Accessories not included!

Advertisements generally portray more than the item on sale. An ad for a plastic inflatable pool might show a happy family having a great time splashing in the water. But if you get the pool, will you get a happy family too?

When considering getting such a pool for my sons, I had to explain to them how there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye. For instance, after a fun day splashing around, the water in the pool gets cold and dirty, and cleaning it out is a big job. If the pool isn’t deflated after each use, the grass underneath gets brown, withers, and may eventually smell bad. I warned them that how much enjoyment they’d get from the pool would be largely up to them and how willing they were to keep the pool clean, to wait for the right weather, and to be patient while it gets inflated and filled with water.

Lego is the same thing. When my boys see ads for the small, brightly coloured blocks, they’re always instantly keen to build the space shuttle or the plane. But no matter how the pictures look, and how much fun it seems the models are having, happiness won’t really come from the Lego set—that’s something that the Lego players themselves need to supply.

When their creations break—as all Lego creations eventually do—my boys need buoyancy and cheerfulness to not get too bothered and perseverance to start anew. These attributes don’t come included in the Lego set, but without them, there will be disappointment instead of smiles.

Things, positions, and material items by themselves can’t bring happiness. There is no shop selling “joy.” That comes from within, from a life of sharing and kindness, and from Jesus, the source of love. He can help us to think more of others than ourselves. “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”1

Enjoy the pool if you have one, but don’t be fooled by a glittering advertisement. Life is what you make of it. With joy in your heart, the rest is a bonus.

  1. Psalm 16:11