Have you ever seen people walk by kids having fun? Many times it will bring a smile to their face or they will stop for a moment and just enjoy watching carefree children at play. That childhood joy is contagious.
Joy is a very important spiritual characteristic we need to help our children develop. You see joy acts like a magnet. People see people who are joyful and they are drawn to find out how someone could be joyful in this fallen world.
There are several things to remember as you help your kids be joyful:
- Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. The implication is we need the Holy Spirit to help us be truly joyful. The Holy Spirit is given to us as a gift at baptism. If your kids are not old enough to make that decision yet, just remember they will have a little extra help once they become Christians.
- Joy is not the same as happy. Remember the Apostle Paul’s list of everything he had to endure? It was enough to make the strongest man crumble into a heap on the floor, but Paul wrote he was able to be joyful in every circumstance. Now I wasn’t there, but I’m guessing Paul never did a happy dance when another ship was about ready to sink with him on board or the scourge was pulled out to beat him. Joy is more of a contented peace because you understand every good thing is a gift from God and every bad thing is only temporary because your eternity will be in Heaven. Your kids don’t have to go around smiling and laughing every minute of the day, but they should generally have a calm spirit that is at peace and content.
- We can choose to let others and circumstances rob us of our joy. Remember Peter walking on water? I’m thinking he was pretty joyful taking that first step. The moment he took his eyes off of Jesus and saw the scary waves around him though, he lost his joy and began to fear (and sink). Teach your kids to not allow others or circumstances rob them of their joy. Bad things are going to happen because we live in a fallen world. If your kids begin to focus on how people are treating them or bad things are happening instead of God and His blessings and their future in Heaven, they need to understand THEY chose to give away their joy. They did not have it stolen from them without their permission. Yes, bad things will make them sad, but the perspective of a joyful Christian will take over if they remain focused on God. If you have been a Christian for very long, you have seen it happen again and again.
- Joy is remembering God is in control and the “good” guys will definitely win in the end. It is easy to lose our joy when life doesn’t seem fair. When people who make very ungodly choices not only are not punished, but also appear to be thriving. God even warned us the world will be like that – it will rain on the just and the unjust. God also promised He is always with us and if we follow Him we will spend eternity in Heaven. Sometimes remembering the prize at the end makes the journey through the tough spots a little easier. (Ask a non-runner like me how I can occasionally run a longer race. For me, its because I want that special t-shirt saying I completed the race!)
- Gratitude and humility are a big part of being able to be joyful. Often people aren’t joyful because they don’t have the things they think they should have. They are unable to see all of the blessings God has given them. They believe they deserve to have a better life than they do. If your kids become focused on getting things and power, it will be very difficult for them to have the kind of joy God wants us to have.
- Joy is a step in sharing our faith. My daughter and her college friends are currently studying abroad. Since most of them do not have phone service, they have chosen to play all sorts of games while they wait for transportation or in long lines to enter something. They said it is absolutely amazing to them how many strangers come over and ask them what they are doing and take pictures to show to others. These Christian young adults have turned a circumstance which they could have found extremely annoying into an opportunity to show their joy. And it draws people to them. It would then be so easy for them to continue the conversation by sharing even a little snippet of their faith. When your children show their joy it will draw others to them, allowing them to begin telling others about the God who gave them that joy.
God knows that serving others, living a godly life and living a joyful life are very different from how most people live their lives. He knew not only is it different but also people find it spellbinding and draw closer to learn more. He knows this gives all of us – even your kids – an opportunity to explain to them how they are joyful because of God. More importantly, they can teach others how to have this same joy in their lives, by following Him.