What Will Make Our Children Happy?
How can we make our children happy? It’s a question that energizes — and agonizes — parents.
A few summers back, my husband and I jumped at the offer of six free tickets to an amusement park with some of the best roller-coasters in the country, only to discover that our children do not like roller-coasters. Worse yet, the very sight of people being hurled around rickety tracks in small cars made our youngest daughter cry. After driving for two hours, trudging over six miles of hot asphalt, and paying eight dollars per chicken nugget, we finally got our four biggest smiles when we announced it was time to go home.
Words of Delight
Every parent knows the disappointment of trying to make our children happy, only to miss by a mile. Even our most successful plans for their earthly happiness are temporary at best. But Scripture promises that our children can know lasting happiness, and it tells us how to lead them there. Happiness is not finally found in a gift, a party, or a trip, but in the God whom we meet in Scripture. That’s why one author refers to the Bible as “Words of Delight.” God’s word is “perfect . . . rejoicing the heart,” “more to be desired . . . than gold,” and the source of “great reward” (Psalm 19:7–11).
“Happiness is not finally found in a gift, a party, or a trip, but in the God whom we meet in Scripture.”
But how do we convince a princess-obsessed toddler or phone-fixated teenager that this leather-bound, ancient book with small print and big numbers contains more happiness than a new toy or the latest video game? How do we lead our children to the stream of happiness that is the word of God?
Of course, we cannot manufacture happiness in the hearts of our children, but we can position them in the way of happiness. We do this by setting an example of satisfaction in God’s word, talking about our love for God’s word, and teaching our children the daily habit of reading God’s word.
Rejoice in God’s Word
Happy are the parents who regularly read God’s word. Small bites here and there will leave us malnourished; we need heaping helpings of God’s word to satisfy our souls. George Müller’s powerful testimony was that, “For the first four years after my conversion I made no progress, because I neglected the Bible. But when I regularly read on through the whole with reference to my own heart and soul, I directly made progress. Then my peace and joy continued more and more.” When regular intake of God’s word swells our souls with happiness, our children will take notice.
Like many Christians, I can testify that God used my parents’ happiness to draw me to Christ. I watched my mom get up early each day to read her Bible; I heard my dad singing (loudly!) and praying over God’s word each morning. It was plain as anything that they were happy in God. In my young mind it was simple: I wanted what they had. There is no better way to lead our children to the Words of Delight than to daily go there ourselves.
Talk About God’s Word
“There is no better way to lead our children to the Words of Delight than to daily go there ourselves.”
Like static from a balloon, our enthusiasm will rub off on our children as we talk about God’s word. When was the last time we told our children how Scripture guides us, restores our souls, disciplines us for our good, or encourages us in weakness? How often do we talk to our children, saying, “Look what I read in the Bible today!”?
We gush about our enthusiasm for a sports team, a hobby, or a favorite song, but how often do we open our mouths to discuss the wonders of God’s word? Talking to our children has a double-sided effect: it not only transmits our love for Scripture to them in tangible ways, but also strengthens our own affections for the word of God.
Help Them Read God’s Word
But our children won’t develop their own appetites for Scripture by taking the occasional bite from our plate. They need their own generous portions from God’s word, which is why we must teach them the daily habit of reading God’s word.
Sometimes parents hesitate to require their children to read their Bibles. They worry that it will bore their kids or turn them off. But we don’t learn to love something by avoiding it. We don’t cultivate affection from a safe distance. We learn to love foods, hobbies, sports, and people when we get close to them. So it is with God’s word. If we want our children to love God’s word, they need to regularly read God’s word. If we truly believe God’s word is the only foundation for life and happiness, the only source of our joy and peace, then we will do everything we can to teach the habit — to share the happiness — with our children.
“Of all the gifts we give our children, there is no happier legacy than love for God’s word.”
More successful than our trip to the amusement park has been our family practice of reading through the Bible. We’ve tried many different plans through the years; right now our children are on a two-year plan so our youngest can keep up. We all read individually each morning and then we talk about what we’ve read at family breakfast.
My husband leads casual but lively conversations about food restrictions in Leviticus or beasts in Revelation; we ask our kids how their daily Bible reading applies to an algebra class or a soccer match; we marvel together at the grandeur of God’s plan of redemption woven through a genealogy — all before launching into work or school. Even though it may not seem as if anything dramatic is taking place, I know God is at work through his word in the hearts of our children. These conversations are the sweetest twenty minutes of the day.
Scripture isn’t merely a happiness map; it’s a happiness maker. It not only shows us the route to happiness; it carves, calibrates, and curates our children’s desires so that they long for the things that will make them truly happy: new life in Christ, the fruits of obedience, fellowship in the church, and the hope of heaven.
Of all the gifts we give our children, there is no happier legacy than love for God through his word.