“My children deserve to be happy; they deserve the best in life.” Who is going to argue with that statement? Don’t we all think that – about our kids and about ourselves? Isn’t that the message with which we are bombarded through our favorite shows, every commercial, college psychology, and popular reads? Every updated smart phone, each new medication, and the latest toy are marketing campaigns for egocentrism and self-indulgence. “Come on…live a little! You deserve to be happy; you shouldn’t have to wait for what you really want. Live on the edge; buy now, pay later. Indulge.”
Reading between the lines, hearing the hidden messages, spotting the unspoken cues have become my pastime as a parent. I am suddenly aware of the societal conditioning that I, unaware, have undergone as a member of the 21st Century. What philosophies have I bought into that my claimed worldview does not support? These are things that I would like my children to avoid. I would like them to be able to discern truth from lie, fact from fiction.
The truth is that the endurance of suffering reveals greater glory and deeper joy than temporal happiness from the quick escape of pain; delayed gratification produces improved delight than impulsive indulgence; and working for the heart’s desires intensifies appreciation when desires are realized rather than having every passing whim immediately fulfilled. These concepts are contrary to human impulse and the norms of a self-indulgent society, but they are truths nonetheless, for kids and parents alike.
The fact is that we, as sinners born and bred, do not deserve anything good. In light of a holy and righteous God our “good” actions are no better than filthy rags. The best we deserve is eternal separation from God. Yet God in His grace and mercy has provided us with an opportunity to receive salvation through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, on the cross. He refines those who accept His forgiveness, through suffering, through wishes denied, and blessings given on His timetable, not ours. He transforms our understanding of what is best and what is happiness by steadily challenging us to wait a little longer, reach a little higher, and search a little deeper.
Of course I want my children to be happy, and I want them to have the best – though they, like all the rest of us, do not deserve it. My greatest prayer is for them to experience the lasting joy that comes from a trusting relationship with Jesus Christ. Like Job, I want them to be able to endure great suffering that results in a conversation with God. I pray that they will experience what it is like to be the best they can be – to be able to wait patiently for what they want most, work steadily until the job is done, forgive repeatedly when they would rather hold grudges, love deeply when hate looks more appealing, respond respectfully instead of lashing out, and to care responsibly for the possessions and tasks entrusted to them. The cultivation of strong and noble character is what is best for my children and what this world so desperately needs.