I went to bed a jumbled mess.
My teenage son was at the drive-in movies and would be on the road way past my bedtime. My husband was out of town at a conference, and when I’d spoken to him he was exhausted and frazzled. I’d had to tell my daughter, “No,” she couldn’t sleep over at a friend’s. It wasn’t a punishment, just one of those mom-moments when you sense your child is worn out and staying home is what’s best. She was disappointed. Her body rigid as I hugged her goodnight. Even though I felt I’d made the “right” decision, it’s no fun having your kiddo mad at you.
All these things swirled through my mind as I pulled my fluffy, down comforter to my chin. The evening had started so well—everyone who was home baking cookies together while music played throughout our kitchen. All of us “tasting” spoonfuls of sweet, sticky, chocolate chip-laden dough. Afterwards, we’d chatted on our porch, serenaded by a symphony of tree frogs and night crickets.
But now my mind swirled with concerns for the people I loved. I double-checked the ringer to make sure I’d hear the bebop ringtone my son assigned to himself if he called. I hoped he didn’t need me. Would he call if he did? Did my daughter understand? Would my husband be able to fall asleep? Somewhere in all my worry, I drifted into fitful sleep. Then started.
I checked my phone. Had my boy called? Was he still at the drive-in? I pictured Brett alone in a hotel room in Boston. I imagined my daughter in her bunk bed surrounded by pillows. Had she fallen asleep? Did she text her friends about her unreasonable mom? Go back to sleep, Laura, I told myself.
But shouldn’t Max be home? Was Brett sleeping? Was anyone?
I’d been gifted with a great evening with my awesome family. My son was simply at the movies. That’s good, clean fun—not dangerous. My husband was safe in a hotel room. There was no threat. My daughter was getting the rest she needed. That was a good thing. Still I felt uneasy and worried about everyone’s wellbeing. That didn’t add up. Why was that?
Have you ever had the uneasy feeling that something was off? And you couldn’t explain why? And it didn’t make sense? That something was nagging you toomuch, bothering you more than it should, that you worried about something you either had no control over, or wasn’t really worth much worry in the first place? If you are overly, inexplicably concerned be on the alert. Fear is a liar. As New York Times bestseller and encourager to millions, Bob Goff, puts it, “Fear is a punk. It’s the bully that will steal your lunch money. Every time.”
Who wants fear to rob us of our pizza lunch? Chocolate milk? Good night’s sleep? Self worth? Or so much more?
Jesus loves us fully and unconditionally. But the enemy? He does not. He can’t stand joy. He gets super bothered when we choose the right thing. His M.O. is to attack, steal and destroy. He’s really sneaky and awfully annoying. And even thought it’s tough to get our minds around, the enemy is real. He slithers around trying to distract us from all the goodness God gives us. He fills our heads with doubt, uncertainty and fear. He’ll try to get us to take our eyes off Jesus and focus on something that’s not actually a problem, like swirling waves that Jesus already has under control. We need to be aware that this is the enemy’s plan of attack, but we don’t need to get freaked out.
Because Jesus covered us in grace. He’s on our side. And one of His names is actually the Prince of Peace. Jesus is already victorious. This is what we need to cling to. We don’t need to have any tricks up our sleeves or any superpowers. All it takes is taking our eyes and minds away from the distraction and looking back at Jesus. In fact, at the sound of Jesus’ name, the enemy must flee. He has no choice in the matter. Must go. Even in the scariest, darkest, most frustrating moments when we don’t know what to do, we can say, “Jesus,” out loud.
Say it now, “Jesus.” Do you feel a shift?
Why hadn’t I prayed? Ugh. Finally, I pulled my eyes from the worry and back to Jesus. I prayed, “God, please keep Max alert on the dark, late night roads. Please calm Brett. Remind my husband that You have called him to this work, and You have purpose in it. My daughter doesn’t have to understand, God. She can be mad. Just let her know she is loved.” And during my prayers I felt some of the agitation dissolve. My breathing relaxed, and I faded to sleep.
There was nothing for me to fear that night. Max was with friends from youth group for goodness sake, and he’s a responsible driver. My husband may have been exhausted, but he came home to us the next day. My daughter was disappointed but completely fine. Why did I worry?
Jesus never wants us to fear. His perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18). And yet still we worry. At least I do. And when we start to go down that path, that bully named Fear, says, “Oh, yes, let me lead you further down this rabbit hole of concern and worry.” In these circumstances we can ask…hmm, why am I so angry at that little thing someone said at practice or at the meeting? Is it really worth being mad about? Or…what am I actually afraid of? Is there anything I can do about that? Do I have any rational reason for fearing that? And if we realize we’re too wound up about something, but can’t seem to unwind, going to prayer or the Bible are two incredible ways to still our agitated souls. **
Talking to Jesus always helps. Because He loves you and wants to calm and reassure and care for you. And, when you pray Satan can’t get a word in edge wise.I also like having some go-to scriptures in times of stress or concern. Here are some of my favs:
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. --John 16:33
Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? --Matthew 6:27
Psalm 23. All of it. But especially the He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul part.
Jesus was quick to comfort them. “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.”--Matthew 14:27
Jesus heard my sleepy, murmured prayers. The snake slithered away. I woke to Max’s calm, deep voice, “I’m home, Mom. Just wanted to let you know.” He stood over my bed in his white hoodie.
“You okay? You have fun?” I mumbled.
“Yeah, it was fun.”
Thank you Jesus for bringing my boy home, was my final thought before drifting into deep, peaceful sleep.
The world will shake us up inside. All of the “what if” scenarios will fly through our crazy brains. But Jesus? Jesus wants us to savor and enjoy this precious moment He’s put in front of us. He wants us to live a full and glorious life—not one filled with fear or doubt. Jesus? He tells us in John 14:27, “Peace I leave you. Peace the world cannot give.Do not let your hearts be troubled. Do not be afraid.” And when I hear those words? I want to drink them up, hold on tight, and live in His peace in this moment now, and in the one after that. No matter what comes my way.
**Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional nor do I claim a simple prayer will calm anxiety or heal depression (although I believe Jesus makes everything better and longs to help you). If you are suffering from a mental health issue I urge you to seek professional advice. You can start here with the Anxiety and Depression Association of America also YouVersion has developed several free Bible reading plans specifically to bring hope to an anxious heart.
Laura L. Smith