We’ve all seen it at least a dozen times: the obligatory movie scene featuring a parent-child confrontation. The parent offers “advice,” the kid gets mad and lashes out: “What do you want from me?” The parent tears up and spews (all together now…): “I just want you to be happy.”
Oh, please. It’s enough to send you looking for the anti-nausea medication.
Hollywood resorts to happiness, because that’s the best the world has to offer. Thankfully, as Christian parents, we can extend a greater gift to our children. JOY!
Now, you may not think there’s much difference in the two. But there is a HUGE difference. An eternal difference.
Happiness is an emotion based on circumstances. It is the feeling of being pleased with how the events in your life are unfolding. It is hopelessly tied to the moment at which it is felt. If circumstances are not so great, happiness is nowhere to be found. Why would I want that for my children?
Joy, on the other hand, is an eternal condition. It is the delight of a believer that allows him or her to look beyond present circumstances to the hope of eternity. It is that deposit of heavenly presence placed in our earthly lives.
Joy enables a believer to consider unpleasant circumstances as the opportunity to grow stronger, deeper, and closer to God. This process helps us look at our lives outside of the moment in which we find ourselves. It offers us hope and the chance to delight ourselves in our God and not in our circumstances.
So when that moment comes (and I know it will), that I find myself advising my resisting child, I’ll be ready. I’ll listen for the background music and the dramatic pause. When they ask what I want, I’m going to quote Paul to them:
“May the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” -Romans 15:13
The truth of that line is something no screenwriter can touch.