We love to make our kids happy. That feeling we get when they smile and say, “Thank you, Daddy. That was the best time, ever.” There’s a special kind of a delight a parent takes in their child’s delight. When they’re happy, we’re happy.

As they get older, our culture teaches them what they “need” to be happy. Some kids believe they need the right clothes, the right body image, sexual experiences or the latest technology to be happy. For others it’s high grades, winning the game, getting into a good school and securing a high salary job.

But does what they accomplish or buy truly make them happy?  

Learning how to be happy

Recently a prestigious school began offering a class called “Psychology and the Good Life.” One-fourth of the student body enrolled when it was first offered, making it the most popular course in the school’s 300-year history.

The professor tries to teach students how to lead a happier, more satisfying life. Students think that high grades, the right internship and a good-paying job will satisfy them. But the professor believes these things do not increase happiness at all. Would more than half of undergraduates seek mental health care if their accomplishments made them happy?

One student said, “A lot of us are anxious, stressed, unhappy, numb. The fact that a class like this has such large interest speaks to how tired students are of numbing their emotions… so they can focus on their work, the next step, the next accomplishment.”

We cannot achieve lasting happiness through what we do or have. Lasting happiness comes through what God has done for us. He has given the greatest gift— His Son. The Bible points us to Jesus— the One who imparts lasting, satisfying happiness.

This is why the number one activity with the most lasting impact on a child’s life is Bible reading. It’s through the Bible that we learn what God has done for us and who Jesus is. Here are three truths from the Bible our kids need to hear from us: 

1. Only Jesus gives real happiness that lasts forever 

True happiness is not an event or a feeling. True happiness is a Person— the Person of Jesus.

Birthday cake, Christmas gifts and vacations are fun. We enjoy and thank God for the good things He gives us. But cake goes stale. Toys break. Even the best vacations end. Even the best gift cannot make our hearts happy forever.

God, the Giver of every good gift, gives us things to turn our hearts to him. The stronger, higher truth for our children is that Jesus is our real happiness. Only the joy of Jesus lasts forever.

True happiness is not an event or a feeling. True happiness is a Person— the Person of Jesus.

2. Only Jesus gives real satisfaction.

We may have appetites for money, friends, talents, looking good and being smart. But our appetites always leave us hungry.

Only Jesus truly satisfies. Jesus, the Bread of Life fills us up with his life. Jesus is the true Manna (John 6:31-35). Bread fills our stomachs, but Jesus fills our hearts.

Money, good grades, a place on the team or a part in the play are good. But let’s tell our kids that these things cannot fill our hearts with real and lasting happiness. As you read God’s Word together and pray, ask your Heavenly Father to help you taste the sweetness and satisfaction of Jesus. 

3. True happiness is yours when you give your life to Jesus. 

Our kids think that life is all about them. From early on, their goal in life is to know themselves and have fun. And, of course, all good parents want their children to realize their potential.

But here’s the truth: God made us to love him and live for him. Our lives will never be right until we do.

When we try to live for ourselves it’s like trying to put shoes on our hands— it doesn’t work. Our kids were made for God. Only life with him is truly happy.

God’s purpose for our lives reveals the smallness of our dreams. God created us to know him, love him and glorify him. Success in school, in work, in relationships is important, but will never make us truly happy— in fact, these things are only made significant as a means of knowing, loving and glorifying God. 

Jesus came to give his life to us. Now we can give our lives to him: our hands, feet, eyes, tongue, mind and heart. And in doing so, we’ll find life abundantly full of true happiness.

The way forward

Our deepest love and greatest effort cannot transform our child’s heart. Parenting dismantles self-reliance and leads our needy souls to rest in God’s all-sufficient power. He alone will give our kids (and us!) true happiness in Him. 

So how can we set our kids up for real, lasting satisfying happiness? We can hope and pray that they meet Jesus. We can put them— repeatedly— in the path of God’s grace by:

  • Attending church regularly. 
  • Modeling biblical principles. 
  • Watching for opportunities to share gospel truth in ordinary conversations with our children.
  • Praying!

But this is worth remembering: the number one activity with the most lasting impact on a child’s life is Bible reading. That’s because the Bible is God’s living and active word. It points us to Jesus— the One who imparts lasting, satisfying happiness. It’s a parents’ privilege to teach the truths of God to their child.

How are your goals for your children preparing them for true happiness? Will you ask God to help your family engage regularly with the Bible?