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From a deep sleep, I sit up straight and grab my phone.

It’s early.  Too early.  Something must be wrong. 

Turns out, it isn’t.  Not really. 

A bleary-eyed text scan reveals everyone is safe and healthy.  No one is stranded, threatened, scared. 

Still, my heart beats hard, each thump sending waves of ache and longing down my arms and into my fingertips. 

Someone is unhappy.  Deeply unhappy.

Too far away to offer even a hug, I can’t fix it, and the focus I worked so hard to cultivate as I head into another full day of creative work is gone. 


This happened a long time ago, but I’m telling you, friends, sometimes I feel like I’m living three lives at once!  When it gets to be too much, I try to remind myself of the following truths. 

Happiness is relative.  Happiness is an emotional response to stimuli.  We may not be able to change those stimuli, but we can adjust our focus, perspective, and expectation.

Happiness isn’t the baseline.   Happiness falls on the positive side of the sliding emotional scale.  It is not the norm.  We must be grateful for the upswings.

Happiness doesn’t last.  Human emotion, good or bad, cannot be maintained forever.  Sooner or later, we all return to baseline, if only for a little while.

Happiness isn’t the end goal.  Christ-likeness is.  If God put Jesus through trials to shape Him (Heb. 2:10), we should expect Him to do the same with us.

Happiness can actually interfere with God’s plan.  Happiness breeds complacency.  We don’t tend to tinker with things we don’t perceive to be broken.  If God wants us to change trajectory, He often applies a little pressure or removes an element of comfort.   

Unhappiness pushes believers to Jesus.  Only the hurt need healing, and those who know Jesus know He is the cure.  If they don’t go to Him first with their pain, they will once they discover nothing else satisfies as deeply or for as long.

Unhappiness breeds compassion.  We can’t effectively minister to those with whom we can’t identify.  If we hope to help the hurting, we must experience some level of hurt ourselves.  

You can’t fully appreciate happiness until you experience unhappiness.  

Those who never know unhappiness never cultivate joy.  Happiness ebbs and flows because it relies on factors in constant flux.  Joy remains because it depends on Jesus, Who does not change (Heb. 13:8).  If we never find ourselves tossed about by emotion, we may never reach for the rock of our salvation or learn to abide in His provision.

If the Enemy is responsible for my children’s unhappiness, I could be the target.  If I allow myself to be crippled by the Enemy’s attacks, doesn’t it stand to reason he’ll keep his aim on my children steady?  Also, parenting is only one of the jobs God has given me.  No matter my kids’ interpretation of or response to their own circumstances, I have a calling of my own and a life of obedience to live (Eph. 4:1).

The truth is, no matter how hard I try to retrain it, my heart will always beat for three people.  It helps to know, however, that the weight of responsibility for my children’s happiness is not mine to bear. 

It’s theirs. 

And God’s.

That’s great news, not only because a momma’s hugs and kisses only go so far, but because the Father alone knows what’s best both for my kids and the Kingdom.  Speaking of which, Heaven—with its dried up tears and all (Rev. 21:4)—is looking better all the time, don’t you think?