It’s Too Scary!
When a small child says, “It’s too scary!” we comfort the child. Sometimes we cuddle, sing, or read a story. We try to rescue the child in some way.
But what if it’s fear itself that makes life too scary? What if being scared is a primary mode of operating? As adults, we recognize anxiety as an enemy that causes us harm. But we are likely to see anxiety in a small child as simply caused by something they don’t understand. Perhaps.
I remember being afraid of shadows in the night, especially moving shadows. I didn’t know that headlights outdoors were causing shadows on my wall to move. So I was scared. Later, when my mom explained how it was happening, I was fine.
But some fears refuse explanations.
A toddler I love finds a clown jack-in-the-box fascinating. But he wants to watch it from very far away. “It’s too scary.” Explanations and close-up examination do no good. It’s still too scary.
When my girls were little, all three of them went through periods of nightmares. Comforting and cuddling worked temporarily, but the nightmare might come back again the same night. That only stopped for us when my cousin explained how she had had to pray Satan would stop giving her son nightmares, out loud, “in the name of Jesus Christ.”
Calling on Jesus to help in the moment.
After hearing her stories, my response to nightmares changed. I explained to my daughter that Jesus was stronger than anything that was bothering her sleep. I then prayed aloud, “Satan, in the name of Jesus Christ, leave my daughter alone!”
Every time—the nightmare was gone, and my daughter was able to sleep peacefully for the rest of the night. With one daughter we needed to repeat the process several nights in a row. But with the others it was only one or two nights. Amazing.
Jesus promises us his peace, and he gives it. But we need to look to him for it.
Unfortunately for us, Jesus does not promise to remove whatever is scary from our lives. He simply promises to be there with us and protect us from it. Psalm 91, probably my very favorite psalm, deals with fear head on. In fact, in it the psalmist shares his faith with other people by saying that the Lord will surely deliver them from all their fears as he has delivered the psalmist. He concludes with these powerful words that God will say about his children: “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation” (14-16).
These words from the psalmist centuries ago fit perfectly with John’s words in the New Testament. He tells us to look to Jesus because “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (I John 4:4). Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit to live within us, and he lives within our children as well. But as adults, we need to remember that and keep reminding our children of Jesus’ spirit living within them.
Too little to understand?
Perhaps a two-year-old is too little to understand. He is suddenly afraid of ghosts because of seeing a little monkey in Curious George scaring people by looking like a ghost. But when I ask him, “Do you know that Jesus is stronger than ghosts?” he is comforted. His fears will certainly return. But my reminding him that Jesus can protect him from ghosts comforts him. And it helps him put his trust in the right place.
Those reminders are good for me too, even though my fears are of things quite different from monkeys covered in tablecloths.