I don’t think there is anything that rules our lives more than a moment by moment attempt to be happy. We will try just about anything to stabilize our moods and maximize our personality. Why? Because we know what it is like to be sad.

When I was in my early twenties, I was not good at following the Lord. I knew him, trusted in him, and I vowed to get back to him…at some point in the near future. But then, I was committed to making myself smile and laugh. Without fail, this smile always came by way of hanging out with my friends looking for girls to “conquer,” with lots of alcohol involved. Don’t get me wrong: I was never addicted to the alcohol, but I was addicted to the fun, laughter, and escape that came by way of being with my friends.

My mother, who brought me up in the Lord, did not know what she did wrong. She would vacillate between her anger (which often led to me being kicked out of the house) to some sort of tactful compromise in an attempt to make me think she was a “cool” mom. She was unstable and unhappy. Her life, at the time, was filled with sorrow for reasons I will leave unsaid. Though she was a strong believer, she never could find footing for her daily smile.

One summer night, I was at a bar where I hooked up with this girl. That night, on a whim, I decided to move to Arizona with her and some of my friends. Why not? We had nothing better to do.

I left my mother with hurt feelings wondering where she went so wrong with her son.

I “lived the life” in Arizona. My friends and I became masters of video games, drinking, pot, and girls. We would wake up each day, laughing to the point of tears about the stupid things we had done the night before, or the fights we got into for no reason at all. It was the life! The smile would not leave my face, and I was really happy. However, deep down inside I knew that these exploits could not last, and were wrong. I just kept telling Christ: “I will be back soon. I promise.”

I remember one time when my mother called me to pick a fight. It was one of those times when she was not the “cool” mom, but the one who wanted me to evaluate my life and see the direction in which I was headed. In tears, she told me how disappointed she was with me and asked me how I turned out to be like this.

I felt sorry for my mother. I really did. You see, she was not happy. She was crying. She was always sad about something. She was always trying to push herself or someone she loved in the most difficult direction: toward the good. In hopes of helping her, I decided to present to her the wisdom I had accumulated over the past twenty years.

“Mom,” I said, “Why are you acting like this? Look at you. You are always unhappy. You never seem to have a smile on your face. You don’t have fun. . .  And look at me. I am happy. I love life. I laugh and have fun all the time. I look forward to each day and the exciting things it might bring. Now . . . why do you want me (the happy one) to be more like you (the unhappy one)?”

Deep breath and silence. I had finally set my mother straight, and said what needed to be said. Now, maybe she would leave me alone. I was happy. She was not.

“Michael,” she said after a long pause. “Sometimes life is not about being happy. It’s about doing what is right.”

I don’t remember what I said after that, but I know that these words hit me. Hard. Could it be that her wisdom was greater than mine? Could it be that it is better to do the right thing when it is hard, exhausting, and, frankly, no fun? Could it be that God wants us to do what is right, even when it comes at the expense of laughter and smiles?

But for how long? How long do I have to be downcast? How long do I have to live without having fun? To where am I supposed to escape in order to get relief from a world full of sorrow and pain?

Nowhere? Doing what is right is better than happiness?

But doing good is so tiring, and it is lonely. It brings more tears than anything else. Why does the Lord put us in such a position? Why doesn’t doing what is right make us the happiest?

The Lord will remove all my pain, sadness, and frowns one day. But not today. Sometimes life is not about being happy. It’s about doing what is right.

I put down my white flag that day and got back into the battle. I still have the temptation to check out, but her words will never leave me.

Thanks, Mom.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    11 replies to "The Wisdom of a Mother"

    • dale

      The prodigal son, perhaps? All of Ecclesiastes? King David?…so many more who grew to love what is right and question their own perspectives in relation to our heavenly Father. Thank the Lord for His awesome patience and grace.

      From another Mom

    • Irene

      This gives mothers hope that their prayers and hidden tears are not in vain.

      Thanks, Michael’s mom.

    • dy

      And this continues to be my prayer for my 27 year old son. Moms are never quite sure “what happened”, just heartbroken until their children return to the Lord.

      Thank you for sharing.

    • Dave Z

      But Michael, I bet all that sadness dropped away when she saw her years of prayer and concern answered as you surrendered to the Lord and entered the ministry.

      I know that happened with my parents, as my story is similar to yours. And I’ve often thought that there was nothing they did wrong, the problem was my own carefree and careless search for happiness. Eventually that so-called happiness was swallowed up in crisis. Just this past Sunday I referred to my belief that true happiness (joy) can only grow from a root of holiness – holiness must come first.

      Good post, buddy.

    • C Michael Patton

      Dave. Thanks. Good to hear from you. When are you going to make a trip to Credo?

    • a.

      oh for the day when they are truly one and the same holiness=happiness=holiness

      Rom 8: 19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.

    • Dave Z

      Michael, next time we’re in your area, you bet we’ll stop by! Maybe next summer we’ll be able to get away from responsibilities for a couple of weeks and make a trip east. That’ll give you a chance to get a nice Luther Lager on the menu with the Luther Latte. 🙂

    • ruben

      I think doing good is what we are really desiring, it is the thing that will give us fulfillment and hapiness. But I get where you are coming from Michael, sometimes the basic good things that God gives to nourish and sustain us are nowhere to be found and we are running on empty. I guess many of us pass through these seasons in our lives.

      I also look back to my younger days when my world was filled with light and I was most happy, but I see now in retrospect that I did not really possess the true thing that I was seeking. The really happy days were the “deep” days when I was close to God and knew Him as being good even if externally, my life in the world was in shambles. It was as if everything in my life was messy or dissapointing but the most important thing (God) was perfectly straight.

    • Chris S

      Michael, most of us with godly moms don’t tell them ‘thank you” enough.

    • 18 For with much wisdom is much sorrow;
      as knowledge increases, grief increases.

      The Mystery of Time

      3 There is an occasion for everything,
      and a time for every activity under heaven:
      2 a time to give birth and a time to die;
      a time to plant and a time to uproot;
      3 a time to kill and a time to heal;
      a time to tear down and a time to build;
      4 a time to weep and a time to laugh;
      a time to mourn and a time to dance;
      5 a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
      a time to embrace and a time to avoid embracing;
      6 a time to search and a time to count as lost;
      a time to keep and a time to throw away;
      7 a time to tear and a time to sew;
      a time to be silent and a time to speak;
      8 a time to love and a time to hate;
      a time for war and a time for peace.

      9 What does the worker gain from his struggles? 10 I have seen the task that God has given people to keep them occupied. 11 He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also put eternity in their hearts, but man cannot discover the work God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and enjoy the good life. 13 It is also the gift of God whenever anyone eats, drinks, and enjoys all his efforts. 14 I know that all God does will last forever; there is no adding to it or taking from it. God works so that people will be in awe of Him. 15 Whatever is, has already been, and whatever will be, already is. God repeats what has passed.

      The Holy Bible: Holman Christian standard version. 2009 (Ec 3:1–15) (Ec 1:18). Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers.

      Just take the time to thank your mom, good, bad, happy, sad, ambivalent, or joyous. There is a time and a place for everything under the sun, and the seasons of our lives are fleeting. Don’t trip, it’s all good.

    • Tara

      I will admit, if I were in your shoes, I would have hung up the phone. My mom and I don’t always see eye to eye, but we do get along nicely. I think in my case, I would like to be the right one once in a while. -_- I think it’s only when I have children of own will I truely understand what my mother sacrificed so much for us. Heck, she always wanted to travel and be a journalist I think, but once I was born she changed to nursing so she could start earning a better income. I noticed the younger generations will always clash with the older in some way or another. I wish both sides would stop pointing fingers work on what they have wrong. The world might be a better place somewhat.

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