Our middle child is fanciful, creative and very imaginative. This makes for a lot of fun. During the day. Unfortunately, his very active imagination has a big downside, and that is his fear at night. For a few weeks now, he has had a real struggle with what he calls "bad thoughts" when he is trying to settle down at night. When we ask what kind of bad thoughts he's having, it's usually that he is afraid monsters are either under the bed, in the attic (access door in his room), or in the part of the bookshelf with the closed doors (we've started letting him leave those doors open). We aren't sure what has brought on this sudden fear of monsters ("munsters"), because we've always been careful what he is allowed to watch and we try very hard not to talk about anything scary with him close to bed time, but we certainly don't laugh at his fears. It would be easy, as rational adults, to downplay them, but I remember how scared I used to be at night, and at 5-years-old, those fears are very real. In fact, there are times I struggle with fear in the night, though my fears aren't monsters like M.'s. When I was younger, I used to love to watch certain shows that now, years later, the scary feelings from them get stuck in my head at times. So, I don't laugh at M.'s fears.
So, we've been trying to talk him through these fears and we've been praying with him a lot about them. We tell him that Jesus is bigger than any of the fears and that there are no such things as monsters and that Jesus will take care of him. We've also taught him to get a book and look at it to try to turn his thoughts elsewhere. And I always leave a light on downstairs so he doesn't have to creep around a pitch dark house if he does get up at night.
We've been teaching M. some scripture verses lately, too, to help him to remember that God is real and that He will care for him even when he feels afraid. These are scriptures we are reading to him and also claiming for him:
Psalm 23:4 "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." (The boys are learning the whole Psalm, but we're especially emphasizing this verse with M. when he is scared.)
Proverbs 3:21-26 "My son, let them not depart from your eyes--
Keep sound wisdom and discretion; so they will be life to your soul and grace to your neck. Then you will walk safely in your way, and your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; Yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet. Do not be afraid of sudden terror, nor of trouble from the wicked when it comes; for the LORD will be your confidence, and will keep your foot from being caught."
Psalm 4:8 "I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety."
Isaiah 26:3 "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You."
2 Timothy 1:7 "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind."
One night M. came down a little after we had put him to bed just in tears and crying so hard it was difficult to understand him. We got him calmed a bit and asked what was wrong and he said, "I'm afraid I don't believe in Jesus."
We asked him why he thought that, and he said that he keeps praying, but he still feels afraid. I took him up in my lap and just hugged him. D. said, "You know, M., the fact that you're afraid you don't believe in Jesus is a pretty good sign that you really do believe Jesus exists. If you didn't believe He hears your prayers, you wouldn't care."
"Really?" M. said. Then we told him he needs to believe God is in control, prayed with him again and took him back up to bed. I hurt for him struggling through his fears, but, at the same time, I was a little excited by this exchange because he tends to be pretty quiet about spiritual things, and this was really the first serious indication I've had that he is thinking over what we're teaching him and processing it. It is also a difficult thing to get across to him that God is not a genie to just grant us anything we ask. We are created for His pleasure, not the other way around. M. thinks if he prays for his fears to go away, that if he still feels afraid, then God must not be listening. We're trying to teach him to trust God even when he feels afraid - to understand that God is in control and will help him get through the fears. This is so hard for a 5-year-old to comprehend.
Last night, M. told his daddy that, while he believes God will take care of him, just in case he's going to sleep with the covers over his head tonight. Why? Because that way, the monsters can't see him.
We continue to trust our loving God to draw these children to Him, in His time. And we continually pray for the wisdom to teach them the truth correctly. We also pray the Holy Spirit will prick their hearts and enable them to understand the scripture we teach them and that they will learn to place their trust in Christ alone, for it is only in Him that we are freed from fear.