In case you didn’t know, I am a natural worrier. My daughter also struggles with worrying and anxiety. I have to remind her that it’s not her job to take care of her brother, make sure her friends don’t get in trouble, or keep everything running smoothly. Often, when she is so focused on those other things, her own behavior quickly deteriorates. She is so worried about everything else around her, that she doesn’t remember what she is supposed to be doing or where her place is in the family (under the protection and care of her parents)- and when she is focusing on the wrong things, that causes even more anxiety because she is not physically, mentally, or emotionally able to control or handle those things.
Once again, parenting serves to prove that we adults have many of the same struggles as our children. God has been revealing to me that I do the same things I get so frustrated with my daughter for doing. How many of us have worried about things we can’t control? Or tried to assume the responsibility that belongs to God for something that we as humans aren’t physically, mentally, or emotionally able to handle? And how many times have we experienced anxiety and distress, acting in ways that we shouldn’t, because we were so focused on what seems to be spiraling out of control around us instead of our own response to it?
I can’t control anything in my world. I can’t ensure my childrens’ salvation. I can’t make sure everything is always running smoothly. I can’t keep any kind of stress or catastrophe from occurring.
If that was where the story ended, realizing those things would inevitably cause many of us to descend into major anxiety and depression. If those things were up to us, we’d be in trouble. The reason we can so easily end up anxious and worried is because it is true that we can’t control or change anything on our own. Most of us know that, even if we don’t always readily admit it. But I often forget my place in the same way my daughter does. My place is under the sovereignty, protection, and care of God. And that ends up being incredibly freeing. Releasing those expectations of ourselves, and resting in God’s limitless capabilities, brings freedom and peace.
But this doesn’t mean we don’t have to concern ourselves with anything at all. God has given us responsibilities. Our responsibility is to be faithful to what His will is for us as revealed in His Word. Faithfully serve and love our families and communities. Faithfully spend time in the Scriptures and in prayer, so that we are growing spiritually. Faithfully obey God’s commands, even when it’s hard. As I would tell my kids, “Focus on your own actions instead of other people, and make sure YOU are doing what’s right.”
I love these quotes from Nancy Guthrie’s book, Praying through the Bible for your Kids, in regards to the salvation of our children: “We don’t have to feel as if we’ve failed when we don’t see the responsiveness we prayed for… It is not up to us to create change in our children; it is up to us to bring them under God’s Word and then trust him to do the convincing and changing.” As hard as it is to accept sometimes, as parents, we can’t make our children change. Discipline and training are necessary to hopefully bring about proper behavior, but changed behavior on the outside doesn’t always equate to a changed heart on the inside. Fortunately, it is not our job to bring about that change. Our job is to faithfully teach them the truths from God’s Word and do our best to train them through discipline and instruction, and then trust God for the outcome.
God certainly uses us in people’s lives. Our faithfulness often has a ripple effect. We have a responsibility to speak truth, to stand up for what’s right. If we see or hear something that doesn’t line up with Scripture, either in our families or in the world, we need to address it. But we can’t argue someone into changing their mind or heart. We don’t have the power to change people, and we don’t have the ability to ensure salvation for our children and loved ones. Only the Holy Spirit can do that.
It’s easy to forget in this culture of instant gratification, that even when God does use our faithfulness to help bring about change in other people’s lives, it takes time. Usually, our children don’t immediately respond with changed lives after one day of godly instruction. It often takes months and years of training, teaching, correction, and leading by example for our obedience and faithfulness to have an effect on those around us. It’s easy to think that nothing we’re doing is “working.” But years later, we may have the joy of knowing that we were having an influence even when we didn’t see it. (Just as an aside, I am talking to myself more than anyone here. I often get discouraged about the lack of immediate results in my kids, and I need to be reminded of this truth frequently.)
Sometimes living in faithfulness to God even has an effect after we die. Things that we taught our children and lived out in front of them can be brought to their minds when we aren’t physically present with them anymore. We can’t and don’t need to know exactly how God is using us, and all the events of our lives, to bring about His purposes. We only need to know that we, personally, must be faithful to Him, just as He is faithful to us, and rest in His infinite sovereignty and power to use us to influence others.
One of my favorite songs is Steve Green’s “Find Us Faithful.” If you have never heard this song, please take a few minutes to listen to it here. The lyrics are simple but powerful. This is my goal, and what I will strive for, knowing that I can only accomplish it through God’s grace and strength, and trusting Him to use me according to His plan.
O may all who come behind us
Find us faithful.
May the fire of our devotion
Light their way.
May the footprints that we leave
Lead them to believe.
And the lives we live
Inspire them to obey.
O may all who come behind us
Find us faithful