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Overcoming fear by reading and speaking words of life

fear

I’ve dealt with fear my whole life as a mom. 

I was so excited about the process, but fear spoke to me constantly, telling me lies about my capability, my circumstances, and God’s faithfulness. Listening to fear caused a loss of joy as I believed these lies. I read lots of parenting books in an effort to overcome my negative thoughts and be a good mom, but the thing that really made an impact was literature.

I read The Hiding Place while we lived through the pandemic and knew that the God who kept Corrie ten Boom alive through the holocaust could keep us safe. I also read Endurance, about a feat of survival in Antarctica, and I knew that I could survive and thrive in my own circumstances. By fighting fear with literature and letting the truth of Scripture hammer it home, I recaptured the magic of motherhood. 

In Mothering by the Book, I share the lessons I learned from these books but one of the key steps that helped me overcome was simply speaking life.

My second child had problems focusing, forgot information easily, had seizures, and was a delayed talker. All of these issues opened the door to fear as I tried to figure out how to help her. In the long search for answers, when I was comparing my child to the “normal” children around her, I felt afraid and worried.

This fear led to believing and speaking the worst. My tone would convey my frustration and fear. Busyness in itself can lead to fear as we push ourselves to exhaustion, but sometimes in our lives as mothers, we are up against a wall. Babies are crying, toddlers need help finding their shoes, and school-aged kids have to finish their homework. We are pushed to the edge of our endurance.

The read-aloud that helped me overcome fear was about a runty little pig who wanted to live. In the book Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, Wilbur comes to the terrifying awareness that he is destined for the Christmas dinner table. Fear grips him, but Charlotte, a mere spider, intervenes in a most unusual way. She decides to endow Wilbur with greatness through her words. She blesses Wilbur with words like “radiant,” “humble,” and “some pig,” and she convinces the world around him that he is indeed special. When Mr. Zuckerman, the owner of the farm, first encounters Charlotte’s words in the web he says, “There can be no mistake about it. A miracle has happened and a sign has occurred here on earth, right on our farm, and we have no ordinary pig.”1White, E. B. 1899-1985,, and Garth Williams. Charlotte’s Web. First edition. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1952.p.80

Wilbur tries to live up to her expectations. When Charlotte’s web said SOME PIG, Wilbur had tried hard to look like some pig. When Charlotte’s web said TERRIFIC, Wilbur tried to be terrific. As I read Charlotte’s Web, I realized that I was letting fear speak to me instead of words of life. Charlotte could have agreed with the barnyard animals that Wilbur was just a piece of meat, but rather, she changed his identity and his destiny through her words. The words of literature helped me encounter the truths of Scripture in real life situations.

Research confirms this power of words. In the book, Words Can Change Your Brain, Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman say, “And as our research has shown, the longer you concentrate on positive words, the more you begin to affect other areas of the brain…. A positive view of yourself will (then) bias you toward seeing the good in others.”2Newberg, Andrew, M.D. and Waldman, Mark Robert, Words Can Change Your Brain, Avery/Penguin Random House, New York, 2012, p.34

As Wilbur received the words spoken to him by Charlotte and believed those words, his life began to change. He felt radiant and terrific, and he started behaving like a radiant and terrific pig. People around him began to believe he was special as well, and it changed the course of his life.

Similarly, as I read, I realized that fear had caused me to speak fearful words over myself and my child. I whispered worst-case scenarios, “Maybe she will never learn to read,” “What if I can’t help her?”, “I can’t do this,” and these whispered words began to steal my confidence and lead me to criticize my daughter.

Perhaps you have been letting fear speak to you, letting fear shape your perspective? Perhaps in an effort to be honest, you’ve cursed yourself and your children, predicting future doom based on current behavior. Some of you might even have been under the impression that to speak blessings, to speak life over yourself and your children is new age mumbo jumbo. 

But is this truly what we learn from the Bible? Is speaking life over ourselves and our children somehow ungodly and uttering curses over ourselves and our children the holy thing to do? I make no claims of being a Bible scholar, but it’s imperative to understand that speaking words of life is biblical. 

Our children pick up on our attitudes and perceptions about them, and if we let fear cripple us and cause us to curse ourselves and our children, we are perpetuating pain into the next generation. In Romans 12:14, we are told to, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them,” so even when we feel persecuted by our children, we still need to speak life over them. Even when we hate ourselves and feel like we are our own worst enemies, we still need to speak life over ourselves.

When I realized this, I started speaking life in a new way over my family. I prayed the word of God over my children, and I was careful not to speak unkind or disrespectful words to them. If I needed to correct them, I would use words that separated the behavior from the child. “Your attitude isn’t very kind. I love you; you can do better.” Instead of saying, “You are a whiny brat!” Better to say “Please clean your room,” than “ You are such a little pig!”

Early in the book Charlotte’s Web, when Wilbur arrives at the farm and has to be away from his first friend Fern, Charlotte notices him and chooses him, “I’ll be a friend to you. I’ve watched you all day and I like you.”3White, E. B. 1899-1985,, and Garth Williams. Charlotte’s Web. First edition. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1952, p31 Right from the beginning, her words convey blessing, identity, and life. 

I believe that God is saying the same thing to us, “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17, ESV) God loves us, celebrates us, calls us his own, and when we agree with God and start speaking life over ourselves and our children, fear has nowhere to land.

fear


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