“Mommy, Heather was so mean to me today at school. She laughed at me and told me I look dumb. I thought she was my best friend! I am really, really sad. I just want to stay home and not go back, ever.”
Your daughter has just experienced how cruel and sad life can be. Your first thought is to protect and defend her from the cruel words. But, then you want to see how God can use this to prepare your daughter for the difficult challenges that life will bring to her. You want her to know that through the hurt she can know and experience joy and the comfort of God.
What brings joy to you profoundly impacts your children’s understanding of joy. Biblical joy is unique. It is the Spirit’s fruit. It cannot be reproduced apart from his work. There is, of course, the joy that comes from being encouraged by positive, happy circumstances. That is good, but there are limitations. Human joy needs a flow of positive circumstances to sustain itself. In contrast, the Spirit’s joy can be described this way:
“Joyfulness is believing that God will work all things together for my good, so I never have to despair. I can be joyful even when I am sad.”
With the power of the Spirit, joy and sadness can and should coexist. Sadness, even grief, does not have to diminish true joy. The rich mercy and grace of God is always a reason for joy. God has promised never to leave you or turn away from you. Because of this great truth, we can know joy even in sadness.
Joy of this kind is not natural. It will not just magically appear. This joy is exclusively the work of God’s Spirit. But it still needs to be taught by example and by loving instruction. If you see a lack of joy in your children., check your own spirit first.
When you become discouraged, angry and bitter your children see this. You teach them that joy has limits. You teach them that the disappointments they face are reasons to flee from joy. You teach them that functionally the love and mercy of God are not always sufficient. Yes, pain is real, but so is the faithfulness of God. This is what your kids need to see lived out before them.
“Sweetheart, remember that Jesus is your friend who will never turn away from you. I know Heather hurt you. But we can pray for her. What really matters is that even though people may hurt us, we can be joyful that God will always love us and take care of us. Come here, let’s ask God for help to be joyful.”
Pray for joy for you and your children. Pray this prayer with your children:
“O Father, thank you that Jesus died to take away sin and sadness and that you always care for me. Help me to be joyful, even in times when I am sad. Thank you that everything you do is good and right. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
This post originally appeared on Shepherd Press and was republished with permission.
Jay Younts is the author of Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, and he is the Shepherd Press blogger. He is a ruling elder at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.