I sat in the back pew, waiting for the end of a sermon I wasn’t expecting much from. I had heard this basic message before, and I had read those words from the prophet Isaiah countless times. Besides, I had enough on my mind to keep me from listening closely.
We’d been caught by the collapse of the housing market, and we were financially quite vulnerable. A strong sense of calling pulled me away from my job—but I couldn’t see my way past the financial obstacles. Every day was full of the demands, challenges, and worries of everyone who has growing kids, a marriage, and a mortgage. I had a lot to think about.
But then, as the speaker read from Isaiah 40, something made those words cut through my mental clutter. I was startled, as if awakened from a fast-receding dream. I heard these words in a way I hadn’t before:
“To whom will you compare me?
Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.
All at once, my perspective zoomed out and I felt a new sense of awe at this Creator who wields complete power over everything that seems so big to us. A thought I hadn’t engendered confronted me: If this is the God I’m serving, how can I worry about anything? How can I believe I’m in charge? If he knows how to keep track of all the stars, how can I not entrust myself to his care?
Suddenly I saw clearly something I had not realized before: I worried daily, almost constantly. I was so used to living with a high level of anxiety, I didn’t even notice it until it made my heart pound and my stomach churn. I didn’t have an anxiety disorder that made this impossible for me to control, as some people do. That’s different. These weren’t symptoms of something malfunctioning in my body or mind; they were symptoms of a need for spiritual change.
I had a sense of responsibility completely out of keeping for someone with a realistic picture of what she can and cannot control. I was constantly frustrated with my limited knowledge of the future. And I had a motivating desire for more control than would ever be appropriate for someone who claimed to be a beloved child of this magnificent God Isaiah spoke of.
A new way of thinking began in that startling moment. My view of God began to change, and I grew much more sensitive to the habit of worry in my life. I realized one major problem was this: I worried a lot about my kids. Some of this worry was rooted in a false sense of ownership and responsibility for my children. Like many parents, I thought my children belonged to me.
I was wrong.
I dove in to the Bible to discover what it says on the subject of worry. Suddenly it seemed as if every passage I read was related to worry in some way. My morning devotional pointed me to passages. Sermons reminded me of texts I hadn’t read with that perspective. Conversations with others sent me to the Bible to read more. And what I discovered changed my life. God is offended by our choice to worry, and he has made this abundantly clear throughout his historic relationship with humankind. But he always gives us a reason not to worry. That reason is firmly planted not in a denial of reality, but in who our God is.
All people belong to God. Parents, our kids don’t belong to us. God has called us to positions of responsibility in their lives, but we do not have ultimate responsibility for them—God does. It does no good—in fact, it causes harm—for us to worry over them and try to adopt a measure of control we don’t have. We need to entrust them to God.
The solution is not to stop caring for our kids. We are right to care deeply and passionately about them. We are right to care for them as we can and as our care will help, not hurt. We are right to guide them and teach them everything we believe, and to pray that they embrace that truth. But we aren’t right to try to control them, to take ownership of their spiritual destiny, to push them into the life we want for them.
If God doesn’t control us, why do we think we have the right to control other people who belong to him? We need to take seriously our responsibility as stewards—our children are in our care. But this isn’t the same as ownership; we must relinquish what is only the king’s to claim, knowing they are in much stronger hands than our own.
© 2015 Amy Simpson.