When Your Child is Afraid
Glynnis Whitwer

"'Because he loves me,' says the Lord, 'I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.'" Psalm 91:14 (NIV)

When I was a child, my sister and I would set out on our bikes early Saturday morning. No helmet, cell phone, sunscreen or water bottle accompanied us. We might be gone for hours without communicating with our mother. Now as an adult, I wonder how I survived my childhood.

Those days are long gone for most children. The carefree days of yesterday have been replaced by vigilant protection and numerous warnings. Sadly, it seems our children have more to fear than we did 20 years ago. If not more to fear, then at least we are more aware of the dangers facing children. Consequently, many kids struggle with anxiety and fear.

There was a time when my youngest son Robbie struggled with fear. Nothing traumatic happened to him as a young child. It's just he has always been more sensitive than his siblings. Perhaps having two older brothers, Robbie was incorporated into games or television shows slightly above his maturity level. It's hard to pinpoint the reason for the fear, but when he was younger it manifested itself mostly at night. Robbie consistently had trouble falling asleep, and then would awake with bad dreams. It was a difficult cycle.

Being a fear-inclined person myself, I knew no amount of my reassurances would really help Robbie. And as he got older, Robbie knew my ability to protect him was limited. So night after night, I was startled awake by a shake on the shoulder and whisper in my ear, "Mommy, I can't sleep." I knew I had to do something to help Robbie rest easy, and for me to get some sleep.

We did two things to help Robbie deal with the night fears. The first was to personalize Psalm 91:14-16:

"'Because (Robbie) loves me,' says the LORD, 'I will rescue him; I will protect (Robbie), for he acknowledges my name. (Robbie) will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with (Robbie) in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy (Robbie) and show him my salvation.'"

I wrote it on a 3"x5" note card, which he kept by his bed. Reading that Scripture at night reminded Robbie to place his trust in the One who could protect him in times of trouble.

Second, we specifically prayed for God to protect Robbie from bad dreams. This is a nightly habit we developed over 10 years ago, and continue to this day. Every night I hold the hand of my now 14-year-old son, and pray the prayer I started praying so many years before. We can both testify to God's amazing faithfulness to protect Robbie even in his dreams.

The times I have struggled most with fear are the times I have placed my trust in someone or something other than God. It is my prayer as a mother, that my children will learn at an early age there is One in whom they can trust, and who is ready and able at the breath of a prayer to intercede on their behalf.

Dear Lord, I praise You for Your faithfulness to answer my prayers. I know only you are powerful enough to protect me and my children in every circumstance. Please guide me and give me wisdom as I deal with fear in my own life, and in the lives of those I love. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
To learn more about how to help your children when they are hurting, check out Glynnis’ newest book When Your Child is Hurting

Divine Prayers for Despairing Parents by Susanne Scheppmann

Visit Glynnis’ blog and other resources

Application Steps:
Identify one thing you (or your child) are afraid of. Can you identify in what or whom you have placed your trust, other than God?

Reflections: List some of the attributes of God that remind you of how powerful God is in the face of your fears (unchanging, all-knowing, etc.).

Why do we choose to trust in things other than God?

When have you seen God's protection in a fearful situation? How have you seen Him provide for your basic needs?

Power Verses:
Joshua 1:9, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." (NIV)

Psalm 34:4, "I sought the LORD, and He answered me; he delivered me from all my fears." (NIV)

2 Timothy 1:7, "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." (KJB)

© 2009 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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Blogger Amy Lively said...

Thank you for sharing how you've used God's word to comfort your son. I need to look there before expressing my own words of so-called wisdom! Psalm 91 was my grandmother's favorite when she battled cancer, and we personalized a very simple translation for my daughter when she had trouble falling asleep. It has also comforted me, as I paraphrased in this poem:

Certain rescue is His promise
From traps of man as well as sickness.
His tender embrace is defensive yet gentle,
He’s faithfully willing, yet fearfully able.
You’ll fear not false terrors at night in your mind,
Nor real threats aimed at you by day by mankind,
Dread of disease will not rouse your slumber,
Noon brings no fear of sickness or cancer.
While those around quake and tremble in fear,
You won't be shaken by the same deep despair.
In heaven you will hear a welcoming shout
And watch as the wicked learn they are cast out...
Know me by my Name, call on me in prayer,
I AM, I’ll reply – I’ll always be there.
I AM exalted when you are victorious,
I AM your glory, through me you are glorious.
Weaned from this world, years prepared in advance –
Soon you will see I AM sufficient grace.

Blogger Chip and Sara said...

Right before I opened the Proverbs 31 site this morning I asked God for wisdom to help me as my 3 year old has recently been having trouble getting and staying asleep. We have been unsure if his temper tantrums surrounding bedtime are an act of disobedience or an act of fear. Our response to him is different depending on the reason he is not going to bed. This devotion today gave me a great idea of something to try today and a great reminder to me to teach him that God is his protector. Please pray for wisdom for this tired mommy!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you for sharing, and i too often have battle this fear, and i now have a child in the same foot steps, thanks for psalms 91 it is a great encouragement and reminder of his word.

Blogger Treva said...

This was a much needed word. I'm having trouble with my 4 year old going anywhere in our house without someone present with her once it gets dark outside. She won't go to the bathroom, her own room, or even the kitchen by herself. She tells me all the time that she's scared. Even when we encourage her that we are in the same house or just around the corner she starts crying saying she's scared. Almost everynight we pray for God's protection around them (my oldest daughter has had issues with bad dreams in the past). But I am going to personalize that verse for each of my daughters and make sure we do pray every night! Any other advice would be greatly appreciated!
Be Blessed!

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