Rational -vs- Irrational Fear

The other night I had all the kids tucked into bed and was getting ready for bed myself, trying to make it an early night as I’d had lots of really late ones recently. And then I heard a little voice call, “Mom?”

I went in to the girls’ room, and A said, “Mom, see that pile of clothes over there?” … (points to a few folded items on their built-in dresser shelf that I hadn’t hung up yet) … “It’s scary! It looks like a scary pumpkin face carved out and I don’t like it.”

Now. Here’s the thing: I would categorize myself as a ‘tough love’ kind of mom. I don’t tend to indulge my kids’ rants, fits, or complaints if they are about something petty. Sometimes, especially if it’s a repetitive issue, I would even venture to say I’m dismissive. That doesn’t mean I don’t comfort them when they’re hurt, or get down to their level to help calm them, but I’m sorry, the fact that your show is over and I’m putting on another one is not a valid reason for tears. (You read that right. I’ve had a child cry when it’s over, and then cry when I go to put another one on. Really?? I’m confused. I thought I just solved the problem.)

My point is, I had a choice here. This had come up before – though it had been awhile – so I was really close to just saying, “Aubrey, we’ve talked about this before. You know there’s nothing to be afraid of. Now go to sleep.” (kiss, leave the room)

But for some reason I paused an extra beat and words started tumbling out – not in a rushed way, but in a calm and instructive way. I’m going to try to recreate what I said, because I cannot take credit for it (it was completely the Holy Spirit calling to mind the things I’ve studied in the past according to John 14:26), but I do want to remember it in hopes I can use it again for my other kids. (I’ve inserted the exact bible verses for reference, though I didn’t necessarily quote the location originally. Just so you don’t think I’m some amazing, verse-spouting and remembering person. 🙂 ) I hope this may be of some help to you.

So here we go:

Some fears are rational. Rational means there’s a good reason for it. Like right now, if a burglar came into our house with a gun, that would be a RATIONAL fear. You would be right to be afraid. But irrational fears are ones that you have for no good reason. A pile of clothes cannot hurt you. Right? Even if it looks like a scary Jack-o-Lantern, a Jack-o-Lantern can’t hurt you, right? So that is an IRrational fear. A burglar with a gun COULD hurt you – do you understand how that’s a rational fear?

But the cool thing is, even if we have a rational fear, like the burglar, God tells us we still don’t have to be afraid, because He will help us in those situations. He sends His angels that guard us and watch over us and fight for us (Psalm 91:11). Remember 2 Timothy 1:7? God did not give us a spirit of FEAR, but of power, love, and a sound mind. The thing is, sometimes there’s more going on than what you can see. There are lots of reasons why a burglar might be doing what he’s doing. People that do bad or scary things aren’t always bad themselves. Sometimes people didn’t grow up knowing God, and so they don’t know what’s right or wrong. Sometimes people are hurt really badly by people they loved and trusted, and they have lots of anger, hurt, and sadness inside that leads them to make bad choices. Sometimes it’s just that the devil is a really good liar, and he’s good at convincing people they should do bad things. So even when those people are doing things that make you afraid, you can know that Jesus gave us authority over all the power the enemy possesses (Luke 10:19). We can use our Sword of the Spirit which is the Word from Ephesians 6 because our bible verses are our weapons – we pray them, and God’s angels can go to work in the spiritual realm and fight the enemy’s demons for us. That’s why it says the Word is our Sword – our weapon.

So God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of
POWER – over the enemy: the devil and his demons;
LOVE – to love people even when they do hurtful things to us;
and a SOUND MIND – to help us determine whether our fear is rational or irrational, and to discern what might be going on in the spiritual realm so we know what to pray. This also helps us know what to do if we have a rational fear because of a real situation.

Does that help?

Even as an adult, I have irrational fears sometimes. But when I focus on God’s love instead of whatever silly thing is scaring me, I feel so at peace. The devil can’t touch me, because I’m bought and paid for by the blood of Christ.

 

*DISCLAIMER: if it comes as a shock to you, yes, I do mention the devil and his demons to my kids, in whatever way I feel is appropriate for their age, understanding, and maturity level, as I feel led to. He is far more of a real threat to us than any other pretend boogey man, so I use my discretion when mentioning it. But I do want my kids to be aware that there is a force out there that wants them to fail and wants them to make bad choices (1 Peter 5:8). The bible tells us to be vigilant and sober-minded, and I don’t see anything wrong with teaching this from as young an age as they can understand. Because even though we have an enemy, we also have a Savior who has conquered the enemy for us and deprived him of power to harm us (John 16:33). We have an answer to the problem! How can you fight something if you don’t know what you’re fighting against? Even more, how can you know the solution if you don’t know the problem? I want my kids to be equipped to understand the truth and that most times, there is more going on than meets the natural eye. And in case you’re wondering, A (who really is the only one old and mature enough for me to have explained anything to) has never vocalized a fear of the devil, or complained of bad dreams about the devil or his demons. 😉

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