Moms, Joy & Pain

The folks at MTV are fascinated with teen pregnancy.  It all started with the reality show 16 & Pregnant where cameras document a pregnant teenager as she tries to deal with her pregnancy, her parents and her idiot boyfriend.  Each episode typically ends with the teen mom giving birth with her parents by her side while her idiot boyfriend is out riding his dirt bike somewhere.  The show was so popular that two other shows have spun off of it, Teen Mom and Teen Mom 2.  These shows document a few of the more popular teen moms from 16 & Pregnant as they struggle with watching their parents raise their kid, trying to finish school and whether or not they should keep loving their old idiot boyfriend and his dirt bike or start loving the new idiot boyfriend who probably only started coming around just so he could get on MTV.

These reality shows are probably only about 60% reality but there’s still something to be learned here.  The girls on this show have some measure of freedom.  Many of them live on their own now and a few have parents that do almost all of the work in taking care of their child.  Also, these moms receive some amount of money from MTV for the rights to document them in their most embarrassing and heartbreaking moments so the normal financial turmoil that most teen moms are all too familiar with are foreign to them.  On top of all of that, they’re all famous too.  Just check out the cover of one of the magazines in the checkout line the next time you’re at the grocery store.

But there’s one more characteristic these moms share.

They have all that comes with happiness but they’re miserable.

Many people are driven to sample all the sources of joy they can find until they land on one that lasts forever but all they are left with is a wake of destruction and a greater emptiness than they had before.  They want something that will complete them but the search has left them more undone than ever.  As a result, when everything is going good, it really isn’t and when everything is falling apart, it’s even worse.

In James 1:2, James tells a group of suffering Christians, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.”

That seems like a weird verse.  Who considers trials a joy?  At first glance, it even looks like one of those well-meaning yet hurtful things someone might say to you when you’ve lost a loved one.

“God just needed another flower in his garden.”

“There was a party in heaven and your (fill in the blank with the name of the loved one for whom you happen to be mourning at the moment) was invited.”

But James isn’t being trite here.  He knows that he is speaking to people whose joy isn’t based on their circumstances or environment.  He is speaking to people, who in Jesus Christ, can say with David in Psalm 4:7, “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound”.  Theirs is a joy that exceeds any other so called joy this world can offer.  Also, this is a joy that completes.  Jesus let us know this much in John 15:11 when he said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

Whether or not you’re a teen mom with an idiot boyfriend, two things are true.  One, you were wired for joy and the only place you can find the real stuff is in knowing Jesus Christ. And second, you will face trials.  When your joy is based on Jesus Christ, who never changes, though tears may fall and your heart may race, your joy cannot be touched.

One of the most joyful people I’ve ever known was a single mom who had a hard time making ends meet.  Somehow, through nagging illnesses that would eventually turn into a chronic illness, my mom managed to raise me and my sister, thankfully without any cameras around.  When I think about my mom I think about a lot of miserable circumstances but I don’t think about a miserable person.  Through it all, she had a joy in the face of the most intense trials.  Towards the end of her life, my wife and I sat by her bed and we all sang hymns together.

We were all crying like crazy and our hearts were broken.

But all three of us considered it joy.