Q: I have a great life. I have a strong relationship with God and my family, have great friends and I’m passionate about softball, music, and writing. But I literally have panic attacks about leaving home. I have two years left before college and I am SO scared; I never want to leave home, but I know I’ll have to. How can I get over this irrational fear and trust God? I’ve been trying for months and I can’t. I worry about it every day.

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Not to minimize the big feelings you’re experiencing (at all!), but can I tell you that your question made my heart smile? In between your lines is a beautiful story that not many girls get to experience: You have a family you don’t want to leave! Let’s just pause here a moment and praise God together, shall we? 😉 What a sweet gift He has given you in your family. And what a gift you are to your parents (because—let’s be honest—it takes both diligent parents and grounded, mature kids for a family to have peace!).

Your predicament reminds me that no matter how broken or how beautiful our family life is, there will always be pain. I’m working on a new book called Family: How to Love Yours and Help Them Like You Back, and the premise is that according to Romans 8:27-29, God wants to use all the good, bad & ugly in our lives to make us more like Jesus. When it says that God works all things together for good in verse 28, that’s the ultimate good He’s talking about. And what better place than our families to learn how to become more like Christ, right? Talk about needing the patience, forgiveness and selflessness of Jesus! Lol! And in your case, I think God wants to use your beautiful, healthy family to make you more like Jesus too. Remember what Jesus said in the Garden of Gethsemane?

“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Luke 22:42)

Jesus didn’t want the suffering. But He chose to follow God anyway. And through the greatest suffering of His life, He learned obedience (see Hebrews 5:8).

They say courage isn’t the absence of fear. It’s staring fear in the face, then moving forward anyway…

They say courage isn’t the absence of fear. It’s staring fear in the face, then moving forward anyway. It’s okay to be scared of leaving home, sis. It’s okay to appreciate the life that you have so much that you don’t want to see it go. (Goodness, I spend a whole chapter in my new book trying to help girls see how good they have it now, so they won’t get to the other side of adulthood and regret wasting the time they had with their family. You’re way ahead of the game!). But I also don’t think God wants to see you paralyzed by fear either. Actually I know He doesn’t. That’s why He gave us verses like:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus….Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise….Then the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:6-9)

According to that passage, the keys to being at peace in the face of scary circumstances are 1) praying when we’re worried, and 2) thinking about the right things (because our emotions come from the thoughts we think). Given your background, I’m pretty sure you know how to pray (wink). So I’ll skip number one and move on to number two. Here are some “true, honorable, right, pure, lovely,” etc., thoughts you can practice in the face of those big fear feelings.

  1. The best is yet to come. As Christians, we have the amazing assurance that the end of our time here on earth is going to usher in the best yet. Sure, there might be some rough roads between now and then, but it’s comforting to know God has saved the best (heaven) for last!
  2. This world needs you. As much as your family loves having you with them, as God’s soldier, there is a battle to fight out there. Lost, lonely, confused people need the Light that you can offer. Be others-focussed.
  3. You’re not gone yet. A lot can change in two years. Even though you may not be thrilled or giddy about leaving home in two years, there’s a lot of time left for God to prepare your heart. Maybe—hopefully—it won’t be quite as hard as you imagine when the time actually comes.
  4. Sadness and loneliness are givens in life. But that doesn’t mean they will destroy you! I just had a talk with a twenty-something-someone who is very dear to me about missing her family. For her, “leaving the nest” wasn’t easy, but she has grown more than she would have imagined through these hard years. We grow the most through pain. I think that’s one of the reasons why God promises His kids that we will experience it! But He also promises He will go through it with us.
  5. God has good things in store. I don’t pretend to know your future, but I have a very, very good feeling about the years ahead of you. God wants to bless you! That might be through a great job, a family of your own, meaningful service, or—who knows! Stick with Jesus, and He’ll take you on one amazing ride.

When you feel that anxiety start to surface, think on those things (and add some more of your own). Then take a deep breath, stare fear in the face, and take another step forward. Keep making the most of the years you have under your parents’ roof, and you’ll have no regrets when God opens the next chapter of your life—whatever it brings!

Love,

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