Day 2: Choosing Joy
(When you see “these children”, insert the names of the children for whom you are praying.)
Lord, give these children joy in your presence. May this joy be their strength. Nehemiah 8:10
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
There is a huge difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is based on circumstance. If everything is going just as I wish, just as I planned, then I am happy. But joy is deeper. Joy is not dependent on circumstance. Joy is what Jesus brings to our souls, even when we are not happy.
As parents, we often wish happiness above all for our children. That sounds like a noble wish, but in reality we would be short-changing our children if all they ever felt was happiness. So many wonderful attributes can only be learned in the hard times. If our children only experience happiness, then they will be handicapped in their character. And yet, the modern day parent, including myself, tends to work very hard to ensure that their children are happy every moment. This result is inevitably a whole generation of self-centered, happiness-seeking individuals. And this will eventually lead to an empty, meaningless existence—just the opposite of the happiness we so eagerly sought.
Don’t get me wrong. I am generally a happy person. And I want my children to be happy children. In our 20 years of parenting, we have often ask our kids, “Are you having a happy childhood?” It is very important to us that our children look back on their childhood with happy, fond memories. But that is not all I want for them. I want above all for them to seek joy.
J.O.Y. Jesus, then others, then yourself. This is the secret to joy. And that secret does not always equate with happiness.
As parents, let’s be willing to let our kids experience a bit of unhappiness and in the midst of it, let’s point them to joy.
Update: When my daughter was in seventh grade, we moved. I don’t think I have to describe how hard that is for a thirteen-year-old. For years I struggled with an underlying guilt because of it. Though we all agreed it was God’s leading, in her mind it was plain hard. Definitely not happy.
But recently, we had a conversation in which she commented that she thought moving had developed her character in ways that were valuable, and in fact, she hoped she would be able to provide similar lessons for her own children one day. Whew! Nine years later, I finally saw what I had hoped was true. The decision that did not bring happiness, in the end did bring something valuable and appreciated. Sometimes we have to wait a long time to see that God really does have it all in control and yes, ALL things DO work for the good of those who love the Lord.