I’ve often heard parents say they want their children to be happy. But the way they say it almost sounds like a bad thing; like being happy is the consolation prize of life. It goes something like this, “I really wanted my son to be a lawyer, but if driving an ice cream truck makes him happy…” or “That’s not the kind of guy I wanted my daughter to marry, but as long as she’s happy…” It seems like the options are living the right kind of life – the one the parents envisioned – and being happy. If they don’t win first prize – whatever that is – at least they are happy. It all sounds rather sad and pathetic. So as a father of four children, I have to say I don’t want my kids to be “happy.” Here’s what I do want for them.
First, I want for my children to have a genuine, vital, dynamic relationship with God. I want them to grasp the fullness of what it means to be saved by grace and to live in peace with God through faith in Christ. This is the essence of what Paul tells the church in Rome.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand
To me this is critical because it becomes the foundation for living life without fear and without anxiety. If we can fully take hold of this truth; if can understand that God is not waiting to zap us for any little infraction, we can live securely in our relationship with Him. He saved us and loved us and we can trust Him. Being at peace with God means we don’t have to try to earn His acceptance, we don’t have to perform perfectly, we don’t need to wonder if we have done “enough.” What a wonderful way to live life – at peace with God.
The second thing I want for my children is that they know and grow in their understanding of God’s love for them. This may sound like my first point, but it actually goes a little beyond that. While being at peace with God is based on our sins being forgiven, accepting the love of God heals our very heart. That God loves us means He accepts us – unconditionally. He likes us; He wants to continue to develop the relationship He started when we gave our life to Him. This is Paul’s prayer for the church at Ephesus.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
What great words, “being rooted and grounded in love.” It is so solid, so permanent. The love of God keeps us grounded in what is true and keeps us from prancing here and there to find “the meaning of life” or to “find ourselves” because we have already been found in the heart of God. Because God loves us we don’t have to fill that hole in our soul with drugs, alcohol, work, prestige, money, fame, sports, fashion, whatever it is we turn to to feel valued. God already values us. We can be secure knowing that He is watching out for us; that life won’t swallow us up. We can know that whatever we do, or wherever we go, we will never outrun His love. And the love of God also enables us to be secure enough to love others without conditions or grasping for control or demanding their attention. What a wonderful way to live – loved by God.
Finally, I want my kids to know their God-given calling. I want them to know that the Lord has now, and always has had a plan for them. He created them for a purpose that He designed specifically for them. Listen to what Paul also tells the church in Ephesus.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Walking in His calling doesn’t mean an easy life. It doesn’t mean we don’t search and try and sometimes fail, but it does mean that we are not left meandering through life with little clue what to do. We give ourselves to Him, we become available to Him wherever we are and He uses us to love others and reflect Christ to a broken world. Walking in that calling is not finding the “spiritual” things to do, but doing the simple things to bless others and honor God. It is less about tasks and more about heart. So I want my kids to walk in the freedom that comes in knowing that they are an important part of what God is doing in this world. It gives them permission to be themselves, to embrace their gifts and passion and see how God takes them and weaves a wonderful story with their lives. What a wonderful way to live – living His calling.
So again I say, I don’t want my kids to be happy. Happy pales in comparison to being at peace with God, loved by God and living His calling. If my kids are experiencing these things – regardless of what the rest of their lives look like – then that would make ME very happy.