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I’m Not Happy... A Mom's Lament

  • Deborah Wuehler Senior Editor, The Old Schoolhouse
  • 2009 10 Jul
I’m Not Happy... A Mom's Lament

July 13, 2009

We used to sing this song when I was a child: “It’s a happy day, and I thank God for the weather.” We sang it rain or shine, and as children do, we sang it with a strong belief that it was true, even in the midst of the worst of storms. Somewhere along the way between childhood and adulthood, we questioned the truth of the song and began to doubt whether we were really very happy at all. Look at this list of reasons we often give for our discontent, and see if you find yourself in any of these:

I’m Not Happy With Myself:
I feel like a failure as a wife, mother, teacher, you name it.
I cannot live up to the demands or expectations of others or myself. 
I don’t know where I’m going—I have no direction. 
I am not where I want to be spiritually.

I’m Not Happy With My Husband: 
He doesn’t meet my needs. 
He doesn’t help me with my work load/burdens. 
He doesn’t make me feel loved. 
He’s too critical or too distant.

I’m Not Happy With My Children: 
They take after their dad, whom I’m not happy with. 
They take after me, whom I’m not happy with. 
They embarrass me or don’t make me look good. 
They lack productivity or diligence or kindness. 
They are lacking in their spiritual lives.

I’m Not Happy With My Physical Surroundings:
My house is too small or is not in the right location. 
I don’t have enough land or garden space. 
I can’t keep up with the neighbors. 
I have too much clutter.  

I’m Not Happy With My Finances or Work: 
It’s unfair that my budget is so tight. 
My budget is too loose; no one stays on it. 
My husband’s job is not providing (satisfaction, benefits, security). 
He is overworked or under-worked.  

I’m Not Happy With My Friends and Family: 
We lack like-minded friends. 
We lack support from friends/family. 
We have no church support. 
People have negative, critical comments.

And that probably doesn’t even cover it all. It seems like the human soul is bent toward unhappiness. Our natural man is chiefly selfish. No man ever hated his own flesh; rather, he nourishes and cherishes it. We want comfort. We want love. We want security and significance.

Looking back on my life, I can identify seemingly valid reasons for unhappiness in numerous periods of time. As I share with you, I think you might even be able to find yourself amidst my discontent and hopefully also find some reasons to rejoice and be happy in God’s idea of happiness.

I don’t know of any time in my life that I have really ever been happy with myself. For one reason or another, I just don’t live up to my own expectations. I have felt like a failure in every area of life. Sometimes I feel like I am not a good wife; other times like I am not a good mother; at certain times every year, I feel like I am not a good homeschool teacher; and during especially busy times I feel like I am not a good friend. Lack of contact on my part makes me feel I am not a good daughter, and because of all these feelings, I feel like I am not a good Christian.

Why do we feel this way? Why is failure our motto? I believe it is because we are focusing on the dust we call ourselves and wishing it were more than just dust. If we could gaze past the hazy dust and look on the glorious face of Christ, I believe our outlook of unhappiness would change in all of these areas. Because of Christ, we have reason beyond ourselves to rejoice and become happy and blessed. Am I a failure, or am I a new creature in Christ with His new mercies every morning? I need to stop listening to the accuser and start searching God’s Word for wisdom. 

Searching for Wisdom Brings Happiness

“Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her. Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her.” (Proverbs 3:13–18)

How about this scenario: You are working all day—you are responsible for homeschooling, errands, dentist appointments, and sick babies to care for while trying to keep some order in the house and put meals on the table. You have many interruptions and crises, but you make it through somehow and even have a hot meal ready. Your husband walks in the door and the first thing he says is: “Why didn’t you get my laundry done today? That’s all I asked you to do! What’s for dinner? Spaghetti? I hate spaghetti, is there something else I can eat? What did you get done for school? Did you have the kids correct their math right away like we talked about?” Boy, am I not happy. I feel like a failure with a capital F. And before you say that that husband is a loser with a capital L, let’s look at the situation objectively.

As a wife, I am constantly trying to prioritize my time in order to accommodate my husband’s desires. But more often than not, I forget to put him first. (Sounds like my time with the Lord too. I think there is a correlation there.) There seem to be so many other voices that are just crying louder than his. After all, he’s a big boy now and can take care of himself, right? Not exactly.

God created a wife to be her husband’s helpmeet. He did not create her husband to be her little helper. He created us in such a fashion that when we marry, we become one flesh—no longer are we two people trying to mesh together. Rather, one man and one woman are becoming one flesh. Do we nourish and cherish that flesh, or do we only seek nourishment for our half of that one-flesh union? Again, it’s a change of focus that will bring happiness. If we are looking to our spouses to fulfill us, we are looking in the wrong direction.

Just one glimpse of Christ could fill our hearts with true happiness. We would rejoice as we get that laundry done first thing, and we would be happy to please God as we listened to that small voice that said, “He doesn’t like spaghetti—make him something else,” and our joy would be full as the children show Dad their corrected math assignments. It just seems that things flow better and we are blessed when we obey the authority that God has placed over us. What if our spouses are still not happy with us? Take up your cross and follow Christ to that place that says: “For the joy set before me I will endure the cross. I will find a way to bless those who curse me.” Yes, it’s a place of death to that dusty self, but what arises from the dust is a God-filled life of joy. When we do things God’s way according to His laws, He says we will be happy. 

Keeping the Law Brings Happiness

“Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” (Proverbs 29:18)  

Mothering can be anything but happy when your once-dry socks are now wet and your once-clean kitchen floor is splattered with cereal and milk and you are trying to get the Cheerios® out of the toaster and the milk off the wall and the children to cooperate in helping to clean it up while the toddler runs through and slips for a good nose dive. You now have a bloody nose and a slippery floor to clean up as well as a toddler to comfort.

Mothering can feel like the piling up of one thing on top of another until you feel like you are just digging yourself out, one disaster at a time. Where’s the joy then? I would venture to say that if you had a song of praise to the Lord in your heart before the disaster struck, that song would still be there as you teach your children how to clean up and how to be compassionate toward a hurting sibling. Don’t let the disasters turn you into a depressed wreck; rather, let them spur you on to a renewed song of praise for these precious children the Lord has gifted you with, and all things will line up with that focus of joy. You could certainly say with the Psalmist that you are a “joyful mother of children.” Things will still keep piling up and you might still be halfway under that pile, but you can dig with more fervor and energy if you have the joy of the Lord as your strength and the realization that your rewards are ever before you.

Happiness Is in Our Rewards from God

“Lo, children are a heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.” (Psalm 127:3–5)

How about homeschooling? Don’t you just love it when people ask you, “What are you doing for  . . . ?” and you wish you had an articulate answer? You really don’t want to say again that Susie is struggling in math and that Johnny is still struggling with obedience and is having a hard time even getting as far as math. You don’t want to say that you don’t know what curriculum you are going to be using next year. You are not happy with the way things are going and you feel like a failure.

Here’s some perspective. What others may not see is the hours you’ve spent with Susie just trying to help her understand. They don’t see the many changes in curriculum and research you’ve tried in an attempt to help her succeed. They don’t see the hours of discipline, instruction, and admonition you’ve given Johnny. They don’t see the spiritual battle raging for the soul of Johnny. They don’t see the hours of tears and prayers for both Susie and Johnny. But what they don’t see, God does see. One of his names is “the God Who Sees.” And what He sees is a teacher’s heart that is soft toward her children, doing all she can to build them up and bring them up in righteousness. He sees a heart ready to obey Him by teaching and discipling and instructing these children. And what God sees, He rewards.

Your friends, family, and neighbors might not see anything but a slow Susie and a naughty Johnny, but God sees a mother being obedient to His commands, and He sees that Susie will one day not only be good at math but will even help teach her brother. He sees that one day Johnny will bow his knee in obedience to God because of his mother’s consistent efforts. He sees two children who have not been soiled by the world because of this mother. You can be blessed to know that since God has asked you to teach your children, He has also equipped you for the task. Take joy in this thought: if you are seeking Him, He sees a good teacher. 

Happiness Is Found in Having the Lord as Our God

"That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace: That our garners may be full, affording all manner of store: that our sheep may bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our streets: That our oxen may be strong to labor; that there be no breaking in, nor going out; that there be no complaining in our streets. Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the Lord.” (Psalm 144:12–15)

Am I a good friend or daughter or neighbor? What defines “good”? Do we define goodness by outward actions or by inward attitudes? I believe the latter defines the former. Do you feel you have relationships that are not thriving and are maybe even a little sick? This can make you very unhappy. There is a cure. Believe it or not, a merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones. What might be missing in these relationships is a merry heart. And the way to a merry heart is a heart of mercy. If the hearts of our friends or neighbors are broken and dried up, they have nothing to offer; they are, in a sense, poor. But if our hearts are full of mercy, then we are whole and fulfilled and even willing and able to pour that healing balm into their lives. We become a good friend or daughter or neighbor by offering the goodness and mercy of God to all those He’s placed around us. 

Showing Mercy Brings Happiness

“He that despiseth his neighbor sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.” (Proverbs 14:21)  

What I especially need to know is if I am a good Christian. So often I feel the opposite because I am not spending enough time chasing after God. I do not read my Bible for an hour a day; some days I barely get in one verse. I often don’t have any quiet time to really pray unless it’s after everyone is asleep, but by that time, as soon as my eyes are closed in prayer, I am asleep too. What I have realized is that God is not sitting around somewhere tapping his fingers waiting for me to come to Him. He never leaves me or forsakes me; He is always right beside me. If I could just stop long enough, I would see Him. If I would just be still and listen for a minute, I would realize that He is speaking. And His Word is powerful. Even that one verse can change me from the inside out from a person of frustration to a person of peace. One word from Him and the stormy waters of life are no longer threatening. Our Master calms all storms with His command: “Peace, be still.” (Mark 4:39)

One of my favorite prayers that echoes in my heart is by A.W. Tozer:

O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more, I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, that so I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.” Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. (From The Pursuit of God)

Am I a good Christian? There is no one good, not one, not even me. But we can look to the One Who is Good and find our goodness in Him. I have heard it said that life in Christ is like a train in its tracks. The train can go anywhere the tracks will take it. But if the train comes off the tracks, it not only loses its way, but it loses its power and ends in a wreck. We must stay in Christ to have the power of Christ and the direction of Christ, so that we can truly say that we can do all things in Christ Who strengthens us. Where is our source of strength? Joy. The joy of the Lord is our strength, our source of power. Joy from the Lord is a powerful force to reckon with. Through the Spirit of God, that feeling of guilt can be replaced with the knowledge that our goodness is in Christ—in Christ alone. We can find fullness of joy in the forgiveness of God, in His presence, and in the knowledge that we are His. And because we are His, He has bestowed His goodness on us. That’s enough to stir up some long-lost joy!

Happiness Is Found in Forgiveness

“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile. . . . Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about. Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.” (Psalm 32:1–2, 10–11)  

What about all those other people in our lives whom we are not happy with? Our husbands are not meeting our needs or not helping with our burdens or not loving us. How can we be happy about that? And those children who are so stubborn or those in-laws who are such a thorn—how can we be happy in the midst of unhappy people? And that environment that we are placed in—what’s to be happy about a lost job or a small house or tight finances?

When we are saying that we are not happy with our husbands, we are really either saying that we are not happy with the authority God has provided for us or we are looking for a human relationship to meet the needs that only God can meet. When we are not happy with our children, then our focus is probably on them and not on the fact that these are God’s children and His reward to us. They are His, and we would be much happier if we really believed and acted on that truth. Those in-laws and neighbors who persecute us should give us joy. If we weren’t following God, we wouldn’t encounter persecution. And when we are not happy with our environment or finances, we are really saying we are not happy with what God has chosen to provide for us. In all of these things, we are saying that God is not enough. We don’t understand Who our God is and how He is orchestrating all things to work for good to those of us who love Him.

Just where does true happiness lie? It lies not in anything outward, but rather in our inner relationship with our Father. Let’s find some wisdom in the Word of God, and we will see some more insight into what “happy” means as described by God’s own Word:

• Happiness is gained from God’s correction: “Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty: For he maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole.” (Job 5:17–18) 

• Happiness is found in hard work: “For thou shalt eat the labor of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee.” (Psalm 128:2)

• Happiness is found in our helper—the Creator of all: Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God: Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever: Which executeth judgment for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry. The Lord looseth the prisoners: The Lord openeth the eyes of the blind: the Lord raiseth them that are bowed down: the Lord loveth the righteous.” (Psalm 146:5–8)

• Trusting in the Lord brings happiness: “He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he.” (Proverbs 16:20) 

• Fearing the Lord brings happiness: “Happy is the man that feareth always: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief.” (Proverbs 28:14) 

• Persecution brings happiness: “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (Matthew 5:10–12) 

• Servanthood brings happiness: “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” (John 13:14–17)

• Endurance brings happiness: “Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” (James 5:11)

Shifting our focus from the temporal, earthly things to the Holder of the eternal things is how we will ever and only find true happiness. Man cannot give what God alone can provide. So, the next time you find yourself thinking, “I’m Not Happy!” stop and look heavenward and pray with the Psalmist: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy Holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.” (Psalm 51:10–12)

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Deborah Wuehler is the Senior Editor for TOS, editor of the Schoolhouse Support E-Newsletter, wife to Richard, and mom to eight gifts from heaven. She loves digging for buried treasure in the Word, reading, writing, homeschooling and dark chocolate!

Copyright 2009. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Spring 2009.
Used with permission. Visit them at www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com.

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