A frequent flyer witnessed a parent in a major airport hub bawling her eyes out a few days ago. She had taken her child to college and was now waiting for the flight to return home. A certain amount of grief and sadness is understandable, but this was excessive. Other passengers began to back away, looking for a different space to be in. Change can be difficult. Perhaps this parent was experiencing something beyond a life change. Perhaps she was experiencing separation anxiety.
A child experiences separation anxiety in the form of tearful, tantrum-filled goodbyes because they can’t see Mom or Dad. And most don’t yet understand the concept of time so they do not know if or when you’ll come back. Parents may find it comforting to be wanted. The knowledge that an unwillingness to leave is a sign of healthy attachment may even stroke their ego. There certainly is reason to be alarmed when an adult demonstrates separation anxiety. What can trigger such an intense emotion?
In a word, it is worry. Have I been an effective parent? Will my child be able to survive without me? Will they eat properly? Will they actually get themselves out of bed and make it to class? Will they be safe? Will they still love me? There are a myriad number of possibilities to worry about.
But why worry? Jesus said not to worry about your life, what you will eat or drink or wear. That does not mean, however, to have a complete lack of concern or be unwilling to work to supply your needs. God is ultimately the provider. His name, Yaweh-jireh, means “God will provide” (see to it). If he takes care of the birds and the lilies, how much more can He be trusted to care for His own? Anxiety and worry demonstrate a lack of trust. They immobilize us whereas faith leads to action and a perpetual state of hope. Hope in God never disappoints; at least not ultimately even if not immediately.
It is to be expected that an eight to twelve month old child may become anxious when Mom or Dad cannot be seen. God expects more from His children, however. He expects them to remember His promise never to leave or forsake them. His presence leaves no doubt of His provision. As the Psalmist said, “Why are you downcast, O my soul…Put your hope in God”!