I think for most people, life can be boiled down to the pursuit of happiness. Am I right? That’s all most of us really want– to be happy. Now, the things that make each person happy are extremely different and can change from year to year or even day-to-day. But in the simplest of terms, humans desire happiness. So if this is something we all want and strive for, then why is it so hard to find, so difficult to keep, and truly obtained by very few people?
Have you ever looked at a child and been taken back by their joy? How the smallest things can just make their day? Doesn’t it make you laugh? Children are so pure and simple. It doesn’t take much to make them smile. A donut. Chasing ducks at the park. Throwing leaves in the air. Running around in circles until they fall down. Children have very few actual problems and even if they do become upset, they forget about it as soon as they see another shiny object that captures their attention. No stress, no worries, no real concerns. We were all that way at one point, but somewhere during this journey called life we all lost that simplicity and now we are much more complex creatures that are extremely difficult to please. At some point during our adolescence, the pressure of the world moves in and we start striving. Striving for acceptance, striving to please, striving to achieve, striving to earn, striving to prove… striving for what? Whatever we think will make us happy.
If there’s one thing I am determined to teach my children, aside from loving and believing in Jesus, it’s how to maintain their childlike joy. I don’t want them going through their whole life (like many people do) thinking happiness is just one goal away, one new car away, one new job away, one promotion away, one relationship away, one new house away… you see the problem? None of this is the answer. Maybe those things will provide happiness for a moment, but then what? The measuring stick moves. The goal changes. And the cycle of striving for happiness starts over again.
Sitting in church a couple of weeks ago, I listened to our pastor speak about living a grateful life. Pastor Graham said, “Being ungrateful is a marker of a life without God.” This hit me pretty hard as I processed that it’s actually ungodly to be ungrateful. Pastor Graham then challenged us to imagine writing ALL of our blessings on a piece of paper (to include everything from running water and a loving family to a 12-foot Christmas tree and Louboutin shoes)… then he told us to mentally cross each item off that list one-by-one and imagine your life without that blessing. In an instant, we start to see how many things we take for granted and how blessed our lives really are. Pastor Graham later shared a story about a sweet old woman who had her purse stolen. Clearly in a situation like that there are plenty of reasons to be ungrateful, yet the sweet old lady displayed gratitude. She gave the following reasons for why she remained thankful in this moment:
“This was the first time– I had not been robbed before.
The robbers took my purse and not my life.
They took all I had, but at least that wasn’t very much.
That I was robbed — I was not the robber.”
My greatest wish and hope for my boys is that they will learn nothing on earth will truly make them happy. That may sound like a real downer, but actually it’s the greatest and most freeing gift there is, and it’s the key to living with childlike joy forever. The sooner my sons realize that their faith in Jesus will supply all of their needs, and that happiness and gratitude are choices they can make, then joy will instantly flow to and from their hearts. They will want less because they will realize that Jesus has already blessed them with so much. They won’t take a person, an opportunity, or even running water for granted. They won’t feel the need to impress others with material things because they will know that the only approval they need comes from Jesus. They won’t stress over tomorrow because they will know that Jesus is already there and that His love is greater than any trial they will face. When they face adversity, they will choose to be grateful for today and hopeful for tomorrow because they will know that God’s plan is better than their own– even if they don’t understand the “why” behind it all right now. They will be kind and loving to every person they meet because they won’t fear rejection or judgment; they will take comfort in knowing that nobody has the authority to judge them except for God. They will extend grace and forgiveness to even the least deserving people, because they will know that hate in their heart won’t get them or anyone else closer to God. They will give freely with a pure heart and without expectations or strings attached, because they will know that Jesus did exactly that for them– except while they may be giving money, talents, or time, Jesus gave His life.
You see, childlike joy is not unattainable. It’s free and available to everyone. Yet as adults, we have somehow been programmed to view the world through dark, jaded lenses instead of choosing to see the beauty all around us. We take things for granted and we fail to see that the only thing we actually need to strive for is to be more like Christ– because only He can remove all worldly concerns and replace them with joy. Just as Pastor Graham says, “If you live open-hearted and open-handed, you will impact more and do more. We are blessed to be a blessing, for this is the Will of God.”
Champ & Easton, this is my wish for you:
Choose happiness & seek Jesus, always.