I hear it all too often (and am tempted to participate more often than I’d like to admit): Parenting rants. We commiserate with each other when we feel worn out, unappreciated, manipulated, alone. But looking to our children to fulfill our deepest needs is a mistake — just as it is when we look to any other human being to fill the void that only God can fill. Whatever negative emotions parenting is bringing your way, you can (and should!) fight for joy.
Full Joy Is in God
Note that Psalm 16:11 does not say that “In the home of perfect children is fullness of joy”: it’s in the presence of God. Sometimes we feel like we need those around us to do certain things, be certain things, in order for us to truly enjoy life, but God tells us that’s not true. And when you’re broken hearted and enduring afflictions, God draws especially close (see Psalm 34:17-19). God also gets closer to us when we desire to be close to Him (James 4:8). By contrast, when we let our parenting hurts and frustrations bring anger between us and God, we forfeit the potential for joy when we need its buoyancy the most!
Joy Can Accompany Trials
The kind of joy we’re talking about isn’t the same as the happy-go-lucky delight of a small child who has just discovered some unhealthy treat. God’s gift of joy transcends candy-coated frivolities, allowing us to find satisfaction in the potential spiritual growth brought by each hard thing. While trials come in various shapes and sizes, they are all designed by our loving God to shape us into complete, mature servants (James 1:1-4).
The idea of “counting it all joy” is more than finding a silver lining around the dark clouds of difficulty or even counting our many blessings; instead, it has to do with joyfully entering into a time when your faith and endurance is tested — something possible only with a secure knowledge that the Holy Spirit will enable you to endure and persevere.
All Service Should Be Joyful
Sometimes we can feel as if we’re martyrs, as parents, but before we get sucked into a “poor me” conversation of one-up-man-ship where each parent has a worse sob story to tell, let’s be careful. If we serve the Lord with a negative attitude, are we honoring Him? Of course not. Imagine someone singing a worship song with a frown or angry eyes or giving in the offering with a covetous heart.
God wants our joyful singing (Psalm 81:1) and cheerful giving (2 Cor. 9:7); He also wants our glad service (Psalm 100:2). Serving without that gladness might be just as much work, but it isn’t honoring to the One we ultimately serve.
So the next time you’re tempted to chime in with your own rant, choose joy instead. It’s more fun, anyway.