He sat up in his bed, drenched in sweat, eyes wide in terror, with a flashlight, shining it quickly from one side of the room to the next. I sat beside him holding him, but my presence wasn't helping the fear. His heart was pounding, his terror visible.
It was as if I wasn’t even there with him. I could see he felt no relief from me. Nothing I said, nothing I did helped. For three hours he was terrified and inconsolable.
I tried everything in me to comfort him, to take away his fear. But I couldn’t.
I tried to reason with him, I tried to hold him, I turned on every light in the room, I did it all. But it wasn’t enough.
I wasn't enough.
So I prayed.
Oh, how I prayed. I cried as silent tears streamed down my son’s little face. And I was as helpless as I had ever been. I was face to face with my utter inadequacy and my complete dependence on God to do what I could not. This was the first time it happened, and unfortunately not the last.
He became so afraid of the night that he would look out of the window from the time he woke up, worrying if it was getting dark outside. It consumed him. Besides fear at night time, it surfaced in other things as well. In social gatherings I could often find him as far from the group of other children as possible, hiding under a table. Going out in public often became a battle I chose not to fight because of his fear of a sudden loud noise that could happen. He would cover his ears the moment we got inside, overcome that a noise might scare him.
Birthday parties for a few years were near impossible to attend and playgrounds were a source of extreme fear. Food has been a source of a lot of fear for him as well, even causing him at times to throw up at the mere thought of trying something new.
The list went on and on and we began to realize pretty quickly that though every child deals with some level of fear, our son’s fears were much more debilitating. It was interfering with everyday life.
So, next came the diagnosis… Childhood Anxiety Disorder.
If, I’m honest, the last thing I wanted was a label for my child. I felt my mind scream...'He is not a label! This is NOT what is going to define him!' He is my sweet, sensitive, empathetic, understanding, loving little boy who happens to struggle with fear. I was angry. I didn’t want to tell people for fear that is all they would see.
I felt I had somehow stamped his forehead and people wouldn’t be able to see past it to my amazingly beautiful son.
So, while we began therapy and started getting him help, I began my own journey with fear. I became acutely aware of everything around me. I couldn’t walk into a grocery store without checking to see if there were any babies around who might start screaming. I worried constantly if the weather was going to get bad because of the thunder. I wouldn’t be able to concentrate in church, knowing my son was probably hiding away from the group.
I found myself making decisions, canceling plans, and utterly stuck because of my fear of his fear. I cried out to God.
"I can't do this Lord! I can't watch him in pain anymore! I can’t watch the freedom other children play in while my child sits on the sidelines in bondage."
He would faithfully comfort me. Lovingly reminding me of his words: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2Corinthians 12:9).
The questions became: Who is in control? Who do I trust?
Oh how my flesh cried out to put him in a bubble and control everything around him. To keep him from as much struggle as possible, to trust in my own understanding. I didn’t want to be open-handed. But, I knew I would fail. I would fall miserably short of being what he needed.
He needed a Savior.
So, I was either going to live in fear or trust God. Trust that even in the pain there was purpose, and somehow, someway God was going to be glorified and this would be redeemed.
I knew that I was unable to take away the darkness, but I could introduce him to the One who has conquered it.
I knew I couldn’t heal him, yet he could know the Great Physician.
I knew that I could do little to help comfort him, but I could point him to the Prince of Peace.
And so we chose to open our hands and trust that His way was better than our way.
One such choice to trust came recently with our decision for his education. This weighty decision was prayed over heavily. It became clear soon enough that The Lord was asking us to send him to public school.
But, Lord that’s not safe. That’s going to expose so many of his fears. He will struggle. I will hurt. Who will protect him?
I thought I should home school my son. I wanted to keep him safe. The more I prayed and sought the Lord, the more he revealed my motives. I was not trusting in God; I was running in fear from the world.
Please do not hear me say homeschool is bad or that all parents who choose homeschool do so out of fear. I am not saying that at all. In fact, I am very pro homeschooling, as I am pro public school, private school or any combination of them. I am pro- following where the Lord leads.
So, we did. We put him in public school. I cried every day for a month as I dropped him off every morning. Some mornings he wouldn’t get out of the car. Some mornings he would cry and beg me to keep him home. Every morning was a battle. And every morning I was on my face begging God to be what I could not be for him; begging God to sustain him, to protect him, to redeem these hardships; to each morning, put my broken heart back together. And again He would whisper, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’
And do you know what happened? As our hands around him loosened and our trust in God grew, there, peeking through the pain was freedom. Instead of being distraught with my inadequacies and my inabilities to help my son, they became an absolute peace to my weary soul. To finally lay it down and say, "I can’t, Lord, but You can."
To rest in that freedom of laying my son in the arms of the One who made him. Choosing to trust that the Lord is good in it all, and that He is much better at caring for him than I ever could be.
He needs the Lord to save him. Not me.
He needs a Rescuer and a Redeemer. And redeeming, God is!
We are learning to trust that even when it doesn’t feel ‘safe,’ His plan is always good, and He is always faithful.
Has he struggled having to face his fears? Yes. Has it been difficult? For sure. C.S Lewis put it best when he said, “Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.”
And my son is learning. He is becoming more and more confident. The Lord is working in him and he is overcoming fears. He is doing things now that he would never have done a year ago. He is learning to trust. There have been some large victories and a lot of small ones.
The Lord is healing, that is unquestionable. He has used this first year of school in a major way to grow and heal my son. He has also used this year to lovingly remind me what a trustworthy Father he is. That he can be trusted with our most precious treasures.
Like life, there are good and bad days. There are days my trust through Christ seems easy, and there are days when I can’t seem to release my kung-foo grip on my children.
Oh that I would trust him more! That I would rest in his goodness and grace.
The struggles have been hard, but there is purpose in the pain!
"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).
What the enemy wants to use to destroy my son, God is using for His glory and my son’s ultimate good. He is drawing him unto himself. He is shining a light into the darkness. And there is NO darkness too dark for the Light of the world.
Do I pray every day for the Lord to take away his fear? Absolutely. Can He? Without question. So, we continue to pray and know that He is at work. And we continue to marvel at how much our God has taught us through our son; How much he has loved us through the pain, and how He continues to redeem it all.
His way is better than ours.
So, we are choosing to be open-handed, so our child who was marked by fear and anxiety so early on, may one day, live his life with courage and trust in a God who, he hadn’t merely heard his parents talk about, but One he had to trust in long ago. Who he had to rely on because we didn’t always do the ‘safe’ thing. Because we were open-handed with what we felt was the best way, and tried desperately to make sure it was God’s way.
"In this world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
We know who wins. And it isn’t fear.
Nicole Kraus lives with her husband and two children in Highland Village, TX. She is the founder of Handmade and Reclaimed.