Last week was supposed to be state assessment week for my oldest daughter. I won't go into all the reasons I hate state assessments, but the main one is that it stresses my daughter out to the point where she almost can't function. And last week was the worst it's ever been.
She was scheduled to test on Tuesday, and Monday night it took her forever to fall asleep. She laid in her bed and worried about the test. She worried about getting the right answers. She worried about the computers breaking. By the time she finally fell asleep, she was in tears and I was ready to pull my hair out.
Tuesday afternoon, she climbs in the car with a look on her face that clearly announced to the world that she had not had a good day. As soon as her bottom hit the seat in the car, she began telling me all about the fiasco that was her state assessment. A glitch with the district's computer server meant the computer had kicked her out of her test, no less than a dozen times. Every time she got kicked out, it lost some of her answers. Then, it quit working entirely. She didn't get to finish her test and had no idea if it had saved anything she had done. In her class, only she and two other kids had this problem.
Needless to say, this added yet another thing to her bundle of worries. Tuesday night was miserable. She cried, she worried, she talked it through and she cried some more. I was worn out, and I hadn't even taken the test. Tuesday night was another long evening of trying to get her to stop worrying and go to sleep. No matter how many times I told her to simply pray about it and let God deal with it, she kept holding on to her worry -- causing both her and I not to get much sleep.
This week, the school has sorted out the computer problems, and yesterday was the last day of her reading assessment. But this whole process made me start thinking about how to help my daughter with her worry. You see, God doesn't want us to worry. It's harmful to us. It causes us to lose sleep. It can make us sick. And it solves nothing. As a matter of fact, God commands us not to worry. In Matthew 6:25, Jesus says "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life." It doesn't get more clear than that. When we disobey God's commands, we are sinning. Worry is sin.
Too often, we gloss over the fact that worry is sin. We think, "I'm not worrying about this. I'm just figuring out what to do." In reality, that's often just a way to put a pretty face on worry. Any time we continually chew on a problem with no productive result, it's worry -- and it's a sin.
Kids struggle with worry, and I think it's even tougher for them to understand how to hand it over to God. Our kids need to learn to take their thoughts captive, give them to God and replace them with something that is pleasing to God. That's what we've taught our daughter to do, but it clearly wasn't working for her the other night. So, I came up with a tangible way for her to give her worries to God and replace her thoughts with thoughts that are pleasing to God. I call it our Worry Jar.
It works like this: If one of us is worried about something, we write it down and stick it in the jar, telling God that we are done worrying about it. Then we screw on the lid, literally taking our thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). We replace that worry thought with a verse out of our Scripture Jar, giving us something else to think about. Whenever we're tempted to worry, we pull out our scripture and replace the worry with the scripture.
We've just started this process in our house, but it gives all of us a tangible reminder of how we should deal with worry. And it gives us something to do with that worry -- an action we can take to give it to God. If you'd like to make your own Worry Jar, you can find directions and printable graphics and verses on our Free Stuff page. Be sure to let me know how it works with your kids.
Help your kids take their thoughts captive and give their worries to God. Forming that habit now will save them a lifetime of stress and replace it with a lifetime of the peace that only God can provide.