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To the Anxious Parent

Do you ever feel anxious as a parent? I do. I’ll be the first to raise my hand. I’ll raise both hands!

All kinds of things contribute to this anxiety. Our culture encourages us to work ourselves to death and work our children to death so we can be successful. But this drive to succeed and consume more and more stuff can make us spiritually sick inside. Some have called it “affluenza”.

We’re so focused on earning money and spending money, meeting deadlines and reaching goals, that we drive ourselves crazy.

Anxious Toil

God has a word for us anxious parents. Psalm 127:3 says, “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.”

Have you ever wondered why God made us in such a way that we have to sleep away a third of our lives? Isn’t that crazy? Think of how many hours we could be doing other things. Why did he make us that way? Why do we need sleep? Sleep is a gift from God. It reminds us that we are not God. God wants us to rest in him.

Rest in God

We are dependent little children. Isn’t that humbling? Our most important identity as parents is that we are children. We are children first and parents second. Let that sink in.

You are the Father’s beloved child. And he is your gracious parent. He loves you, and because he loves you, he has given you the gift of sleep. He has given you rest. We need rest as parents, don’t we?

A couple weeks ago, my oldest daughter was having trouble sleeping. She was hot and needed to change into something cooler. Then she needed a drink of water. Then she needed to go to the bathroom. Then she needed me to tuck her in—again! I wanted to sit down and talk with my wife. I was done parenting for the day! But she kept whining and saying, “My blanket doesn’t feel right, and there’s birds chirping outside.” I finally yelled up at her, “It’s not going to be perfect until heaven! Get to sleep for crying out loud!” I reacted in anger because I wanted to rest. I deserved that, right?!

God knows what we need. He knows that we need sleep and rest to remind us that in the day-to-day struggles of parenting. He’s God, and we’re not. And he’s at work even as we sleep to parent us as we parent our kids. So, in times of anger, in times of anxiety, he’s helping us to depend on him as broken and beloved children.

Depend on God

We are dependent children. That’s our identity. Seems humbling, I know. But we’re just following after Jesus. Paul Miller, in his book, A Praying Life, says, “Jesus is without question the most dependent human being who ever lived” (p. 45).

We know that because he said things like, “I can do nothing on my own” (John 5:30). He depended on his Father and the Holy Spirit for everything. And he prayed, and he prayed, and he prayed – even going away to desolate places to be alone with his Father in prayer.

As parents, Jesus calls us to follow his example and pray and come to him for rest. I love his invitation in Matthew 11:28: “Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Remember the Son

Jesus offers a different kind of rest. Rest in the finished work of Christ on our behalf. On the cross, Jesus, the perfect King, took our unrighteousness and gave us his perfect righteousness so that by faith we are his beloved children (2 Cor. 5:21).

That truth changes how we parent. When Christian parents build their lives on who they are in Christ – it changes everything. Instead of “eating the bread of anxious toil,” we can rest.

  • We rest because we are declared to be right with God on the basis of Christ’s righteousness, not ours
  • We rest because he has called us his holy and beloved children
  • We rest because we are forgiven and he has covered our many failures and will remember our sins no more
  • And we rest because He has accepted us and looks on us as perfect parents because of our bond with His perfect Son

Feel that. Rest in that. Stop eating the bread of anxious toil. You’re a child first and a parent second. Depend on him, meditate on Christ’s work, and find real rest.

Doug Wolter served for eight years as family pastor at LaGrange Baptist Church in Kentucky. He is now senior pastor at Oak Hill Baptist Church in Humboldt, Iowa. He has an amazing wife and three incredible kids who continue to humble him and fill him with joy.  He enjoys drinking coffee, reading, exercising, and blogging at life2getherblog.com.

For more resources on gospel-centered family life, check out Winfield Bevin’s A Beginner’s Guide to Family Worship.

For more free articles on parenting, read: A Child’s Gospel by Ben Connelly, Finding Christ in the Family Room by Luma Simms, and Becoming a Parent and Discipling Children by Jonathan Dodson.