I remember the scene of years’ past. I couldn’t stop the tears that spilled down my cheeks as I hugged my daughter goodbye. Saying goodbye for eight months as my 22-year-daughter left to carry out her calling in Mozambique had left a knot in the pit of my stomach.
As we drove away, I wondered how I would cope with my fears. Concern of the environment in Africa escalated in my mind: the prevalence of AIDS and malaria, the less-than-ideal medical care, the language barrier, and the comforts of home that were gone. She had barely left my arms and I already longed for her return, wishing I could shield her from the dangers of what lay ahead.
As my husband and I sat silently in the car, God began to speak to my heart. Although it wasn’t audible, I couldn’t deny His words.
“Will you trust me?”
It’s easy to trust God when we can control what’s happening around us. But trusting God with the unknowns isn’t easy. When the custody battle looms. When your stepchild’s defiance escalates. When your spouse talks about leaving.
Fear. Uncertainty. It can envelop us.
If you’re facing fear on your stepparenting journey, don’t let it defeat you.
Here are three steps to help:
1. Live one day at a time.
An AA slogan that alcoholics rely on during recovery, “live one day at a time” takes away the fear of tomorrow. “If I thought about never having another drink,” an alcoholic once told me, “I would never stay sober. But focusing on getting through one day without a drink is manageable.”
It’s the same for us. If we focus on how we’re going to survive with our stepkid challenges for the next ten years, we’ll never make it. But if we choose to look at what we can do today to make it manageable in our home, we can cope with the day. What step do you need to take today? Ask your spouse for his support of your stepmom role; set some boundaries with your stepchildren. Can you escape with a girlfriend for a relaxing evening?
2. Choose to stay positive in not-so-positive circumstances.
It’s especially important to be intentional about staying positive when you’re overwhelming or oppressive circumstances. We CAN control what we choose to think about. In Jan Silvious’ book, Big Girls Don’t Whine, Silvious writes, “Big Girls control what their minds dwell on. If you can’t control anything else in your life, you can control what you think about.”
In an interview with popular speaker Patsy Clairmont, she discussed her challenge with agoraphobia–a fear of open spaces and large groups of people. Clairmont emphasized that her release from the prison of agoraphobia began when she changed the way she was thinking. She focused specifically on Philippians 4:8 that says, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Her thoughts began to improve by consciously “thinking on good things,” and “believing maybe I could be well.”
We can do the same—focus only the encouraging aspects of our situation, or perhaps thoughts that are worthy of praise, such as the positive characteristics of our stepchild. What we think about matters!
3. Give up control and submit to God’s plan. In other words, let go and let God.
Here’s a poem I read recently on this topic in Courage to Change:
As children bring their broken toys, with tears for us to mend,
I brought my broken dreams to God, because He was my friend.
But then, instead of leaving Him in peace to work alone,
I hung around and tried to help, with ways that were my own.
At last I snatched them back and cried, ‘How can you be so slow?’
‘My child,’ He said, ‘What could I do? You never did let go.’”
We want to fix and control instead of giving to God. I often remind myself that “His ways are higher than my ways and His thoughts than my thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8).
My daughter returned from Mozambique a new person.
More sure of who she is.
More like Christ.
In the midst of it, I gained a deeper trust in God and His ways as I walked through my fears.
What steps do you need to take to walk through your fears confidently?
Can you share any other tips to help?