Joy is Not

We have such a misconception of joy. Society tells us joy is about fulfilling ourselves or our own personal happiness. Joy has become self focused, but that goes against the very concept of joy. Nehemiah says, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” (8:10) So if joy is a Fruit of the Spirit, given by the Lord to strengthen us, then how do we experience joy in motherhood?

If you ask any given mother about the joy of motherhood you will probably receive a few throwaway answers: holding your baby for the first time, the first time your baby stops crying just by seeing you, seeing your children making good choices, or finally getting that full night of sleep! But is that joy or is that momentary happiness? Am I actually idolizing happiness? What happens to my joy when my child will not sleep through the night for years? Or when my child disobeys? Or when my child embarrasses me in public? What happens to my joy then?

Joy is not synonymous with happiness. Joy is not an emotion, joy is a state of being. If joy were merely happiness then why would James tell us, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” (1:2-3)? Trials and testing do not usually result in happiness for me. You will not hear me say, “My kids refuse to obey and it just makes me so happy!’ or “My kid hit another kid at play group and it just made me so happy!” These trials of parenthood do not produce happiness or fulfillment or pride.

Did you catch that? The connection between happiness and pride? This is not always the case, but how often do we feel happy over the accomplishments of our children and take pride in our parenting? How often do we elevate our parenting abilities when our children choose the right thing or succeed? How often does our pride get in the way of giving glory to God for the works He is doing in the lives of our children? Could our happiness get in the way of correctly honoring our Lord?  Has happiness become an idol in our lives? Are we seeking after a momentary emotion or seeking after the everlasting joy of knowing our Savior?

Joy is not the same as happiness. There is no Fruit of the Spirit: happiness. Christ does not promise us happiness. The goal is not for happiness, but for holiness. By striving towards holiness and Christlikeness our prayer becomes, “He must become greater, I must become less” (John 3:30 NIV). Joy is not about us. Joy is about our Savior and the freedom He provides through salvation. Joy is about growing in Christlikeness and the sanctifying work the Spirit does in our lives. Joy is about knowing that we aren’t in control, we don’t have it all together, and we don’t live in a perfect world; but that God remains in control, holds everything together, and will one day reign in His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Joy is not delighting in our circumstances, but delighting in our Creator.

Joy in motherhood is not reserved for perfect days. Joy in motherhood is not reveling in the tiny humans we are rearing. Joy in motherhood is not a representation of right decisions and super-momming. Joy in motherhood is resting in the goodness of our Heavenly Father in revealing more about Himself to us through parenthood. Joy in motherhood is responding to trials and testing with faith and hope in our Savior. Joy in motherhood is removing worldly desires and replacing them with the Fruit of the Spirit. 

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