Trusting God with an Empty Nest

My younger daughter lives many miles away, is working full-time before she starts university, and settling into a new community. She loves her landlady. She loves her co-workers. She is excited and, I thought, prepared for her new adventure. But then a small crisis hit, and I wondered “is she as ready as I believed her to be?” Which is when I had to also ask, “Am I really trusting the Lord for my daughter’s well-being?”

Here’s what happened. My 18-year-old daughter found herself with no money and no phone. She actually has money, but it was in her bank account, and her debit card stopped working. Also, her phone ceased to work. She had paid her bills. She knew her pin number. Something weird was going on and since she had no phone, there was no way to call the bank.

The double-whammy caught her off-guard; tired from a long shift; hungry and lacking food; she panicked a little at first but thought she could deal with the problem once she had time to talk with her landlady about using her phone.

The next night, however, she was left high and dry at the end of a night shift in the early hours of the morning. A manager had said she would arrange someone to take her home as the buses had stopped running but had forgotten, although my girl waited for 20 minutes before realizing her situation. It was a long walk home in the dark with no money for a taxi.

My little girl (who is a 5’8” black belt, but she didn’t feel like one) was followed by someone, so she ran home. Prayer helped her to calm down and get some sleep. Once home, she had a panic attack and an asthma attack and was extremely emotional.

The next day, she was too upset to speak to her manager who was profusely sorry; completely humbled, and eager to do anything to make it up to my girl who felt better once she realized it was an unfortunate mistake, which has probably enhanced her manager’s attention regarding such things, to the benefit of all employees.

Still — the episode was stressful and painful. Every night shift, the doubt will linger — am I going to be safe tonight?

Being So Far Away

When my older daughter started university, she was a couple of hours away. I could hop in my car and bring her food. I could make her a casserole in my slow cooker, and it would still be hot when I arrived.

With her sister, it’s more complicated, although online shopping and online delivery and a credit card at my disposal give me the power to at least offer her something from a distance, but not a shoulder.

Not a ride in the dark. Her friends and her landlady came to her rescue by giving her food, and it’s good that she has learned to ask for help, but I’m her mother. In a time like that, it’s stressful not to be there to rescue her.

Trusting God for Real

Psalm 9:10 promises, “And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.” That’s fantastic. Thank you, God. But do I believe these words when I need them? Does my daughter? How often do I hear these words and just go “yeah, that’s great”?

What a glorious God” without really asking myself “but do I believe it? And what does it even mean?” After all, does the Lord’s Word specifically promise that my daughters will not be followed, attacked, or go hungry?

No, they don’t, and I have to be okay with that in the knowledge that God’s promised protection is of an eternal sort. He cares about temporal needs such as food and safety, but we know just by reading the news that Christians are as vulnerable to starvation and muggings as anyone else.

God also said, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26). I always thought “how quaint.”

I would tell people this is a promise from God for their sakes and hope they really believed it. Then, suddenly, this promise had to be real for me. It had to be real for my daughter. It’s starting to sink in that these verses, these promises, are not cliches even though people sprinkle them into pep talks without a thought.

But they are significant and meaningful. They are true words. The Lord cares about the details: about a safe ride home and a meal at the end of the day and about our emotional safety. He cares about my daughter, and only he can truly provide for her. He might use other people to facilitate his goodness, but it all comes from him.

Bad circumstances drive us to him in a way that happiness simply cannot. If I and my daughters are going to know the Lord, he wants us to know what and who he is in contrast to all of the trappings of this world: a solid fortress compared to a wood doll’s house. They need that certainty and closeness to their Savior more than anything else.

If I Doubted Before

Until this happened, I was not in constant communication with my younger girl. I thought she would find that too clingy and, well, annoying. I didn’t want her to think I didn’t trust her.

And, besides, if I checked in frequently and one time she didn’t email or text back, I’d fear the worst. That was where my mind went when her sister failed to respond to my communications. I thought something terrible happened.

I check in now for her sake more than anything because I think she wants the security of that contact, at least in the short term. My own peace today as I write this, however, comes from remembering who God is. I did doubt him, I think. I hate to admit it — forgive me, Father. But I neglected to hand her over fully and trust her to God’s care.

Now, I realize I must, must do that. There is nothing else I can do. She is not safe from this world, but she is safe from the worst thing, which is losing salvation. I can pray for her to never be harmed and to never go hungry, but what I really need to pray for is that she continues to do what she did that day — pray to you under stress. We’d be unwise if we thought that was the last incident to beset her.

What’s it going to take for me to trust the Lord to sustain her the next time she gets blasted? I have to give her over to him regularly, holding my hands out and offering her to him, saying, “I know the truth — she is yours, and she always was. Nothing I think or do can change that, so I really need to get with the program and receive the peace you offer me so I can close my hands around that. Otherwise, I’ll just take it all back.” I think this as to be a frequent event, otherwise, I’ll forget quickly.

A Closing Prayer

This is my prayer for myself and for all parents adjusting to this new reality.

Father, we come to rely on parenthood to give us a sense of significance, and we want to protect our kids. We know intellectually that you are their shield, their fortress if they are trusting you personally for salvation, but that in our hearts we still want to be their heroes.

Father, help us to let go and believe that you are their hero. Show us how to be supportive but not enable our kids’ dependence upon us instead of on you. Help us not to merely relent but to rejoice when our kids trust in Almighty God alone — in the Father who loves them more than even we do. Amen.

For further reading:

Prayers for Graduates and Parents

Encouragement for Mothers on College Move-in Day

10 Mighty Prayers for Your Adult Children

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images/Highwaystarz-Photography


Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.

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