Over Christmas break, my daughter expressed she was having trouble sleeping. She felt worried when she was lying down at night. I asked her what she was worried about and she couldn’t even seem to pinpoint the problem. A few weeks later, when school resumed, I asked to see her grades. I discovered quickly why she was stressed out!


She had a 0 for a paper that was supposed to have been turned in on Dec. 21. It was now Jan. 3! When I discovered she had an outstanding paper, I reminded her of one of our household mantras: “Work before play!” If our work isn’t done, it’s not time to “play.” If my homework isn’t done, I cannot watch TV, for example. This is a simple teaching of priorities to my children.


I explained that she would be grounded until she finished the paper she had outstanding. It had to be written well enough to turn in.


I said, “No wonder why you couldn’t sleep! You were hiding from me that you hadn’t done one of your responsibilities.” She was punishing herself with worry when all she needed to do was get that paper done.


One life lesson I’ve learned is that I am at peace when I have fulfilled all my obligations and responsibilities. I too cannot sleep when I have something I’m behind on. I’ve even woken up in the middle of the night to work on things that are worrying me. Sometimes just making a simple list helps me tackle what’s stressing me out. This helps me feel more organized. I feel like I have a deeper grasp on what’s ahead.


I think this has a spiritual lesson for us as well. Our hearts cannot live in peace if we are hiding things. Confession is a healthy practice that helps us all be more emotionally and spiritually healthy. It’s healthy to name our faults and weaknesses before God and to the people we trust. It feels so freeing and good when we can break free of something that is worrying us deep in our soul. Making headway in an area that we feel we are failing in builds our confidence.


If we just do what we are supposed to, we feel at peace. Hiding things we don’t want others to discover is stressful. Each day is a fresh new opportunity to stop hiding things and make them right. Step up to the plate and start doing that one thing that bothers you that you’re not doing well enough.


I imagine this is why criminals who are running from the law sometimes turn themselves in. The unrest in their souls and the stress of always thinking they’re about to get caught is excruciating.


Lay it down, confess it, do your best to make it right and move on.


The wisdom of Proverbs 28:13 (NIV) says it best:


“Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”


My daughter did this and she is sleeping soundly now, and I pray you can, too! I hope this discussion will help her to strive to keep up with her schoolwork better and will encourage her to apply this lesson to the other areas of her life as well.


* Jeni Martin Johnson serves as Associate Pastor for Missions at First Baptist Church of Asheboro. She is married to Joe Johnson and has three adopted children. Contact: jmartin@fbcasheboro.com. Blog: www.jenimartinj.com.