If you read the title of this post, please hear me out before you dismiss me as some freak parent who wishes misery upon her child. Even if you disagree with me on how I’m going to get where I’m going with this, I’m pretty sure we want the same thing for our kids.
Anecdotal evidence suggests to me that if you ask parents what they want most for their children, the majority of them will include in their answer some variation of “I just want them to be happy.” It’s not wrong to say it, but it depends on what you mean by happy. What I’ve discovered is that just as certainly as I don’t want my daughter to be miserable, I also don’t want her to be happy as our culture defines it. Happiness really isn’t good enough. Happy doesn’t cut it. What I want for her is so much more than happiness. I believe she is promised something richer, and I pray that she seeks and finds that richer thing, the apostle Paul’s ability to find contentment in all circumstances.
11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Philippians 4:11-12, NIV
Most of us are too quick to settle for a fleeting kind of happiness. We think we deserve to feel happy, but that’s where the trouble starts. Feelings change. They’re notoriously unreliable. The world’s advice to follow your heart could lead you terribly astray. Not that there’s no place for heart. I’m a hopeless romantic, eternal optimist, glass-half-full kind of girl, but the dangers of following your feelings wherever they want to go are too great.
God never promises a life of feeling happy. Never offers a lifetime supply of fabulous circumstances. In fact, many times it’s quite the opposite and it can leave us wondering if God is even there, and if he is, then what kind of God must he be? (I’m in danger of digressing to another topic entirely, so I’ll bring it back around). What God offers is something beyond our feelings, something beyond happiness. A way to joy that only he can fill. In Christ’s love and forgiveness, we can be filled with that kind of joy–the ability to be satisfied whether we feel happy or not.
7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7
Even though they aren’t current, the pictures I chose to go with this post are chosen for the joy and happiness they express and because they embody the prayer we have for our daughter: May she be filled with joy. May she always have arms wide to the world, open big enough to hold all that God wants to heap into them. A kind of happiness only he can give.