We have learned a lot about happiness from our little grandson, Edward. One Christmas while he was opening his gifts, he became intrigued by the crinkly sound of the gift wrap that Therese was scooping up off the floor.
She noticed his curiosity and made even more noise. With a twinkle in her eye, she flung a handful of paper high up into the air and shouted, “Yippee!” Edward was totally enthralled. With another “Yippee!” and a “Yeah!” from Therese, Edward joined her in flinging paper with reckless abandon. Just as quickly, his mother, Ann, ran for her camera. And every Christmas or birthday after that has included a “Yippee” bag full of paper.
How much we desire to bring happiness to our loved ones! Think about how you stood before your Christmas tree in years past, your heart bursting with a love that spilled out on brightly wrapped gifts. Think about the many Christmases, birthdays, and anniversaries you spent searching for the perfect gift that would make your loved one truly happy. And yet you wanted to give your family even more than those gifts. That desire is a tiny reflection of God’s desire to lavish your children, and all of his children, with happiness beyond measure.
Now, here are two important questions about all these occasions. How often do you watch for the tiny God-given eruptions of spiritual delight underneath the human happiness? How often do you acknowledge God as the ultimate source of a son or daughter’s deepest and most profound joy?
Source of All Happiness. Ultimately, only God can offer total, eternal happiness. And only God can give us the grace to enjoy every small happiness along the way. So it is good to thank God for the joyful moments in your son’s and daughter’s lives. It is like complimenting a good painter or a fine musician. So begin your prayers by acknowledging how God has already blessed your children and is leading them toward himself. Then examine the kind of happiness that you most want for your adult children and for yourself. Picture the unimaginable, eternal delight that God wants to give. Make eternal happiness in God’s presence your point of reference and your goal as you pray for your daughters and sons.
Steve provides us with an example of how God can intervene in the pursuit of happiness. He and his wife valued friendship above many things, so one day God intervened in their friendships.
I decided to leave the Church because of a difficulty, and took my wife, Caroline, and our five children with me. But we did not know that our parishioner friends kept praying for our return. It took a visit with a dear Catholic friend, Judy, who was dying of terminal cancer, for us to hear the Holy Spirit prompting us to come home to all of our friends in the Church. As we were driving home after visiting Judy, Caroline innocently asked, “If we were in this situation, what would we do?” After a short pause we both answered in unison, “We would go back to the Catholic Church.” And so we returned to the parish we had left. Later, when Caroline shared this great news with Judy’s husband, he sobbed for joy because Judy had been quietly praying for our return throughout her illness.
Steve and Caroline had encountered God’s incredible love, as did St. Maximilian Kolbe, which he expressed in this prayer: “Who would dare to imagine that you, O infinite, eternal God, have loved me for centuries, or to be more precise, from before the beginning of centuries? In fact you have loved me ever since you have existed as God . . . and precisely because you love me, O good God, you called me from nothingness to existence!”
Steps toward God’s Happiness. Pray to our incredible God for the total happiness of a daughter or son often. Consider using these steps.
Step One: Thank God for creating your son or daughter to enjoy his eternal happiness.
Step Two: Thank God for particular moments of happiness. Create a list of happy moments that you can refer to often. (For example, our son Charlie used to run and leap into John’s arms, laughing all the way across the room. Our daughter Ann was so happy when she took her first steps that she laughed and cried at the same time. When our daughter Rose was a toddler, she took great delight in chasing seagulls.) Remembering those moments creates confidence in God’s ability to help our grown children find true and lasting happiness.
Step Three: Ask Jesus to forgive you for times when you were an obstacle to God’s happiness and love for your children.
Step Four: Tell Jesus that you trust him to bless your adult children with joy. And your trust, in the midst of difficulties, will release you from narrow prayers for little bits of happiness. Here is an example: “Oh Jesus, you alone know what will make my daughter happy and whole. You alone have set her on the path to eternal happiness in your presence, so do whatever you think is best. I only ask that you send her your Holy Spirit, as I place her in your heart.”
Hold onto the vision that each son or daughter has been created to enter and to reenter God’s eternal joy, even at times when happiness disappears in a flash of bad news. This is why Jesus lived, died, and rose from the dead. This is why Jesus has come into our midst with good news of great joy. He is our hope for happiness. Jesus gives us the inner strength to survive all obstacles to joy. Jesus is the greatest evidence of the Father’s particular love for each of us. He is the One who sends his Holy Spirit to offer our children unending joy. This is why the Scriptures and the Church invite us to rejoice in the Lord, especially in prayer.
John and Therese Boucher, who have five children, are teachers, evangelists, and award-winning authors. This is adapted from their latest book, Praying for Our Adult Sons and Daughters: Placing Them in the Heart of God. To read more or to purchase the book, please visit The Word Among Us bookstore.