Pictures of kids and their awards fill my Facebook feed this week. Smiling faces of moms and dads, kids holding up certificates and trophies, and posts about how proud everyone is of their family members. It’s a joy to share in my friends’ excitement with notes of “congratulations” and “great job”!
But then there are those who are silent.
No smiling pictures, no certificates, no proud posts. Just silence. And a sweet friend’s post about her daughter’s heartache and lack of awards prompted me to think about the Lord’s hand in this time of the year. I hope you’ll hear my heart on this.
Awards are a great way to recognize hard work and special talent. They often recognize things in a tangible way that otherwise wouldn’t be noticed. I love to give awards (and receive them).
The Downside of Awards
But the danger in receiving awards is like the other things of this world. Our hearts can become tied to them. The level of effort we put forth and the confidence we hold can be determined by the level of award we might receive. Or even worse, our joy can become dependent upon them.
I know because I’ve seen it as a mom and a teacher. But even more so because I was that kid who received those awards. I am thankful that school came easy to me for the most part and I had super supportive parents who built my confidence and encouraged me continually. But I have learned that those awards made me become more of a people-pleaser than I was already made to be. I was working to please and impress my parents, my teachers, and my peers. And in spite of my involvement in church and knowing the Lord, I missed the most important part. I felt self-sufficient, and at times, overlooked the One who I needed most.
Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as if working for the Lord, and not men…”
I keep this posted at home and work now as a beautiful reminder that everything I do should be for recognition from the Lord, and the Lord only. Awards on paper will fade…trophies will collect dust and get broken…but the Lord’s approval, love and acceptance will never end.
When You Don’t Get the Award
So to my sweet friend and other parents whose kids may not be receiving awards this week, remind them that the Lord sees them. He knows their hearts. The Bible tells us He bends down to listen and watches our every move. And remind them that, sometimes, blessings come in raindrops, that in the moment, seem to hinder their great plans, but go on to help produce something even more beautiful in time.
They have been given a gift that those with awards might miss…because one day the awards will cease.
Their spouses and children and employers won’t give them special recognition for washing the dishes or changing the 10,000th diaper or being at work on time. And when that day comes, they may recognize more quickly, that approval from the Lord matters most. My prayer for my own children is that, regardless of the awards they do/do not receive, their hearts and their joy are dependent on the only One who matters most.
And then, let me add this. One of the trickiest verses in the Bible for me is Romans 12:15 which says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.” Let me be honest and tell you that the weeping part is not so hard. When others are broken and hurt, it’s not too hard to empathize and encourage them to feel better. I think the Lord gives most people, some more than others, the ability to love others in hard times as part of human nature.
But the first part…”rejoice with those who rejoice.” When our friend’s child is shining with that award while our child didn’t receive any public recognition for her effort or talent or when that friend gets the husband or the baby or the job we long for…this is where the rubber meets the road. Will our pride and envy get the best of us? Will we be able to truly say “congratulations” and mean it? Or will we be overcome with excuses and complaints and “it’s not fairs”?
Awards are never promised.
We can work with all our heart, as working for the Lord, and not receive any earthly recognition. But we can be assured that our children are watching us, every minute of every day. They see every reaction, every tear, every hurt we feel for them and with them. And they also see us encourage and love and cheer on others in the face of our own disappointment.
This awards season, pray for the Lord to give you and your children or grandchildren strength to rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep, keep working with all your heart for the Lord. And most importantly, seek His approval more than the people and things of this world.
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Maggie Meadows Cooper
Maggie Meadows Cooper is a wife, mother, educator, and blogger with a longing for women to grow a heart for Jesus and others. She is the author of the children’s book Bumper, helping others to see that the heart is what counts most. She blogs at The Little Moments and contributes to IBelieve Truth: A Devotional for Women, Devotional Diva, and the Connecting Ministries Blog. ! She lives with her husband, three children, and two rambunctious dogs in Opelika, Alabama.