Adventures in Single Parent Holidays: Week 3: Joy

Christmas lights over dark blue backgroundWhen you are going through the end of a marriage, happiness seems a strange and beautiful thing. We watch others—as if in slow motion—as they continue on through the mundaneness of their lives and note the happy moments they may not even realize they are in. We remember how we took those for granted, and we wonder if we’ll ever have those moments again.

In our trolling of Facebook, we might happen upon a surprise marriage proposal, or a 30th wedding anniversary celebration and ache at the very sight of it all. Even if we don’t know the people involved, it can hurt. Because the separation and end of a marriage is a death of sorts. Of dreams we once held. Of believing that someone loved us deeply. Of looking forward to the next phase of life with another person whose known us intimately.

And it’s incredibly hard.

Even harder when we see our kids struggling through it too. In fact, it’s at that point that we most likely feel like a failure. That we’re selfish for choosing this path, even though we may know that God has led us here.

Why? Because as parents, we typically want one simple thing for our children: to be happy. And if we’re honest, we simply want the same for ourselves. And it may be that we’ve been in a position in recent years in which we walked away from the hope of ever being happy and instead chose to do our “duty” by staying in a broken marriage. Then, lamented the willing handing over of our happiness.

I’ve thought a lot about that. I’ve wondered if I’ll ever be happy again. I’ve wondered even more if my children will still be happy in their marriages someday. If, as we all look back on our lives, this will be the moment that broke our spirits. Or, the moment where we saw God move.

And in all that considering, and wondering, and thinking deeply, I’ve come to this conclusion:

Happiness doesn’t matter.

Because wishing for happiness for ourselves and our children is aiming too low. It’s like filling the spot God has held for something else in our lives with a substance that is lesser than. More importantly—I’m going to let you in on a little secret about God—he isn’t concerned with our happiness. That’s too small. Too fleeting.

He knows that his best isn’t happiness. Because what he has for us is so outrageous. So undaunted. So unbelievable, that it blows our minds to consider it.

Unwavering . . . joy.

And like most gifts from God, it’s never what we expect.

Joy can’t come from other people. It doesn’t fill us up when we’re given a compliment or complete a goal. It doesn’t make our heart leap when we see something we like, or feel accepted by others. It doesn’t have anything to do with who we are, where we are in life, or what we’re going through. Because it has nothing to do with our circumstances.

It makes no sense. At. All. Which, makes me understand why it fits so perfectly into my life right now.

Joy is like a found gift on our porch that we weren’t expecting to be there. Something that sneaks up on us and surprises us in our darkest moments. That despite what we’re going through, we still feel it deep inside.

Not only do we feel it, but it can be seen by others. Others who may comment how “happy” we look. Or, how much more relaxed we seem—even in our difficult time. And, we wonder at it too, and can’t believe it’s there.

But it’s there because we’ve chosen to give up. To surrender. To allow God to come into our broken hearts and transform them. To allow the creator of joy to give us what we can’t create for ourselves. And the closer we come to him, the more obedient we are to his leading and promptings, the more we experience his joy.

And that, sweet girls, is not only visible to everyone around us, but glorifies God. Which—the very thought of being a part of anything that glorifies God—fills us with more joy.

So, give in this season. Give up. Surrender.

Then, be prepared to have your hearts filled. Be on the lookout for those moments when you realize you are not only at peace with your life, but filled with unexplainable joy in the midst of a trial. That you are so filled with the spirit, that the overflowing of it inside you creates something much better than happiness:

Pure joy.


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  1. So… can I get this as a mini ebook or page with all the links together to send to my friend (and read on my own every day…)? This is the only Christmas series I’ve been reading, and even though I’m not technically single, you know I’m facing some of the same things. You are speaking to a quiet, broken space in me that has craved someone else to grieve with this holiday. I love you for that. Thank you.

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