I don’t like being away from my kids, under pretty much any circumstances. One summer, my parents had taken them camping while I stayed with my grandparents. “You’re worried about them, aren’t you?” my grandmother asked. I nodded. “Well, have you prayed about it?” “Of course!” “Well then why are you still worried? You might as well not pray.”
Sensing my coming protest, she kept going: “Really. You can sit there and worry about them the whole time, or you can ask God to keep them safe and enjoy your time off. There’s no point in asking the Lord to handle it if you are going to sit here and fret.”
Maybe she comes by it naturally. Maybe growing up under Nazi occupation puts things in perspective. Maybe more than eight decades of life brings spiritual maturity that I have to catch up to.
Regardless, she was right. I had asked God to protect my kids (who were in a peaceful country with loving, responsible grandparents, having the time of their lives). But then I worried about how He might not. A mother’s fertile imagination can come up with endless scenarios: car wrecks, kidnappings, broken bones, snake bites, wildfires, rabid coons, drunken park rangers, bears, falls off of cliffs, drownings, sunburn, frostbite, food poisoning, etc. The list is limited by one of two things: a) weariness or b) faith.
My grandmother was not about to have me sit on her couch and wear myself out mulling all the horrific possibilities. (She has zero toleration for moods, especially in her living room.) So she pointed me to Scripture’s solution: faith in a sovereign God.
Feelings of worry can—and should!—be dealt with by prayer. A friend of mine says, “Turn the worry into prayer.” I was worrying, and didn’t let the praying get in the way.
My grandmother wasn’t telling me to not pray. She was telling me to really pray. I was asking God to guide my kid’s lives, but wasn’t entrusting them to Him. My grandmother was telling me to remember that I had taken all the precautions that I could, and needed to actually leave my children’s welfare in God’s hands. After all, He could see them—I couldn’t. He could care for them—I couldn’t.
The problem was not that I loved my kids too much; it was that I wasn’t believing that God is a loving, powerful father, and that even if one of my scenarios did happen, it would not be out of His control, working for our evil. It would be part of His wise plan for our lives. Loving my kids meant really entrusting them to a care more loving than mine. Praying for my kids meant really leaving their trip in God’s hands, along with the worry.
Because if we are going to pray and keep worrying, then my grandmother is right: we might as well not pray. Not because prayer doesn’t work, but because we are not really praying when we ask God to take care of something and then worry that He won’t. That doesn’t mean that praying and not worrying is instant or easy. It means that it’s right. If God clothes the lilies in my grandmother’s garden, He will care for His people too, won’t He?