Shots fired. That was the message on my cell phone at 3:30 in the morning from the instant alert program at my daughter’s college. As I forced my eyes to focus on the little screen, the next message came: three people injured; police on scene. It gave the address of the incident, too, and it was the corner by my daughter’s apartment building. Now I was wide awake. I read the update again, and quickly called my daughter. She didn’t answer, which wasn’t unusual, so I sent a text. I waited a few minutes, and still got no answer. I said a fervent prayer for her safety, and then a miracle happened: I went back to sleep.
When I woke up the next morning there was a message from my daughter reporting she was fine and that she hadn’t even seen my text until she woke up to go to the bathroom. She hadn’t heard any police sirens or shots during the night and her roommates were also home safe. I couldn’t decide whether to be proud of myself for going back to sleep or ashamed.
Then the negative self-talk started. What kind a person goes back to sleep after a message like that? Who doesn’t get up and pace the floor worried sick about their child?
Convicted by my own disapproving voice, I sat up in bed to give myself a good talking to. How dare you go back to sleep when your child was in danger! What a selfish thing to do!? You should have gotten up right away and….hmmm….and what?
Seriously, what should I have done? There are 30,000 students at my daughter’s school. The message didn’t say anyone was seriously injured, and it didn’t even say students were involved. Should I have gotten in the car and driven hours in the middle of the night to see what happened? Should I have kept calling my daughter over and over until she finally woke up sleepy and annoyed? Should I have called the police and insisted they share the details?
There were times in my life when I might have done any one of those things. But the fact is, none of them would have helped. They would have been foolish attempts to do something when there really wasn’t anything I could do. Knowing that the police would call soon if she was hurt, and that I couldn’t teleport myself instantly into her room, I did the only reasonable thing I could. I went back to sleep. Could I really criticize myself for not worrying enough?
You may not have ever gone back to sleep after a scary text message, but I bet you have worried about things that were out of your control. I bet you’ve racked your brain thinking, “There must be something I can do.” And I bet you made yourself sick at least once with all the ‘what-ifs’ flying around in your head.
It seems I worry most when I forget God’s goodness, or when I doubt His mercy and compassion. I worried constantly when my husband was dying. It didn’t help; in fact it only intensified my fears. Maybe that’s when I finally realized that worry doesn’t work. We worry when we’re not in control, but we forget that control is an illusion in this life. You can’t protect your child by worrying no matter how many times you pace around the house or how late you stay up. God is the only one in control and He is the only one who can protect any of us. So the next time you worry about something that is out of your control, I hope God blesses you with a good night’s sleep instead.
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