I’ve spent years searching for it and chasing after it.
Over and over again, I find it — for a while. Only to feel it slip away again.
Happiness is always elusive, isn’t it? We think, “If only this would happen, I would be happy.” or “If he or she would just do this or that, I would be so much happier.”
I’ve spent years attaching my happiness to career aspirations, my children’s behavior and view of me, other people’s opinions of me, my husband’s happiness, my level of financial stability … the list has been long and varied.
But you know what all these things have in common? They’re all dependent on people or circumstances for my joy. In my experience, neither have proven to be very reliable. People, even the ones we love so much, let us down. Circumstances are constantly changing and are usually out of our control. That fact has sent me on a roller coaster of highs and lows and bitter disappointment.
So, it is possible to feel a consistent sense of peace of joy when the future is so uncertain? When the things that are making us feel happy today may change or disappear tomorrow?
I struggle with this everyday, but God is patiently showing me how to find unshakeable joy. Here are three ways I’m finding it:
Lowering My Expectations. That sounds really dark and pessimistic, doesn’t it? It’s not. We have to quit expecting that the things and people of this world can make us happy. God never intended for imperfect humans and circumstances to fill us up. Expecting them to is what leads to depression and despair.
In Jennie Allen’s Bible Study, Stuck: The Places We Get Stuck and the God who Sets Us Free, she says, “… we must consciously lower our expectations of people, of circumstances, of this planet. Let everything be human and flawed, and be completely taken and thankful when it’s good. Allow people to surprise us more than they disappoint us.”
Being More Grateful. Our tendency is to see all that’s wrong in our lives. To chase the shiny apple that is just beyond our reach. To look at others and compare our blessings.
I’m trying to practice more gratefulness. Savoring a relaxed and unguarded moment with my teenage daughter. Enjoying a hug from my teenage son. Waking up in a cozy bed and an air-conditioned house. And thanking the Creator who makes all these things possible — even though I don’t deserve any good thing.
Clinging to Hope. Can I be honest? It’s really hard for me to watch or listen to the news these days. I can feel my anxiety rising with each headline. It is a scary place we live in. It feels so broken and out of control. My hope can’t be tied to this crazy place.
As a child of God, I have the hope that one day, Christ will return and make all things right. Whatever I’m experiencing right now — either good or bad — is temporary. That does not mean God doesn’t see or care about our suffering. It only means that we cling to the fact that He has a plan to end it — forever. Even if we don’t know how or when. “Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Rom. 8:24-25)
So, how does this apply to mothering? We have to keep pointing our children to Jesus, moms. We have to set the example.
Only the Holy Spirit can keep our minds focused beyond the temporary. His help is something I ask for daily. I want to live for something bigger than today. For a future planned by a big God who loves me more than I can possibly imagine. I want that for my kids, too.
Because that is what it takes to be truly happy.