How Not to be Afraid

I heard a shuffling of feet and quiet breathing beside me in the dark and I felt in equal parts the desire to help and the desire to snuggle deeper in the covers and pretend this presence wasn’t here. I’m not at my best at 3:30 in the morning. But then I heard it—I knew I would. “I’m scared.” And even as my own ears heard the heavy rain pattering the roof and my own brain calculated how harmless, surely, that rain must be, I knew even in my sleepy stupor that fear does not listen to reason. 


Let me say that again: Fear does not listen to reason.


If I have learned anything about combating fear as a parent, it’s that what I think about the validity of my child’s fear means nothing. Fear does not listen to reason. If you have a child who is afraid of the dark, of monsters in the closet, of scary thoughts, of nightmares, of looking grown-ups in the eye, of getting on the school bus, of asking the teacher a question, of sleeping alone, of going in the basement, of lightning, or of imaginary perils, I want to say to you one more time: fear does not listen to reason. 


Children don’t want statistics on how unlikely they are to be struck by lightning or oh-so-friendly reminders that grown-ups do not “bite children’s heads off.” As adults it is easy for us to minimize children’s fears because we see no logic in them. What do they really think will happen in the dark? Why do they think it’s safe for all the other kids on the bus but not for them? These questions gnaw at us, but they don’t help our kids. Our kids are not looking for logical explanations and concrete answers, they are looking for a way not to be afraid. 


In Ephesians 6 Paul tells us about the armor of God and how to equip ourselves for spiritual battle. When fear grips our kids, that’s a spiritual battle. It may have other elements to it as well—fear can be intellectual, emotional, and physical too. But we can’t neglect to address the spiritual element if we want to truly alleviate the problem. Paul encourages us to take up the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” to ward off the attacks of the enemy. 


So we recited scripture together. 


“Pick a memory verse and we’ll say it together.” 


“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change, like shifting shadows. Every good and perfect gift is from above. . . “


We recited scripture, and we unsheathed our swords, and we fought off the attack of the enemy, the attack of fear. We called out God’s goodness, His constancy, His strength, and the protection and security He provides. We claimed God’s intention that we might walk not with a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-discipline. We waved our swords there in the dark and we called out the truth that’s been hidden in our hearts and together we declared fear will have no victory today.


And I wish I could say all the fear just dissolved into nothing, swept away in our passionate defense. It didn’t. These fixes aren’t quick and they aren’t easy. But the fear did get a little smaller. And God, in our eyes, got bigger. Perspective restored, we were able to close our eyes, rest, and sleep. That was victory. That was a battle won.


These battles we fight with our kids, we fight alongside them—hip to hip, swords facing forward. My child, who wakes me in the night groggy and disoriented, is not there to ruin my sleep but to desperately seek help. My child’s inability to overcome fear based on logic is not meant to annoy me but to remind me that fear does not listen to reason, and I need to employ apt weapons against a spiritual foe. Our kids need us to teach them to be warriors with the word of God. 


Let’s teach them to fight well.