One night, my four year old daughter refused to let me leave her room because she was afraid. It was bedtime, and for those of you with children, you know that bedtime can be a challenge. I’m convinced that children are born with the innate ability to negotiate. All of a sudden they are starving, or dying of thirst, have an urgent need to go to the bathroom, or just have to be with you. The routine is often the same in homes across the globe. But occasionally, our children are genuinely scared and need our consolation. There are those moments when fear and loneliness stir their precious little hearts. That was the case for my daughter on that particular evening.
“Daddy, please don’t leave my room,” my daughter says.
“What’s wrong sweetheart?” I asked.
“I’m afraid!”, she responds.
“What are you afraid of?” I inquired.
She paused for a brief few seconds and said, “I don’t know…I…I just don’t want to be alone. I’m scared.”
From there I had to assess whether or not she was sincere or just postponing the inevitable moment that she would have to succumb to sleep. I truly believe she was really shaken that night. I didn’t know why. She couldn’t explain it. We hadn’t watched any movies that could’ve scared her, and her day was very ordinary. But she was scared, and that’s what mattered.
For the next 5 to 10 minutes I tried to calm my daughter’s fears by reminding her that she is never alone. I told her that mommy and daddy are in a room not too far from hers. More importantly, I tried to get her to see that Jesus is always present in her life. Have you ever tried explaining that to a toddler? It’s extremely difficult. But I did my best and then we prayed together. I told her I loved her and we called it a night.
When I left her room I was overwhelmed by what had just happened. My daughter’s struggle with fear and loneliness is not all that unlike adult struggles with the same issues. We may not squirm and fuss like a toddler does. No, we’ve gotten much better at keeping it inside. We get afraid, often of our own imaginations. And loneliness hits everyone and some point and time. We’re made to be relational beings which makes being alone really difficult sometimes, especially if we never learned to cope.
What I prayed for my daughter, and what I tried to tell her, was that our hearts can rest at peace. That we never have to be afraid. That joy can fill our minds and our hearts at all times. Then it hit me. Do I even experience that? Am I trying to tell me daughter to have something I don’t even have? Am I at peace? Do I have unspeakable joy continually in my heart? It was challenging…extremely challenging.
Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything. With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God. Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel.
Philippians 4:6-7 (CEV)
When it comes down to it, I can spout out bible verses like the one above, all day long and give my daughters consoling pep talks about their security, love, and acceptance in Christ. But if I’m not showing them those truths by my attitude and how I carry myself…well then, it’s potentially very empty. Our children are likely to forget most of the things we say to them, but they will always remember how we affected them.
If I don’t feel accepted and cared for by Jesus, then I can’t expect them, or anyone else to. If I don’t overcome fear and doubt by choosing to believe that God has my best interests in mind, always, then I offer them nothing. I don’t want to merely give others, especially my children, words on a page. I want to give them a real way of life. I want to show them that they have a real Savior who died for them, and loves them, and will never leave them. Will I be perfect? Not even close. But I hope to be genuine.