I could hear the emotion in his voice before my foot hit the stairs to respond. My son was calling me in a way that communicated fear had him firmly in its grip. While I know that struggling with a fear of the dark, the unknown, the frightening, is normal in childhood, this knowledge does not make it easier on my boy.
And if we are really honest, there is an awful lot to be afraid of these days. How do we stand firm in our faith in the face of so much evil in the world? And how do we help our children do the same?
Heading up the stairs, I silently prayed for wisdom. I know, of course, that there are no monsters beneath his bed and nothing hiding behind his closet door. But my little boy is not so sure. And so emotions have gripped his soul, and he is lost in an effort to hide from the malevolent forces he cannot see but is afraid he may sense. Finding him under covers, I peeled back the layers and touched his face. Tears fell. Words poured forth. He was entirely overwhelmed by what was wrong and what was evil and in this mindset, no sleep would come.
And then I was stuck. Because what I wanted to tell him is that I am close and I will protect him and I will never let harm come to his small self. I want to gather him in my arms and make these things true.
But I cannot. I am stuck between what I wish was true and what is truly true. The reality of what my boy is saying is becoming clear to me, too. There is evil in the world. And for every effort we make to keep ourselves safe, the evil pushes back. Storms destroy towns and people act like monsters and our health and our homes break down.
So what am I to say?
His head on my shoulder, I speak. I tell him that it is not God’s desire that we be lost in fear. I remind him of how loved he is and how so much of the things we are afraid of are already taken care of by what God has done for us. I whisper to him that the Bible is so clear about God’s adoration of his children that it says, “God does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men” (Lamentations 3:33). I remind my sweet boy that the very hand that sustains this universe holds us safe in His grip tonight and tomorrow and that nothing in the whole wide world matters more than this.
As his tears slow, I hold him close and tell him that we can pray and be heard whenever we are afraid. I say that the One who hears our prayers has known fear and solitude and hurt and sadness. He has been lonely and angry and confused and forgotten. And all He wants is to draw near to His children in their times of need.
I tell all of this to my little boy. And I tell it to myself.
And as these words of eternal truth wash over both of us in the darkness, I am aware again that we often put our trust in things that will not hold. We feel we are safe if we have our stuff, if we are healthy, if there is no monster hiding nearby. But this is not where safety is found. As a momma to my sweet boy, I have the ability to help him find a deeper safety that will not fail. And as he grows and becomes more aware of all the issues this world can hold, I can help him stand firm in faith by teaching him the truth. I can help him brave what will come by leading him to the only thing that is eternal.
The world can be a scary place. This is true for my small son and this can be true for me. But there is wonder in creation that speaks of a greater truth. And there is comfort in allowing the words of scripture to soothe us, child and adult, when faced with the evil around. We are loved and seen and held close. This does not mean that no bad will come. But it does mean that in the midst of the trials, we are not alone, not lost, not even shaken to our core. Instead, we are sustained by the same hand that created all we see.
How do we stand firm in the face of so much to fear? We cast our gaze on the God we trust and believe the words He has shared. We allow Him to flood our days with comfort and grace and watch Him overcome the world He seeks to save. We trust. And rest.
And continue in faith.