Have you ever talked to someone changing a job, ending a relationship or making some other major change in their life? If asked why, many will admit they just aren’t happy with the way things currently are in their lives. Let’s be honest. We believe we have a right to be happy. The very Declaration of Independence of the United States promises the right to pursue happiness. But does God?
When you speak with non-Christians or unchurched people, they often view Christians as stodgy, boring and unhappy. The Puritans of the Mayflower and Salem Witch Trials didn’t do the image of Christians any favors. Yet a quick read through the New Testament will introduce you to people going through horrible things and still counting it as pure joy. How is that even possible?
Perhaps God and Christians need a new PR campaign. The reality is Christians can and many do experience lots of happiness and even fun. Yes, God places a few limits, but honestly those limits allow for greater happiness in the end. The really amazing part of being a Christian though is the joy one can experience even in the most terrible of circumstances. The joy that often amazes even the most ardent atheist.
So what should you teach your kids about happiness and joy? What does God want them to understand about the topics? How can you raise kids who don’t grow up to reject a spouse or God merely because they aren’t happy at the moment? Here are our top tips for teaching your kids about happiness and joy.
- Happiness is circumstantial. Joy isn’t. Happiness is almost always associated with getting something we want – like a pretty day or a present. Joy can happen in the darkest of places.
- Christians can have fun, happiness and joy – within certain limits. God does not “want us to be happy” by breaking His commands. The “fun” kids often think they are missing by obeying God often leads to all sorts of pain. Unfortunately, most of their friends won’t admit the pain or make it sound like it’s fun, too. (Ever hear someone bragging about their horrible hangover? Really?!) There are literally thousands of things God allows that are fun, provide happiness and increase joy – without the probable negative consequences of doing the few “fun” things God forbids.
- True fun, happiness and joy often take a bit of extra work – but it’s worth it! Let’s face it. It’s a lot easier to default to getting drunk or high or having sex when a young person is bored than putting in a little extra time to find something truly unique, fun and godly to do instead. That’s why so many of them do those things. Teach your kids how to find unique, godly, fun adventures. Often, their friends will gladly come along and have fun, too – without alcohol, drugs, etc. Teens and young adults who must spend their own money for entertainment are often shocked to find these godly adventures are more fun and cost less money than alcohol.
- True joy is only found by living a life worshipping and serving God. Sorry, but any other “joy” is only a happiness that has lasted a little longer than normal. Joy is in understanding God and eternity and that any pain here is only temporary. The joy found in God is also attached to that peace that passes understanding. Searching for joy in anything other than God will leave your kids ultimately frustrated.
- Joy often comes from denying oneself some happiness. Most moms figure this out pretty quickly. They will willingly give up almost anything for themselves in order to give their kids a better life. Joyful marriages are better than happy marriages. Why? Because a happy marriage assumes both people are getting what they want all of the time. That just isn’t possible. A joyful marriage means each partner is willing to sacrifice a bit of their own happiness in order to make their spouse happy. If someone is constantly searching for their own happiness, happiness and joy will elude them, because their focus is a selfish one that can never be totally fulfilled.
- Joy is a fruit of the Spirit and should be more highly valued than happiness. Because joy is a fruit of the Spirit, it means it can’t be experienced in full until one becomes a Christian – being baptized by immersion for the remission of sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Once the Holy Spirit lives in a Christian, finding the joy God wants us to have is a gift the Holy Spirit gives us. Many people unknowingly reject joy, because they would rather pursue the things they believe will make them happy right now. Yet, that type of happiness can leave them feeling empty in the end. Only the joy from God will last and be truly fulfilling.
Are these concepts hard for kids to understand? Yes, younger children may struggle with some of them. Honestly, many adults still struggle with them. They are vitally important concepts for your kids to learn though. If not, they can make all sorts of ungodly and even dangerous choices all in the pursuit of happiness. Protect your kids by having fun with them. Laugh. Giggle. Go on adventures. Then talk about the joy that’s better than all of that fun. The joy that makes people joyful even in the worst of circumstances. Most importantly, teach them how to find that joy for themselves. It’s a precious gift to give your kids.