Fathers: The Antidote for Fear

It was 24 hours before Hurricane Andrew was scheduled to come crashing in on South Florida. My elementary-aged children were helping us get the shutters up and put away outside furniture. Our house was a whirlwind of activity, and I was totally oblivious to the wide-eyed fear on my kids’ faces as they ran around trying to help me get ready. Our home also had a few guests: Two single, female teachers from the Christian school my children attended at the time. They were staying with us to ride out their first hurricane.

When the windows were covered and we were ready to lock ourselves in, my wife Rosemary pulled me aside and said, “Everyone is scared. It would be good if you stopped, got us all together and thanked God for His protection.”

As I pulled everyone together, I realized Rosemary was right. They were all frightened, because they didn’t know what was coming.

My prayer was simple, but it had a bigger impact than I expected. I thanked God for the fact that we live in a time when we get hurricane warnings, and then I put our well being totally in His hands.

I ended our prayer with: “Lord, we have done everything we know to do. Now, the rest of this adventure is totally up to you. … And we are very happy that we are in your incredibly strong hands. Thank you.”

As soon as I finished the prayer I said, “Who wants to play Pictionary?”

Immediately, my children raced to find the game. They completely turned a corner on their fear. If their father was confident that everything would be OK then they were confident and actually even excited. Prior to the prayer, they had been following me around with a worried look on their faces, but now they were totally past it and ready to play.

What was the difference? The hurricane was still coming. The object of their original fear hadn’t changed a bit. The difference was in the confidence and peace of their father.

Fathers bring peace in times of fear. If dad seems out of control and worried, it sends terror into the heart of his child. A dad’s response can either bring calm or fear to his child’s face. It’s all wrapped around Dad’s reaction. I’m not saying that a dad should hide the difficulty from his child. But, fathers can respond to difficult situations with a calm confidence that can be very instructive.

Dad plays a major part in the development of a child’s “trust mechanism.”

This concept is bigger than a dad simply teaching his children about leadership. This is about a child learning to trust what he can’t see by observing Dad’s peace, rather than panic. As children learn from the peace and strength of their father, it will be easier for them to understand peace when it comes to trusting their Heavenly Father.

My children didn’t understand the hurricane, but they trusted their dad’s peace concerning the impending danger. They didn’t lean on their own understanding and the things they were seeing on the television (Proverbs 3:5-6). They instead chose to trust with a childlike faith … initially in their dad.

This is how children began to learn to trust. Next, it’s their dad’s responsibility to shift the focal point of that trust to their Heavenly Father.

Fathers play a very significant role in a child’s ability to conquer fear and develop an attitude of trust. When children see their father respond to life’s challenges with confidence in God, over time their “trust baton” gets passed from their dad to their Heavenly Father.

Something else became apparent as we waited for the hurricane.

My words and prayer didn’t seem to calm the hearts of the two young school teachers staying with us.

My children were calm in the midst of the storm because of their father’s peace. Perhaps that was because my children had learned to trust their father, but those two teachers didn’t really know me. If you don’t have a relationship with your Father, no amount of words will give you strength. The peace comes with the relationship.

Dr. Robert Barnes is the president of Sheridan House Family

Ministries. He and his wife,

Rosemary, are authors and speakers on marriage and family issues.

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