“Mommy, I’m Scared!”

How well I remember the nights when, more often than not, some little person in our house would cry those words out into the darkness. When we asked for specifics, it might be a dragon or the shadows on the wall or the dark place in the corner. It was anything and everything, really.

I’m sure you’ve been there, either as the frightened child or the reassuring adult. But have you ever wondered where these random fears come from—the ones unattached to a scary movie or picture book? I’m no child psychologist, but I have spent many hours in the dark with a frightened child. Sitting there by so many bedsides over the years, my musings have led me to believe that children instinctively know that they inhabit a broken, unsafe world. It’s the converse of their childish intuition that we live in an enchanted, wonderful world, too. Kids just know that birthdays are magical and best friends are a treasure; and somehow, kids also know that there really is a monster lurking under the fabric of our fallen world. Bedtime shadows and nighttime noises don’t create a child’s fear; they simply connect with a fear that’s already there. Kids know—they instinctively know—there are things and places in our world which just aren’t safe.

The responsibility of parents, I believe, is not to discount their instincts; after all, they are correct! Our job is simply to give them a solid answer to what they feel. “Yes, honey, you’re right. There are dangers in the world. Something awful has happened to God’s enchanted kingdom. But let me tell you a story about a brave Prince who came from His home in the city of the great King to fight against all the scary things…”

What good will it do, after all, to train them to put their hope in ourselves or the nightlight or anything less than Jesus Christ alone? Remember, Mom and Dad, you won’t always be there to banish all the dragons.

He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God. (Psalm 78:5-7)