By Allison Hull and Vanessa Rasanen
“As long as my children are happy, I’m happy.”
We hear this often, don’t we? Whether it’s from secular folks who argue that it shouldn’t matter who our kids grow up to be, what they do, or how they act, or if it’s our own parents insisting they only want us to be happy, this emphasis on the pursuit of happiness is ingrained in our society. Everyone just wants everyone else to be happy, especially the children. We are constantly inundated with calls to “live and let live” and told “You do you; I’ll do me”. If we question this “whatever makes you happy” brand of parenting, we get called monsters, because we obviously don’t love our children as much.
But it’s out of love for them that we push back against this worldview and refuse to teach it to them.
Society goes gaga over this whole happiness thing. The world offers us pills, drugs, alcohol, coffee, workouts, money, jobs, surgery, love, and all manner of things to provide us with the happiness we supposedly need. Our sinful Old Adam is more than willing to play along, seeking happiness wherever we can, even if — perhaps especially if — it means throwing in the towel, giving in, walking away, and abandoning our vocations to do so. So often we seek this happiness at all costs, focusing us inward on ourselves, even if it means likely hurting others.
No longer happily married? Leave to find yourself or someone new.
Not liking your job? Quit and find something else that makes you happy.
Not enjoying your church? Try that new exciting one across town.
Friend bringing you down with all her sad talk? Take a break for a bit.
Tired of fighting that same-sex attraction? Just give in. Love conquers all, right?
This loop-the-loop search for worldly happiness is a ruse, a game the devil wants us to play. In this game the enemy lies and tells us that sins must not really be sins, because how could God not want us to be happy? It’s in this deadly game that we are so often led to justify our sinful desires — whether that has us stealing from our neighbor, leaving our spouse, abandoning our children, or attempting to change our gender. You may find something that makes you happy — for a time. But eventually that happiness will fade, feelings will change, and you’ll soon be chasing after the next something that promises to renew that euphoria.
Man, this seems all doom and gloom here, but let’s be clear. I’m not against happiness itself, nor do I simply not care about whether my children are happy. After all, God provides us many blessings in this life that do bring us joy and laughter. These are wonderful gifts that we give thanks for and can enjoy without guilt. But true and lasting happiness cannot be found in the secular world. We can love our morning coffee, or enjoy our nightly glass of wine, or delight in the gifts of friendships and family, but the happiness found in those mugs or glasses or relationships cannot be our focus in this life.
And I refuse to point my children down that path, too. I refuse to teach my children to chase after an elusive high that will always seem out of reach. I will not encourage them to pursue something that is unattainable in this world and leads them away from Christ. I will not stand by and shrug when the world lies to them and presents this idol of happiness, tempting them to abandon God’s Word in search of fleeting moments of superficial bliss.
All too soon they will learn this sinful world brings pain and sorrow, difficult temptations and hard times. When they come to a point in their life where there’s not even a glimmer of happiness to be found or they face a difficult crossroads, I want them to look to Holy Scripture, to the cross, to Christ crucified, and to Christ ascended for them. There and only there are we promised joy. Outside of that death and resurrection we have no guarantees.
Instead I will teach them to look for joy in the beautiful hymns that talk of Christ’s death and our resurrection with Him. I will instruct them to find peace in the “peace that surpasses all understanding”. I will encourage them to look for bliss in the lips of the pastor who offers forgiveness when their sins seem unforgivable. I will point them to Christ to help them in their daily vocations. And I will have them stand on the firm ground of their baptism and communion with Christ where we see the unmeasurable joy of dining with the whole host of believers.
So no, I don’t want my kids to be happy, for happiness is overrated, a rip-off. I want them to have real joy, unending joy, eternal joy in Christ our Lord and Savior.
If that makes me a monster in the world’s eyes, so be it.