We all want for our sons to be courageous: to be able to face difficulty, danger, or pain without fear.

But what happens when our young men want to step out and do something so courageous, so out of the ordinary, that we fear for them?

I have often been asked that question because, 4 years ago, our then 16-year old son came to my husband and me asking to do something just like that. It was courageous and bold, beyond anything that we would have ever dreamed for him.

Our son is Zac Sunderland. The question he asked was if we would let him sail around the world. In fact, it was less of a question and more of a statement. Something like, “I could do that, you know.” He was referring to the ’round the world sailing documentary we had just watched as a family.

The main reason that we wholeheartedly embraced this undertaking was, in some ways, simple; we had been praying for him to find a passion that he could pour his considerable energy into.

The other reasons were more complicated and came from a lifetime of God gently leading us to let go of fear in raising our children and following the Lord’s direction for their lives.

A Pattern of Fear Broken

Moms of young children can relate to the fear of not knowing exactly how to parent these precious gifts from God. Are they turning over, sitting up, crawling, walking, talking at the right ages? Are they advanced or behind? And, oh my, what if they are?

Then come the terrible twos (or, in our case, the terrible threes). Even with my degree in psychology, and after the many courses on child development I took while I was in college, I still wondered if I had done something terribly wrong the first time my son threw a tantrum in public. A tantrum so outrageous that I’m sure the other parents who were at the park that fearsome day still speak of it! Yet, the boy grew, his brain developed, and he overcame his impulsiveness, learning to use words and not fists. Most kids do, you know.

Then came school. Private or public—could we homeschool? What would be the best thing for our child? Fear, doubt.

Then the learning struggles. How can such a bright child not be reading by now? What if he never learns to read? Yet, learn he does. All in His timing.

Puberty. He has hair where? Calm yourself. Breathe. Young men have been going through puberty since the beginning of time.

Yet the fear, the worry is there, rooted in a desire to provide the very best upbringing for our children. But what does the worry gain for us? Does it make adolescence any easier for them? Or for us? I think not!

Then prayer: deep, fervent, heart-felt prayers
for the heavenly Father to step in to take control.

Oh, was that where we should have been all along? Should we have laid these fears down—taking these thoughts captive that would speak against the all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful Creator of the universe, the Creator of my children? LORD, fill him with Your purpose, Your passion. Guide him onto the path that You have for him.


“I could do that.”

“Yes, you could.”

And looking back at this boy’s life, it is as if he had been preparing for this adventure all along.

With prayer, there is confidence. There is a deep understanding of the strength of God that is ever-present in our lives and the lives of our families.

If you look back through your life, the same pattern is there. God has been gently leading you from one experience to the other. He uses one experience to grow you so that you are prepared for the next.

He is faithful and leads our children through experiences they need to form their character. Even (and especially) the hardships that our children face are surely there for their benefit.

He tends his flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young. — Isaiah 40:10-12

Marianne Sunderland is a homeschooling mom of 8 lively and adventurous children—4 boys and 4 girls. Married for more than 20 years, she attributes all of her worldly ‘successes’ to an ever-deepening walk with God. Her heart’s desire is to encourage other wives and mothers, and she attempts do so at her blog Abundant Life.