How Should Christians Cope With Their Child’s Exam Stress?
Editor’s Note: China’s National College Entrance Exam (NCEE) is an event that makes many parents even more nervous than their children who actually take the tests. Will the children they’ve spent years painstakingly raising be able to secure their futures? Will their hopes for their children’s success become reality? Thoughts like this are oppressing for many parents, causing more and more parents to develop anxiety disorders. So, with what attitude should we face our children’s NCEE? As a Christian, she was able to face her son failing and re-taking the NCEE with a calm, happy, and relaxed attitude. How did she do it? Below, we’ll talk about her experiences.
“Mom, I … I didn’t test into college.” Her son sat numbly in front of the computer, watching the slowly darkening screen. He had finally managed to get these words out through clenched teeth after a long silence. After he said them, he turned and went to his bedroom.
Fang Xing stood where she was in shock. She didn’t dare believe her ears. It was a result that was impossible for her to accept. She thought, “I’ve expended so much effort for the last few years to make sure my son gets into a good college. How could this happen to us? Is our family really going to spend the rest of our lives as poor villagers? Will we never have our day in the sun?”
Late that night, the air was hot and humid. The noisy fan seemed to howl next to her bed, filling the silent summer night into a deafening roar. Fang Xing tossed and turned in her bed as complex, indescribable emotions raced through her heart, and scenes from the past raced through her mind …
Fang Xing was born into a poor rural family, and her parents were simple, honest peasants. They depended on farming to support five children, and their lives were very difficult. As a child, she wanted to leave the countryside and live a good life, so she swore to herself, “I will study hard, change my fate, and no longer live in poverty.” To realize that dream, she studied hard, reviewing her lessons late into each night, but although she came close, in the end she was not able to attend her ideal school. Unsatisfied, she wanted to take the entrance test again the next year, but the family didn’t have enough money, and she had no choice but to give up her studies and earn money through physical labor. She regretted not working harder at the beginning, and complained that there was no money at home to let her take her exam another year, and her heart was full of frustration and dissatisfaction, but there was nothing that could be done.
After she got married, the birth of her son rekindled Fang Xing’s hopes. She remembered her own failure to attend university because of her family’s limited economic resources, so now that she had a son, she knew she had to work hard to provide him with a good schooling so he would have the chance to go to college and have a good future — he would achieve the dream she hadn’t been able to reach. From that moment, Fang Xing worked with all her strength to earn money, and she devoted herself to providing the best possible education for her son. When her son began elementary school, she spent huge sums to send him to advanced tutoring courses. She didn’t let him rest on weekends, nor over the summer and winter holidays. As he was preparing for the final cram before his high school entrance exams in his third year of middle school, Fang Xing even put aside all of the family’s farm work and expended all of her energy on her son, even personally dropping him off and picking him up from school.
After he went to high school, to ensure he received an even better education, Fang Xing also spent 5,000 yuan on special tutoring classes for him on an online learning platform. Once, when she returned home after work, she expected to find him studying in front of the computer, but unexpectedly, she found him playing games. She angrily said to him, “I spent so much money on extra lessons for you because I want you to study hard and live a good life in the future, but instead I find you here playing games….” When her son heard that, he immediately stood up, slammed his hand on the desk, and shouted in answer, “The only thing you ever want me to do is study! I’m sick of studying! I can’t take it anymore!” When he finished, he turned, walked into his bedroom and, with a violent shove, slammed the door shut behind him. Seeing her usually obedient son suddenly so resistant, Fang Xing’s heart was filled with frustration and heartache. “Why doesn’t you understand what I’m trying to do for you? I work so hard to make money, save on food, and live frugally because I want you to study hard and have a good future. Isn’t all of that for your benefit?” The thought made Fang Xing feel miserable and wronged.
At first, she thought her son was just in a bad mood that he would soon get out of, but what she couldn’t have expected is that, from that point on, her son intentionally began to distance himself from her. He wouldn’t let her take him to school or pick him up from school anymore, and he went straight to his room the instant he got home from school without saying a word. Seeing her son’s attitude, she couldn’t help but feel bitterly disappointed. But then she thought, “Even though my son doesn’t understand me now, one day he will realize my intentions are good.”
As the date of the NCEE approached, tension gripped the school, and the students were doing their final bout of studying before the test. Fang Xing felt the tension and began to feel nervous as well. She didn’t know whether her son would be admitted to a good college. She had worked hard to educate him for so many years, she had borne so much hardship, all leading up to the critical moment of the NCEE. But, after the results of the examination were announced and her son didn’t test into college, Fang Xing’s desire for her son to succeed where she failed came to nothing.
Cold moonlight shone in from the window, illuminating Fang Xing’s haggard face. Depression and grief filled her heart, and tears kept gushing from her eyes. She thought of all the sleep she had lost waking early and going to bed late, and how bitterly hard she had worked all these years to educate her son for college. She never believed it would all come to nothing. Was her son’s life really destined to be so ordinary? She tossed and turned the whole night, not sleeping a wink.
As the sun slowly began to brighten the eastern sky, Fang Xing came to an important decision after a long, sleepless night of thinking: Her son would never live a rural life in the countryside rutting in the dirt like she had, or else her years of effort would be completely in vain. Failing the exam once didn’t matter because they could try again, and if he worked hard enough, her son would definitely be admitted to the perfect college and their plain, ordinary lives would then change.
In the morning, Fang Xing gently pushed open her son’s door, where she saw him staring blankly out the window, looking confused. She walked to him, touched his head, and said, “Son, don’t be discouraged. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t test in this time. It’s not a big problem to spend some more money and retake the test next year.” He looked back, into her red, tear-rimmed eyes, then lowered his head like a child caught doing something wrong, and said while biting his lip, “Mom, I know I disappointed you by not testing into college this time, so I’ll repeat my last year of school. I’ll suffer another year, because I have to live up to your expectations.” When she heard this, she was very pleased, and she made up her mind: No matter how much it might cost, she would ensure her son went to a good college and had a good future.
A month later, Fang Xing went to school to see her son. From outside the classroom window, she saw a long banner above the blackboard which read, “Work hard in your senior year, or you’ll be a failure for life!” She also clearly heard the teacher say, “If you repeat the NCEE and still don’t get into college, then once you get to the real world, you’ll be unemployable. You’ll be nothing but a waste! Garbage!” This got all the students riled up, and they stared in rapt attention at the teacher.
After class, her son emerged from the classroom. He looked exhausted, and he was even thinner than before. He sighed and said, “Retaking the NCEE really isn’t easy. Every week we have tests in six subjects, and we get no rest on the weekends, because we have to keep studying. The pace of things here is so fast, the pressure is overwhelming, and every day the teachers employ all kinds of nasty teaching methods. They rush us, push us, and press us. They’ll do anything to make us study. They even try to provoke us and make us angry to encourage us, so we don’t just accept our fate. I really can’t take it. I really don’t want to study anymore.”
Fang Xing’s heart ached at seeing her son under such pressure, but she also feared he would lose his confidence, so to encourage him, she said, “Son, for the sake of a better future, what you’re suffering now is worth it. And it’s only temporary. The teachers do all these things for your benefit, so just bear with it. Just one more year of hard work, and you’ll definitely get into a good college, and then you’ll definitely have a good future.” After hearing her say that, he didn’t respond.
Fang Xing saw her son’s expression, and it nearly broke her heart. Yet there was nothing else she could do. If her son didn’t study hard and get a good diploma, how would he find a good job in the future? This year was the most critical year of his life, because the rest of it would be determined by his NCEE result. Fang Xing felt both nervous and hopeful. She often suffered from insomnia, because if her son couldn’t test into university this year, what would become of him in the future? She often thought to this point, but didn’t dare think beyond it. She was deeply afraid of having to face her son’s failure on the NCEE yet again. And so, Fang Xing passed every day in agonizing torment …
One day, her older sister testified to her of God’s work of the last days. In “God Himself, the Unique VI,” Fang Xing read these passages of God’s word, “Some people will say that learning knowledge is nothing more than reading books or learning a few things that they do not already know, so as not to be behind the times or not to be left behind by the world. Knowledge is only learned so they can put food on the table, for their own future or for the basic necessities. Is there any person who will endure a decade of hard study just for the basic necessities, just to resolve the issue of food? There are no people like this. So what is it that he suffers these hardships and suffers all these years for? It is for fame and gain: Fame and gain are waiting up ahead for him, calling him, and he believes only through his own diligence, hardships and struggle can he follow that road and thereby attain fame and gain. He must suffer these hardships for his own future path, for his future enjoyment and a better life.” “So Satan uses fame and gain to control man’s thoughts until all they can think of is fame and gain. They struggle for fame and gain, suffer hardships for fame and gain, endure humiliation for fame and gain, sacrifice everything they have for fame and gain, and they will make any judgment or decision for fame and gain. In this way, Satan binds man with invisible shackles. These shackles are borne on people, and they have not the strength nor courage to throw them off. So people trudge ever onward in great difficulty, unknowingly bearing these shackles.”
It was an epiphany for Fang Xing. She hadn’t realized that, hidden behind her incessant pushing her son to study and to pursue getting into college and getting a good diploma, were Satan’s deceitful schemes. She remembered that among the education and textbook knowledge she had received from her teachers at school, she had been inundated with and accepted principles of survival such as “To be a scholar is to be at the top of society,” “Knowledge can change your fate,” and “Distinguishing oneself and bringing honor to his ancestors.” She had believed that only through possessing knowledge could she change her fate, smooth her path in society, and be admired and looked up to by others, so she had begun to think of studying knowledge as a springboard to rise above others. She studied with all her might to change her bitter fate of poverty, but despite that, her desires were never realized. After her own dreams were smashed, she placed her hopes in her son, strove with all her strength to give him a good education, spent huge sums on extra classes, constantly pressured her son, and cut down on his time to play, which left him overloaded with pressure to study. He had then become ever more silent, and his relationship with her had begun to grow ever more distant. After he failed to get into college, Fang Xing made him retake the exam because she believed that testing into college was the only way to change her child’s fate, his only way out. She then realized that many parents today are the same. To ensure their children get into a famous college, stand out from the crowd and bring glory to their ancestors, these parents sign their children up for extra classes from kindergarten all the way through high school, and some parents even teach their children by being overly strict, pressuring them, pressing them, or doing anything they can to make them study harder. These children, facing pressure from their parents, have no choice but to study late into the night, and when these children fail to meet their parents’ expectations, they are blamed by their parents. The psychological pressure these children feel gradually grows until they spend every day feeling depressed, pessimistic, and disappointed, and they begin to loathe study and hate the world. Some develop depression, while others even choose suicide as a way to escape their oppressive, miserable lives.
As she thought of these things, Fang Xing couldn’t help but feel afraid. Her son was under every kind of pressure imaginable, he already looked haggard and depressed, and she didn’t dare imagine what her son might become if she continued to pressure him. At this moment, Fang Xing finally saw that the tricks by which Satan corrupts people are truly vicious. It uses the name of studying knowledge to implant such satanic toxins as “Knowledge can change your fate” and “To be a scholar is to be at the top of society” within people. Once people accept these mistaken notions, they are held firmly in bondage by fame and gain, and they become prisoners in fetters, who study knowledge with all their strength and will pay any price in an attempt to change their fates. The young souls of today’s children bear incredible pressure, leaving them depressed, silent, and bereft of the youthful spirit and happiness that should be theirs, all because they have been poisoned by satanic fallacies. Fang Xing realized that if she continued to believe in these satanic fallacies and push her son to study to the exclusion of all else, using him to achieve her own ambition and desire to stand out from the crowd, she would only make her son and herself more miserable, and eliminate any possibility of happiness for them both.
After that, Fang Xing read another passage of God’s words, “When it comes time for people to raise the next generation, they will project all their unrealized desires in the first half of their lives onto their descendants, hoping that their offspring will make up for all the disappointments they experienced in the first half of their lives. … hoping that their offspring can help them achieve their dreams and realize their desires; that their daughters and sons will bring glory to the family name, become important, rich, or famous; in short, they want to see their children’s fortunes soar. People’s plans and fantasies are perfect; do they not know that the number of children they have, their children’s appearance, abilities, and so forth, are not for them to decide, that their children’s fates do not at all rest in their palms? Humans are not the masters of their own fate, yet they hope to change the fates of the younger generation; they are powerless to escape their own fates, yet they try to control those of their sons and daughters. Are they not overestimating themselves? Is this not human foolishness and ignorance?” (“God Himself, the Unique III”).
After reading God’s words, Fang Xing finally realized: “Our path in life, our futures, and our fates are not decided by our educational level, and cannot be changed through people’s effort, because all these things are determined by God. They were arranged and preordained by God long ago.” She only now understood that her worries over her son’s studies came primarily from the fact that she didn’t understand God’s domination and that she wasn’t willing to entrust her son to God, but instead lived by mistaken, fallacious notions and ideas, and so hoped to use the study of knowledge to change her son’s fate. By reading God’s word, Fang Xing was finally able to see through Satan’s trick. She had a sudden realization, “Satan uses people’s pursuit of knowledge to inundate people with these mistaken, fallacious ideas and views, lead us down the path of pursuit of fame and gain, and make us struggle to escape God’s domination, oppose God’s arrangements, struggle for our own ambitions, and arrogantly attempt to change our fates. This is how it controls and toys with us, and keeps us living in inextricable torment.”
Fang Xing pondered for a while, and then thought, “If a child’s fate isn’t controlled by his or her parents, then just what role do parents play in the life of a child?” Later, in “God Himself, the Unique III,” she read these passages of God’s word, “Besides birth and childrearing, the parents’ responsibility in a child’s life is simply to provide him or her with a formal environment to grow up in, for nothing except the predestination of the Creator has a bearing on a person’s fate. No one can control what kind of future a person will have; it is predetermined long in advance, and not even one’s parents can change one’s fate.” “No matter how great one’s abilities, one cannot influence, much less orchestrate, arrange, control, or change the fates of others. Only the unique God Himself dictates all things for man, for only He possesses the unique authority that holds sovereignty over human fate; and so only the Creator is man’s unique Master.”
From God’s words, she understood that parents’ responsibility to children is to give birth, rear the children, provide a good environment for children to grow up in, and provide food and shelter, but parents cannot control their children’s fate. Parents have no say over whether or not a child becomes highly educated, what kind of work a child finds in the future, what path a child takes, and whether a child is poor and rich, and similar things, nor can parents change them. All of these things are controlled and arranged by God, and were preordained by God long in advance. Fang Xing felt a great sense of relief when she thought of this, was willing to entrust her son to God, and regardless of whether he was admitted to a good university, she wished to obey God’s orchestrations and arrangements.
Quickly, the final countdown to the NCEE approached. Her son’s mental condition became ever worse as the exam date got closer. Each day he came home, his brow was furrowed, his face was tight, and there wasn’t a trace of a smile on his face. As Fang Xing watched her son bear this immense pressure at such a young age, her heart ached with misery and tears appeared in the corners of her eyes. Time and again she blamed herself for forcibly inundating her son with mistaken principles like “To be a scholar is to be at the top of society,” “Knowledge can change your fate,” and “Distinguishing oneself and bringing honor to his ancestors,” by forcing him to study with all his strength and making him bear this torment. So, Fang Xing earnestly encouraged him by saying, “Son, no matter whether you test into university or not, we’ll accept whatever happens. Don’t put yourself under too much pressure.”
He looked at her in amazement when he heard this, was silent for several seconds, then said with surprise, “Mom, I never thought I’d hear you say something like that. You weren’t like this before. What changed in you? Haven’t you always told me that knowledge can change my fate, and that I can only have a good future by studying hard?”
She answered calmly, “Thanks be to God! I believe in God now, and it was God’s word that changed my views on things. In the past, I always thought that knowledge can change a person’s fate, and that we can only have a good future with an advanced degree. That’s why I worried about your future every day. I was afraid if you couldn’t test into a good university, you wouldn’t succeed in the future. But now, through God’s word, I see that these views are mistaken. Satan implants these ideas and views in us to make us strive to pursue knowledge to oppose God’s domination and struggle against fate. But in our lives, some people graduate from famous universities, yet they can’t find jobs, and live common, ordinary lives. Some create businesses without even graduating from middle school. Countless facts prove that knowledge can’t change a person’s fate. What a person’s fate is, and whether or not they succeed in the future, is entirely in God’s hands. Things are just like so many experienced people have said in popular sayings like ‘Man’s destiny is determined by God,’ ‘Man proposes, God disposes,’ and ‘It’s hard to go against Heaven’s will.’ That these sayings exist proves even further that our fates are controlled by God. In the past, I didn’t understand the truth, and I didn’t know about God’s domination, so I lived by Satan’s mistaken views, forced you to study, and didn’t care about your feelings. I put so much pressure on you, which made you depressed and silent, and made you lose the happiness you should have had. Now I understand that for humans like us, everything is arranged by God. Your fate in the future is also ruled over by God, so I won’t force you to study anymore. Don’t feel too much pressure about your college entrance exams. Just do your best, and whatever the results, we’ll accept them.”
When he heard Fang Xing’s heartfelt confession, her son was very moved, and said excitedly, “Mom, this is great! It’s good to believe in God. Only God could have changed you! Mom, do you realize that my days are full of courses where the pressure increases every day, and I still have to face your expectations of me. I feel like I’m on the brink of mental collapse, so I started deliberately avoiding you and distancing myself from you. I’ve been afraid that I can’t test into a good university and won’t live up to your expectations of me, but the pressure I feel is too much, and living like this is exhausting. I thought, if I can’t test in this time, I really don’t want to live anymore. Mom, now that I’ve heard you say this, I feel like I’ve been set free. My pressure is immediately lessened.”
Her son’s earnest answer made Fang Xing feel even more regretful about her actions, but also made her feel that she owed her son too much. When she looked up and saw the long-absent smile on her son’s tender face, she cried tears of joy, and silently thanked God in her heart.
When the bell announcing the start of the NCEE rang, there were no clouds in the sky, all the trees slouched lackadaisically in the still air, and cicadas in their branches chirped continuously. Outside the exam facility, parents stood around anxiously in the hot sun discussing which exam questions were hardest this time, and which schools their children could test into. Fang Xing looked up into the examination room and thought nervously, “This test will determine my son’s future. I wonder how he’s doing in there?” She was worried and anxious, and she couldn’t quiet her heart. Just then, she realized she was worrying about her son’s future again, so she quickly prayed to God, “God! Now I am worried about my son’s college entrance test results. I know that You rule over everything, and that I should put my son in Your hands, so I ask that You lead me, guide me, and help me obey Your orchestrations and arrangements.” After she prayed, she remembered God’s words, “Those who seek to know God are able to set aside their desires, are willing to submit to God’s sovereignty and God’s arrangements; they try to be the kind of people who are submissive to God’s authority and satisfy God’s desire. Such people live in light, live in the midst of God’s blessings; they will surely be commended by God” (“God Himself, the Unique III”).
From God’s words she was able to understand that by knowing God’s domination, obeying God’s orchestrations and arrangements, and entrusting everything to God, she would be able to live happily and at ease, but she couldn’t see through Satan’s tricks, and still believed that the NCEE determined the rest of her son’s life. Since she could not accept God’s domination and lacked genuine obedience to God, she continued to live in darkness without release. But now, her heart felt brightened, she had faith in God, and she wished to entrust her son’s fate to God, and leave it to God to orchestrate and arrange. She no longer wanted to plan or worry about her son’s future. Regardless of the outcome, she only wished to obey. Now, Fang Xing sighed with relief, and her heart finally calmed itself.
After the test, her son excitedly said to her, “Mom, this time I think I can get into a first-rate college.” Seeing her son so confident made Fang Xing excited as well. She felt that going with the flow and obeying God’s orchestrations and arrangements gave her and her son a great deal of release, and brought them ever closer together. Fang Xing thanked God from the bottom of her heart for His guidance, and serenely said, “Whatever will be will be.” Her son nodded, and they smiled at each other.
It wasn’t long before her son’s test results were published. Fang Xing never could have imagined — her son actually got into his ideal college. But, this time, she felt differently about it. She wasn’t happy that her son had met her demands and standards, but instead she used the experience of her son’s college entrance test to reflect. Through God’s word, she had been able to clearly see the mistakes and fallacies of satanic ideas and views, and had gained some genuine knowledge of how God rules over things. Fang Xing deeply experienced that when she learned to obey God’s arrangements, let go of her son, and entrust him to God, it was like putting down a heavy burden. She no longer felt depressed or agonized, and she became much closer to her son. Nothing could stand in for spiritual comfort such as this. Fang Xing felt the joy of obeying God, let go of her worries about her son’s future, and was able to openly exchange with her son. All of these things were the results brought about in her by God’s word. It was God’s word that healed the relationship between mother and son. Fang Xing felt the authority and power of God’s word, and realized that from now on, she wanted even more to practice God’s word and bring it into her daily life, so that she could live a life of even more freedom and release.
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