be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

For I am the Lord your God
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
I will help you. Isaiah 41:13

Fear of man will prove to be a snare,
but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. Proverbs 29:25

So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?” Hebrews 13:6

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you Psalm 56:3

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.  Psalm 34:4

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Cast all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me. Psalm 23:4

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18

Now tackle fear from a Biblical Perspective…

  • Fear is going to happen, but we have a choice about how we are going to respond.
  • We are not slaves to fear.  The choice not to fear, is not one we make of our own will.  It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that we overcome fear.
  • God promised to be with us.  He takes our hand, He is our comfort, He goes with us to the darkest valley.
  • We are supposed to come to God with our fear.  He not only cares about the stuff of life that makes us terrified, He can handle it.
  • The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 9:10), but apparently the fear of man will prove to be a snare (Prov 29:25).  I never noticed that verse before, but I can sure see the church suffering because we have gotten caught up in fearing man instead of truly understanding what it means to fear God.
  • Prayer.  Just do it.  Pray that we recognize fear for what it is—A lie of the devil to keep us locked up and ineffective for Christ both in our our families and in our world.  Pray about each situation that your family faces.  Stop trying to keep your kids safe and start asking God what He wants for your kids.  God may assure you that there is wisdom in what you are doing to protect your children or He may ask you to take a risk that is out of your comfort zone.
  • Get out of God’s way. There is no ONE WAY that guarantees life and safety for your children….and sometimes God works in the hurt and struggle, and ugliness to bring us to repentance and salvation…don’t you think He can do that for your children too?
  • We need to recognize the power of fear is not the power of God.  God is Love.  Perfect love drives out fear.  There is no fear in love.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  This is about God’s love for you–let Him love you (and your kids) in a way that is more powerful than any fear life throws at us.

Your Turn:

As a Christian parent, how do you protect your children without letting fear rule your life (or teaching your kids to let fear rule their life)?

How do you see parents today trying to protect their kids out of fear, only to end up causing them harm in the long run?

More Food for Thought…

 

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