During parent-teacher conferences, I sat across the table from a very frustrated, concerned grandmother. Back then, I was sitting on the teacher's side of the table, and I'm sure I looked rather young and naïve to this elderly woman who had high hopes and deep concern for her dear grandson.
She was pointing at his fourth grade report card—to the spot where the tardies were tallied. There was a "1" in the box, and she was adamantly insisting there should be a "0." She said, "I get him here on time every single day. When was he tardy? When?" She jabbed her finger at the "1" for emphasis.
Hiding my surprise, I explained that we'd have to check with the office on which day her grandson was tardy. But I thanked her for faithfully transporting him each morning and assured her that one tardy was actually quite exemplary. "It's certainly nothing to be concerned about," I said.
"Well, it concerns me!" she said. She seemed to resent the way I was downplaying the seriousness of a single tardy.
I wasn't sure what to do. Did she want me to erase the tardy? That didn't seem quite right. I decided to probe a bit deeper. "May I ask why this concerns you so much—this tardy? What is it that you're worried about?"
"Well!" she said, indignantly. "I'm worried about what they'll say. How will we explain it, when they ask?"
"They . . . ?" I asked blankly.
"His future employers!" she said, leaning forward with even greater intensity. "The people who look at his records some day. When he's trying to get a job! Or get into college!"
I was stunned. This woman honestly thought her grandson's future was being stymied by a single tardy on his fourth grade report card.
We spent the rest of the time going back and forth. I repeatedly offered comfort and assurance, saying, "Your grandson has such a bright future ahead of him. He is smart and responsible and good-natured . . ." But she refused to be consoled. The more peace of mind I offered, the more irritated she became.
I don't know what ever happened to this sharp, young man. I'm guessing here, but I suppose that an anxious, fretting grandmother would have more effect on a boy's future than one tardy mark—deserved or not—on a report card.
Fretting Over the Future
Now that I currently sit on the parent's side of the table at conferences, I can identify more with this troubled grandma. Like her, many of the small things I fret about in life are tied to the future. I'm not only reacting to a momentary concern or irritant I'm projecting out and wondering, How will this affect the future? Where will it all lead?
Coat your heart in the precious promises offered by a good God.
Like most women, I have high hopes for my family, and I will do whatever it takes to safeguard their future happiness. But sometimes my goal to protect and secure those I love becomes an obsession to control. Even the slightest threat against the airtight happy ending that I have all worked out in my head can bring out the worst in me.
I become agitated and angry. I have irrational anxiety. I can take one foreboding detail and stretch it out into a big, black cloud that hangs over the unforeseeable future. Details like:
- My baby isn't saying words yet.
- My husband won't attend small group.
- My weight is going up, not down.
- My teen spends lots of time alone.
I often respond to these misgivings as if it's all up to me to make things turn out right. I burden myself with trying to get control. I pace and fret and obsess over the things I can't control.
God, seeing my agitation, probes my heart. He says, "May I ask why this concerns you so much—this poor report card? This troubling symptom? This financial strain?" With tenderness and compassion, He offers me comfort and assurance. He gives me "precious and very great promises" about what lies ahead (2 Peter 1:4).
God's Understanding Vs. Mine
Rather than continuing in my troubled state, God invites me to "trust in the LORD with all [my] heart, and do not lean on [my] own understanding" (Prov. 3:5).
My own understanding of how today's details will shape tomorrow's reality is warped and nearsighted and helplessly self-focused. God's understanding, though, reaches deeper and wider than my brain could ever stretch. He knows the whole story, rather than just the tiny paragraph I'm living in. He tells me that one day "there will be richly provided for [me] an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:11). Now that's a bright future! It's the airtight hope granted to every child of God.
God is the tender Father who offers me peace of mind. But I am the child who decides whether or not I will be consoled. Will I trust God? Will I receive His assurance and comfort? Or will I go through life jabbing my finger at every threat—real or imagined—to the happy ending that exists only in my head?
If I persist in my agitated fretting, I will not be the only one affected. The turmoil I stir up by thrashing and chafing and boiling over will spill into the lives of the very people I'm trying to shelter from harm. How much more freeing it is, for them and for me, if I will allow God to coat my heart with His precious promises!
But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah (Ps. 3:3–4).
What are you agitated or troubled about today? Is your anxiety linked to some hope you have for the future? Coat your heart in the precious promises offered by a good God. He knows the whole story and invites you to trust Him.