How to Shepherd an Anxious Heart
our hearts need to Find peace and be grounded in Truth to Lead from A firm foundatioN.
By Rebecca Little, Lower Elementary Principal
Something that hurts my heart deeply is when I hear of a child experiencing unhealthy fear, anxiety, or worry. Having experienced feelings of anxiety and panic in a season in my life several years ago, I can’t imagine dealing with those feelings at such a tender age.
Childhood should be a time of carefree, content, and secure living, not permeated with feelings of anxiousness. Today, the word “anxiety” is so common. Growing up, I don’t remember this word being used to characterize my feelings or the feelings of any of my friends. We may have been nervous at times, but those times were limited, and the feelings would pass.
Why have these feelings of fear and anxiety crept into the lives of so many children (and us as adults)? We hear and see that social media, instant news, and the fast-paced world are certainly feeding this unwanted state. Even thinking about the effects of our culture adds stress because of its overwhelming momentum and pervasiveness in our lives. So, what are we to do? I believe there are some simple ways we can try to guard against anxiety becoming more commonplace and robbing the innocence of childhood and joy in all of us.
Finding hearts of peace
As adults we first need to examine our own hearts and our perception of life. When we focus on the “what ifs,” our hearts can become fearful, anxious, and worried. Without knowing it, we can cast those feelings onto the children in our midst.
First, our hearts need to find peace and be grounded in Truth so that we are able to teach and parent from that firm foundation, rather than from the head, where the evil one loves to plant lies.
When we live in the “what ifs,” we are looking at our version of the future that takes us down roads where God has not led us. We must remember that God will never lead us where His grace cannot sustain us. When we are fearful and anxious about what might happen, our finite minds leave out the most important factor, GOD.
Protecting the hearts and minds of our children
It is also key for us as parents and adults to understand that the mind of a child is developing. The weight of information they hear, the amount of choices that are given to them, the questions they may ask, and the answers we give them may be too much for them to carry and too much for their developing minds to comprehend.
We must protect their minds and hearts from the heavy burden of knowledge that they are not yet mature enough to handle. In The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom shares a powerful illustration of this point that is etched in my mind. Having asked her father about a topic he felt too mature, Corrie ten Boom recalls his reply:
“He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case from the rack over our heads, and set it on the floor.
‘Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?’ he said.
I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.
‘It's too heavy,’ I said.
‘Yes,’ he said, ‘and it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It's the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger, you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.’
And I was satisfied. More than satisfied – wonderfully at peace. There were answers to this and all my hard questions – for now I was content to leave it in my father’s keeping.”
God tells us in Ephesians 6 to daily put on the armor of God because we are in a battle. The evil one wants our children (and us) to live in the rattled state of fear and anxiety because then our eyes and our minds become distracted. Let’s put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of peace, take up the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation so we are able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. Let’s teach our children to do the same and rest in the truth that His “perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18