Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

September 14, 2008


Reader asks interesting question about the use of a worry jar


          One of my readers wrote me that her “heart sank” when she read my recommendation to put worries in a jar and let them sit for a few days. Then she asked this interesting question:

          “Why would a minister of the Lord tell someone to put their worries in a jar when he could have told them to take them to our Heavenly Father and trade them in for His peace?”

          She raises a good question worthy of an answer. But first I must confess that the idea of a worry jar was not my own. Years ago, when my sons were growing up and raising hell, I bounced into the hospital with a bleeding ulcer. I almost died from loss of blood.

          My doctor said he was not sure what caused my ulcer. Then he added, “One possible cause may be that you have not been handling your stress very well.” Bingo. His words nailed me to the wall. I knew the reason for my ulcer.

          I had worried myself sick. Outwardly I seemed the same “happy, go lucky” fellow I had always been. But internally I was scrambled eggs, foolishly worrying about my reputation as a pastor. A question in the Bible (First Timothy 3:5) kept disturbing me, “If a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?” I assumed people were thinking I was unfit to serve as a pastor. 

          When I returned home from the hospital our dear friend June came by for a visit. Instead of a gift of flowers or fruit, she handed me a fruit jar with a lid on it. The jar had a label on which June had written “My Worry Jar.” She suggested that every time something worried me that I make a note of it and drop the note in the jar. Then once a week take the notes out and read them.

          Immediately I saw the wisdom of a worry jar. Identify any concern that worries me. Write it down. Drop it in the jar and screw the lid on tight so it cannot get out. Stop worrying about it and come back to it later. If the matter is still troubling me I can worry about it then. But I will be in control of my worry rather than allowing it to eat at me day and night.

          This is sound psychology.  It makes sense because most of the things we tend to worry about never happen anyway. And worry unrestrained can make us sick. I know. It happened to me.

          A similar idea can work just as well. You can write down the things that you are worried about and then drop the paper into a fire. As you watch it go up in smoke, you can claim victory over your worries. Both of these techniques are simply a way of declaring that you will not allow worry to make your circumstances worse than they already are.

          You can, of course, take your worries to your heavenly Father “and trade them in for His peace,” as my reader suggests. That can work too. I would not argue with that at all. That is the “spiritual” version of the worry jar or the fire.

          The difference is that a worry jar or a bonfire are tangible things we can see. Most of us need physical things to help us connect with spiritual reality. Thus the bread and juice that we can touch and taste as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

          Is it too much to suggest that a worry jar or a fire can be “a prayer” for God’s help with our worries?

          God, of course, is the loving Father who alone can give us the lasting peace we need when worry is consuming us. By whatever means we must seek and find that peace so that worry will not kill us.

          One final word. For 20 years I have tried hard to write so that this column did not sound like one more preacher sermonizing. With the reader who raised the question about the worry jar, I think I succeeded. So I consider her question a compliment. + + +