In today’s society, happiness is often associated with external circumstances, possessions, and wealth. The Bible, however, teaches that happiness is more of an internal condition—and that it results from God’s blessing, love, and grace.  
Studies show that spirituality is a key factor in children’s happiness, even more so than it is for adults. Researcher Mark Holder found that spirituality accounts for up to 16% of children’s happiness, more than three times the typical number for grownups. “It’s a whopping big effect,” he says, admitting that he’d assumed children’s spirituality “would be too immature to account for their well-being.”  
Jesus doesn’t promise his followers they’ll be happy, but he does give us many reasons to be joyful—even when earthly life is filled with challenges and trials. Scripture reminds us to always rejoice, or “be full of joy in the Lord” (Philippians 4:4).  
“Joy,” not happiness, is listed as a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), and true joy comes from being friends with Jesus. Believing in a Saviour who offers forgiveness and eternal life leads to inner joy and peace, as well as “outer joy” that’s evident to others. Living in a joy-filled way, no matter what we’re facing, is a powerful witness to other people—especially to those who don’t yet know Jesus.  

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things.

Galatians 5:22-23 CSB

Rejoice in the Lord Always
Attitudes are contagious, as most parents know. A negative attitude can cast a cloud over an entire family. For children, negativity may be a way to seek love and attention. Instead of excluding or punishing a child with a sour attitude, show God’s love through your actions and words (including prayer). Immediately stop any negative comments and put-downs before things escalate, but correct children in private if possible. Praise children’s efforts to overcome a negative attitude. Most of all, let kids know that Jesus loves them unconditionally—and that true joy comes only from him.  
Spread the Joy
Have family members stand in a line behind you. Say: “I’ll turn around and show a happy or silly face to the next person, who then turns around and imitates it to the next person, and so on. When the face reaches the back of the line, that person runs to the front and makes a new face to spread.” After everyone gets a turn, read aloud Isaiah 49:13a. Talk about why you love God and how he gives you smiles of joy.  
Restoring Our Joy
Give family members two minutes to each shape a lump of clay into a “joy crusher,” or something that gets in the way of their happiness. When time’s up, share your creations. Read aloud James 1:2-4 and discuss how we can be joyful during troubles—and why. Then read John 15:11 and discuss how Jesus and his love bring us joy. Without a time limit, reshape the joy crushers into actions or attitudes that can restore our joy.  
Rejoice Race
Form a circle of chairs, with one less chair than the number of family members. Have everyone else sit while you stand and be It. Explain that It will point to someone and say, “Rejoice in the Lord!” That person must give a reason to rejoice (or be thankful) before It counts to 10. If they can’t, they become the new It. If It says, “Everyone rejoice in the Lord!” all players (including It) must stand and find a new seat. The person left standing is the new It. After playing, read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 and discuss why it’s important to give thanks joyfully.  
Smile-o-Meters
Use Fruit Roll-Up snacks or tape-shaped bubble gum to measure one another’s biggest smiles. Then place all the “smiles” on a clean table. Read Job 8:21. Ask: “What makes you happy or joyful? How big do you think God smiles when he thinks of you?” Unroll a long smile for God and enjoy the treats.  
Don’t Steal My Joy!
Blindfold one person sitting at a table by three beanbags of “joy.” Other family members should take turns trying to sneak up and steal the joy. The blindfolded person must listen carefully, then point and yell, “Stop thief!” Give everyone a turn. Then read John 10:10 and ask: “In real life, what are some things that steal our joy (for example, worry, anger, jealousy, fear, lack of sleep)? How does Jesus give us joy that can never be taken away from us?” Read John 15:9-11. Say: “When we remember that Jesus loves us and we obey him, joy stays inside us!”  

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About the Author: stephanie holmberg

Stephanie is a wife, mother, pastor, and friend who is passionate about seeing people live authentic, purpose-filled lives. When not working alongside her amazing kidmin team, you will find her at home spending time with her family, snuggling her furry friend Milo, or out exploring all the amazing places Edmonton has to offer.