Love and Great Anxiety

by Autumn Dickson

I think one of the defining characteristics of Jacob is his desire to do right by his people. When you go through his writings, it’s very clear that he thinks of them often and wants to steer them in the right way. It is this characteristic that I want to speak about today.

Jacob 1:5 For because of faith and great anxiety, it truly had been made manifest unto us concerning our people, what things should happen unto them.

I think this verse originally caught my attention because of the seeming juxtaposition of the words “faith” and “great anxiety.” My second thought was that it’s possible to have both, and then my third thought was that it’s a fantastic way to parent, lead, and love.

So how do we have faith and great anxiety over our loved ones at the same time? What does that look like?

What does “great anxiety” look like?

There are many different definitions and levels of anxiety, but I would wager that not all of them are applicable in this particular instance since “great anxiety” has been paired with faith. When you feel faith, you know that Christ can help you accomplish anything you truly need to accomplish and you know that your happy ending is safe with Him.

So what is “great anxiety” in this specific circumstance? In my mind, it is a deep propulsion to seek out the best for your loved one. This is a fantastic quality to have. In fact, it’s one of the greatest commandments: to love others as you love yourself. Without charity, we are nothing. So when Jacob talks about having great anxiety for his people, he wants the best for his people.

Interestingly enough, despite this being a good quality to have, Satan is going to try and twist anything he can. If he can’t get you to only care about yourself, he’s going to try and twist your love for others into something detrimental. If we let him, he’s going to take that “great anxiety” and turn it into regular old anxiety that expends energy and makes you feel powerless. I believe a majority of us have felt this “great anxiety,” this propulsion to want the best for our loved ones. Unfortunately, when this great anxiety is not paired with faith, it can become damaging. When your need to protect your loved one overshadows your belief in the Savior, His abilities, and the plan that He set up, things get knocked off kilter.

Utilizing great anxiety and faith in the way you lead

Life can often throw us unexpected circumstances. Even though we’ve been given gospel principles and standards to guide our families, there is this little thing called agency which makes it infinitely more difficult to make decisions about those who are in our charge. If the true goal is to get our loved ones close to the Savior (not just going to church every week but a true relationship with Christ), then it’s going to require some maneuvering that is actually beyond our own abilities.

Do I let my kid decide whether they’re going to play their soccer game on Sunday? What if they choose wrong and don’t feel like it’s a big deal? Do I force my kid to go to Sunday school where the other kids are mean and bad examples? What if it’s actually pushing them farther away from the Spirit rather than closer? Do I let my kid date that person who doesn’t seem like the best influence even though they’re going to be 18 and moving out in a month? Will it actually teach them to have better standards or will it just isolate them from me while they’re in a dangerous situation?

It would be easy to sit and fret and worry and feel great anxiety in all the wrong ways. It’s easy to look at the options before and see only bad ones. But when we look at it through a lens of faith, we stop expending energy on superfluous worry and start investing our energy in worthwhile places, namely action as well as hope in the Savior and His ability to turn a bad option into the very purpose of the Plan of Salvation: growth. We listen to see if one option is going to steer them right, and if there’s nothing forthcoming, we move forward with faith that Christ is still paying attention and will intervene when necessary. If things end up going sideways, we still hold to the faith we had previously and trust that everything that can be done is being done.

The concept of combining faith and great anxiety is so powerful. Instead of fumbling around and trying to make the wisest decision about what to do for your loved ones in the face of uncertainty, take all of that desire to do what’s right for them and let it propel you towards inviting and following the Spirit. You can’t control your kids (or other loved ones) indefinitely so let go, and put your energy where it’s going to count. Let your great anxiety be the motivation, but invest your energy into your faith.

How do we invest our energy into our faith?

The best way to demonstrate the power of this concept is to give an example. Let’s just stick with the sports-on-Sunday example because it’s simple. Before I begin, I know that life doesn’t always play out like this. I know that what I’m teaching is one path in a million, but that doesn’t negate the fact that the principle is being taught so we can apply it effectively not matter what path appears.

So your kid comes to you, and they have a couple of games that are played on Sunday. The great anxiety that Jacob describes is naturally there. You naturally feel propelled to try and do what’s best for your loved one. It would be easy to let that great anxiety fall into regular old anxiety and worry about whether to give them an opportunity to choose for themselves, but we’re not going to do that. We’re going to invest our energy into faith. We’re going to trust in His foreknowledge and His ability to speak in a way we understand.

Let’s say He doesn’t say anything. It would be easy to worry that we’re not doing enough or whether we’re worthy enough to receive revelation. It would be easy to worry that we’re just plain missing the answer, but we’re not going to do that. We’re going to trust that He can speak to us in a way we understand, and He’s never going to let us permanently fail if we’re trying.

So let’s pretend we decide to let the kid choose whether they want to play on Sunday, and they throw us a curveball. They choose to go to their game. Once again, we have another opportunity to fret that we inadvertently taught them that we don’t care about their church attendance, but we’re not going to fret, are we? No. We’re going to have faith that if there was a better option, Christ would have led us to it. We’re going to have faith that He is doing everything that needs to be done on behalf of our loved one. We’re going to have faith that He can teach lessons in a way that our loved ones will best understand.

Now is our chance to pray fervently and specifically. We pray that we will be guided to speak when we need to, to ask the right questions, to let their choices play out, and to know when to intervene. We can pray that their hearts will be softened and prepared to feel the difference in skipping church. We can pray that the contrast of missing church will be an extremely powerful lesson. Maybe they needed to feel the absence of Sabbath Day blessings in order to appreciate the presence.

Have faith in the Savior. He is playing the long game. He is intensely motivated and ever-present even when you can’t see Him. He is doing everything that needs to be done to reach that end goal of exaltation for your child. Trust His process and invest your energy in Him.

Mimicking your faith

This is a powerful way to parent, lead, and love but not only because you’re putting your energy where it counts. It’s powerful because your children are going to mimic your actions far more than they ever listen to your words. Learning to have faith is the most powerful way to teach your loved ones to have faith.

When we have true faith, we feel the blessings of the gospel. Worrying and trying to force the gospel on someone can work sometimes (and there will always be appropriate boundaries while younger ones are growing up), but it is infinitely more powerful for them to see the blessings in your life and desire them. When Alma the Younger was struck dumb, his mind was drawn back to the words of his father and the joy of the saints.

This is also incredibly powerful when they make mistakes. They won’t sit around and fret that this is the end for them, that they’re too far gone. They will know that there is a Savior who loves them and will always welcome them back with open arms, and that is an extremely motivating feeling to turn around and choose better. It is far more motivating than worrying.

Jacob teaches that because of faith and great anxiety, it was revealed what should happen to their people. Maybe the Lord won’t tell you the specific future, but He will guide you with His knowledge of the future. He will help you know when to act, pause, or whatever it is that needs to be happening. And if He’s quiet, have faith that He’s leading you along anyway because He is.

I’m grateful for a Savior I can depend on. I’m grateful that He loves my loved ones more than I love them. I’m grateful that He can guide me according to His knowledge rather than trying to stumble my way through. I’m grateful that He doesn’t always interfere, but allows us to learn the lessons in the way that will be most powerful.


Autumn Dickson was born and raised in a small town in Texas. She served a mission in the Indianapolis Indiana mission. She studied elementary education but has found a particular passion in teaching the gospel. Her desire for her content is to inspire people to feel confident, peaceful, and joyful about their relationship with Jesus Christ and to allow that relationship to touch every aspect of their lives.

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