It was all Jake could do to hold his emotions in check.
“Let’s stop talking about that now, Mom,” Jake urged. “Let’s pray.”
“Jake,” I began, but was interrupted.
“Mom,” Jake pressed, “I don’t want to hear about it.”
This was not the first time Jake had tried to deflect the topic of this particular conversation.
“Jake,” I restarted, “You’re becoming anxious.”
“Mom,” Jake retorted, “I said, ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’”
This circular conversation could have continued all morning. The more Jake thought about the topic at hand, the more anxious and upset he became. My kid who is fearless in his quest to climb the highest rocks in Matopos or find the rockiest trail in the African bush, was paralyzed.
As most of you know who are familiar with our family, Jake is autistic. One of his greatest challenges in life is how to deal with his worry and fear of the unknown. We’ve done a ton in his nearly 15-year-old life to address Jake’s day to day struggles of wanting to be in control and to keep everything safe and secure and known. Yet, as we all understand, we are not in control. We cannot keep everything and everyone safe and secure. We do not know what is happening tomorrow or even later today for that matter. Life is filled with uncertainty.
There lies the rub for Jake.
Even as life is uncertain, one thing is certain and known for Jake. One day his parents will die. We will not live forever on this earth.
Whenever I talk about growing Jake in his independence and confidence in a life skill, Jake balks. He doesn’t want to learn how to do something that I have done for him. When we do this, Jake’s mind catapults to the future and he sees himself as an adult – and for Jake, when he sees himself as an adult that means he sees his parents as much older and one step closer to death.
Jake will tell you with great sincerity, “I don’t want to grow up. I want to stay a kid and live with my parents forever.”
It’s true that some teenagers cannot wait to leave home. I can assure you that Jake has no such thoughts.
One of the prayers I have for Jake is that would seek his God for help in terms of his anxiety. As many of you know, Jake’s favorite verses in Scripture come from Matthew 6:25 –27…
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
Jake quotes these verses often actually. Matthew 6:25 – 34 has resonated with him.
I’m grateful for that.
I don’t want Jake to worry about the future. We’ve got enough happening in our lives today!
One verse I want Jake to also embrace comes from Romans 12:2
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. New International Version, Romans 12:2
As Jake’s worries and fears materialize, I don’t want him to follow the worrisome pattern of this world which baits him to fear even more.
For as I observe many of our kids today, particularly our teens, many are struggling with anxiety. I don’t judge or condemn them for this behavior. It seems to me that the world – whether through social, print or televised media – is hell bent on freaking people out. Instead of lifting people up with encouragement, the world often tears people down with shame and disparagement. Instead of providing helpful and instructive information, the world taunts people with lies and innuendo. Instead of reveling in the beauty and blessing of each person’s unique being, the world insists upon conformity and compromise.
If a young person has no idea who he is yet, what he believes about God and His Son Jesus Christ, and how to embrace his faith as his own and stand upon it, self-doubt, apprehensive thoughts, and more are sure to infiltrate and then take residence in the mind.
The pattern of this world takes hold. Fear has won.
Yet, as followers of Christ, we do not have to be ensnared by the world’s anxiety trap.
In our family, Jake is our son who is most vulnerable to distress when he doesn’t know what is going to happen in his future. We have worked with him in this area almost his entire life. Beginning when he was quite young we would divide new events into three parts. First, this will happen. Second, this will happen. Third, this will happen near the end.
When we fly to the United States, we divide the trip into parts. The first airplane ride will take us to destination A and is a looooooooooong ride. The second airplane ride will take us to destination B and is a medium-length ride. The third airplane is a short ride and it will take us to Portland. We cannot give Jake all of the details of what will happen on each flight. However, we can break the trip down into parts that provide him with a helpful framework and provide him with reference points.
That’s what our God does for each of us on this earth. We don’t get to know what is going to happen tomorrow. What we do get to know is that He provides reference points in Scripture to enable us to persevere to make it to tomorrow.
As an example, here’s my prayer for Jake:
Jake, there are patterns in this world that are not helpful. They hurt you more than help you. Worrying about when Mommy and Daddy will die, doesn’t help you. It only freaks you out and paralyzes you even more.
Allow God to transform your mind. Allow Him to take your fears and anxieties of the future and turn them into hope and joy for today.
As you trust in your God, He will show you His will and what you need to do – today.
Jake, your God loves you and is pleased with you. Your need to know about what happens later today or tomorrow is going to be met by your God in a good and proper time.
The most important thing I want you to know is that your God is present now and in your future. We feel most anxious when we don’t see God in our tomorrows – but this is a deceptive veil that the world tries to pull over our eyes, Jake. It is not true. Our God is in our future. Our Savior Jesus Christ is with us as we step forward and continue walking into that future. There is no need to fear, Sweet Jake, because the love and presence of your God is sure.
Friends, our kids need to know this truth and embrace it for themselves.
Their God and their Lord is present now and He is already present in their future. To hold fast to such truth would surely help address the fears and anxieties they are besieged with in life. I don’t want my kid to be afraid. I don’t want to let fear win. Do you? Of course not. Then it starts with us.
We will have no part in the fear-mongering pattern of this world. If we reject it, show our kids how to rebuff it as well, through the power of Jesus Christ, then we’re well on our way to living a transformational life in Christ on earth.
I won’t let fear win in my family.
What about you?