“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?” Martyn Lloyd-Jones
This is revolutionary, biblical, fear-fighting counsel for mothers. And it comes in two parts:
1. Stop listening to yourself
2. Start speaking to yourself
First, we must stop listening to our fears. We must not give them any “air time.”
The critical moment is when a fearful thought first strikes our soul: “What if _________happens to my child?” or “What if my child never___________?”
If we listen—even for a moment, if we give this fear any attention, consider its potential, wonder at its source, soon we begin to believe it might be true. The more we ponder this possibility, the more believable the fear becomes. Soon it is joined by other, more fearsome, thoughts; and before we know it, we’re overwhelmed by hopelessness and dread.
A wise pastor once gave me this advice: “If any thought robs you of peace, it is an enemy of your soul; give it no recognition.”
Give it no recognition. Ignore it. Disregard it. Close your ears to it. Pay it no mind.
We must not yield the floor to fear. We must filibuster our fears by speaking truth to our souls.
When fear for our children grips us, we often look for something “new” to help us deal with it. But instead, we must rely on the true and the tried strategies from God’s Word. They are:
Prayer: “...do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)
Promises: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)
Saints throughout the centuries have leaned on God’s promises and called out to Him in prayer. And each and every time, they have found Him to be faithful. “I sought the Lord,” David tells us, “and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4).
So let’s follow the example of David and that “great cloud of witnesses.” Let’s seek God through constant prayer, and in the space of His promises, let’s park our souls.
Continuing the theme of fighting mothering fears with the promises of God, I want to encourage you to listen to this sermon by Jerry Bridges. He was at our church on Sunday—what a blessing!—and he spoke on “Trusting God.” Here’s one quote that stood out to me:
“Here’s a principle to keep in mind: The promises of god are as real as the circumstances you are in. Your circumstances say “God has forgotten you.” Your circumstances say, “I look for God, and just when I need God to come through for me, God doesn’t seem to be any place.” That’s what your circumstances say. The promise of God says, “I will not leave you. I will never forsake you.” And that promise is just as real as the circumstances you are in. And so by faith, we look beyond our circumstances and we look to the promises of God.” Whether you are tempted to fear over an errant teenager or a disobedient toddler, may God give you faith to look beyond your circumstances and remember the VERY REAL promise that God is with you and will never leave you.
One (among many!) of the encouraging messages from this past week’s Pastors Conference was given by pastor Rick Gamache from 1 Peter 5:6-11, entitled “When A Pastor Suffers.” It was addressed to pastors, but I thought you all would appreciate it too, because the topic was anxiety and faith—just what we’ve been talking about here on girltalk. When I learned that Rick had also preached this sermon to his church, and that the audio was available at their website, I just had to pass it along. Given my temptations to worry and anxiety, I’ve listened to a lot of sermons and read a lot of books over the years. This is one of the best! I hope you’ll take time to listen to “Be Humble Be Alert” this week.
Recently Justin Taylor posted the following from John Piper. It is worth re-posting here in its entirety:
* When I am anxious about some risky new venture or meeting, I battle unbelief with the promise: “Fear not for I am with you, be not dismayed for I am your God; I will help you, I will strengthen you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
* When I am anxious about my ministry being useless and empty, I fight unbelief with the promise, “So shall my word that goes forth from my mouth; it will not come back to me empty but accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).
* When I am anxious about being too weak to do my work, I battle unbelief with the promise of Christ, “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9), and “As your days so shall your strength be” (Deuteronomy 33:25).
* When I am anxious about decisions I have to make about the future, I battle unbelief with the promise, “I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8).
* When I am anxious about facing opponents, I battle unbelief with the promise, “If God is for us who can be against us!” (Romans 8:31).
* When I am anxious about being sick, I battle unbelief with the promise that “tribulation works patience, and patience approvedness, and approvedness hope, and hope does not make us ashamed” (Romans 5:3–5).
* When I am anxious about getting old, I battle unbelief with the promise, “Even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save” (Isaiah 46:4).
* When I am anxious about dying, I battle unbelief with the promise that “none of us lives to himself and none of us dies to himself; if we live we live to the Lord and if we die we die to the Lord. So whether we live or die we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and rose again: that he might be Lord both of the dead and the living” (Romans 14:9–11).
* When I am anxious that I may make shipwreck of faith and fall away from God, I battle unbelief with the promise, “He who began a good work in you will complete it unto the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:6). “He who calls you is faithful. He will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). “He is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).
“[T]ake the…sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” Ephesians 6:17-18
To fight fear we are to “pray at all times.” But we have another weapon in our arsenal: the promises of God. We are to wield the Word against the onslaught of mothering fears.
We are to ”take” the Word of God and use it. To do this, we need to have it nearby. This means we need to be daily reading the Word and consistently meditating on it.
And we need to pull out the promises and put them into action. We have to pick up the sword and fight. A sword must be swung in order to deliver a blow.
We have a legacy of faithful, fear-fighting women to follow: “And you are [Sarah’s] children if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.” 1 Peter 3:6
John Piper writes: “[T]he daughters of Sarah fight the anxiety that rises in their hearts. They wage war on fear, and they defeat it with the promises of God.”
Let’s be daughters of Sarah and fight our mothering fears with the promises of God.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
(Philippians 4:6-7 ESV)
For the anxious mother, God has provided a solution in His Word.
It is simple: Pray. Give Thanks. Repeat.
It covers all of life: Don’t be anxious about ANYTHING. Pray about EVERYTHING.
And it comes with a promise: God’s peace will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Yet I sometimes treat prayer as if it doesn’t work. I do this by not praying or thanking but by worrying instead.
“I’ve tried praying before,” I excuse myself, “and God’s answer was different than what I asked for. So what’s the use?” Or, “I tried praying and didn’t feel more peaceful. I must not be doing it right.”
But the peace of God is more than a flimsy feeling of peace. It is a knowing, a settled confidence in the sovereign goodness of God that will guard against all anxious feelings.
As we pray and give thanks IN EVERYTHING, our trust in God deepens and His peace pervades our lives. Anxious thoughts don’t have the same sticking power, and eventually, they go away.
So lately I’ve been trying to simply obey God’s Word in Philippians 4. I still have a lot to learn about prayer, but I can tell you this: my faith, peace and gratefulness to God have grown, and my temptation to anxiety has decreased.
Scripture is true, and as anxious mothers, we would do well to believe and obey.
“Children are a precious gift from God, but much anxiety comes with them. They may be a great joy or a great bitterness to their parents….In all cases, the Word of God gives us one receipt for the curing of all their ills, ‘Bring him unto me.’ O for more agonizing prayer on their behalf while they are yet babes! Sin is there, let our prayers begin to attack it….Never must we cease to pray until they cease to breathe. No case is hopeless while Jesus lives.
The Lord sometimes suffers His people to be driven into a corner that they may experimentally know how necessary He is to them. Ungodly children, when they show us our own powerlessness against the depravity of their hearts, drive us to flee to the strong for strength, and this is a great blessing to us. Whatever our…need may be, let it like a strong current bear us to the ocean of divine love. Jesus can soon remove our sorrow, He delights to comfort us. Let us hasten to Him while He waits to meet us.”
~Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, September 17, Morning
“I cried to thee, O Lord.” Ps. 30:8
“Prayer is the unfailing resource of the anxious mother,” to paraphrase Charles Spurgeon:
“If they are driven to their wits’ end, they may still go to the mercy-seat….Let us never forget to pray, and let us never doubt the success of prayer… Mirth and carnal amusements are a sorry prescription for a mind distracted and despairing. Prayer will succeed where all else fails.”
We are often “at our wits’ end” with our children. We feel like we’ve tried everything and we don’t know what else to do. So we worry: Will my toddler never stop throwing temper tantrums? Will my teenager ever open up to me again? Will my children ever turn to Christ?
But instead of worrying, we are to cry to the Lord on behalf of our children. We must not forget to pray. And we must believe that prayer works: it will succeed where all our mothering efforts fail.
What worries do you need to bring to the mercy-seat today?
“They…were at their wits’ end. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.” Ps. 107:27, 28
(adapted from the archives)
There is not grace for our imagination. But there is grace for today’s mothering trials. Not tomorrow’s imaginary trouble or next year’s envisaged problems. Just for today.
That’s why Jesus tells us: “[D]o not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt. 6:34)
Moms of all people know this to be true: each day really does have sufficient trouble without adding tomorrow’s worries!
But for today’s sufficient trouble there is God’s more than sufficient grace: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). “As your days” it says in Deuteronomy, “so shall your strength be” (33: 25).
What’s more, for the Christian mother, goodness and mercy are behind every moment of today’s trouble. Our trouble isn’t meaningless. God is pursuing us with goodness and mercy today and all the days of our lives (Ps. 23:6).
“Courage, dear friend” encourages Charles Spurgeon, “The Lord, the ever-merciful, has appointed every moment of sorrow and pang of suffering. If He ordains the number ten, it can never rise to eleven, nor should you desire that it shrink to nine” (emphasis mine).
God is busy working today’s trouble for our good. So do not worry about tomorrow but look to Him today.