Are You Happy?

There are very few times I could actually say I have been ecstatically happy, except perhaps when I was a child. As most of  my life has been spent as an adult, that leaves a lot of my life in the unhappy category. Even the happier moments lacked something, usually tinged with some anxiety or sorrow. 

Then of course, there are those circumstances where nothing we do or say is going to make it better.  How can we be joyful when loved ones suffer? How can we be happy when we  aren't sure whether we can feed, clothe or shelter our families?

Jesus had moments of grief. He wept over Jerusalem. He was saddened when his disciples rejected Him and He certainly wept while in the Garden of Gethsemane. He felt greater despair on the Cross than any of us can comprehend. Yet scripture doesn't describe His life as one on going story of despair and hopelessness. I know I am missing something, but I can't quite grasp what it is.

My devotions gave me one answer, and it came from the mind of a child. In Living Faith, Aileen O'Donnoghue recounts the story of a friend's grandson. After a string of several disappointments, his grandmother asked him what she could do to help make him feel better. He replied, "Well, I could change my mind."

Change my mind? Could it really be that simple? What about all the situations I mentioned above? Perhaps those may not be included, but certainly other less devastating circumstances, which actually make up most of my life, could be. Maybe I could change my mind and stop thinking I would be happy except for: insert whatever. Instead, I could say I am happy because of: insert any number of things.

It is just a little twist of thought, but what a tremendous impact it could have on my day to day life. Change my mind. What a thought. Change my mind about what it is I really want from this life, what would truly make me happy, and voila! I could be happy in most circumstances, which equals the greater portion of my life.   That adds up to a whole lot of happy. But, what is it that would truly make me happy? So  much of our joy is fleeting, gone within minutes, hours or just a few days. Nothing lasts, nothing stays.

Wayne Jacobsen emphasizes in his book, He Loves Me!, that being loved, especially by God, transforms life from the unhappy to the happy. He uses the story of the Prodigal son to illustrate his point. Neither son realized how much their father loved them, and their actions reflected this perception. The younger one tried to run away, believing if he could only pursue his selfish desires he would be truly happy. The older brother stayed, but did so out of duty, not out of love, and resented every chore and task his father asked of him - and both sons missed the point: real happiness stemmed from a loving relationship with their father, and each other.

After nearly starving to death, the Prodigal Son returned. The moment his father met him on the road, this son understood the true depth of his father's love. The only thing that had changed was the son's mind. He realized being a servant in his father's house was better than starving at the hands of a stranger.  In other words, he  changed his priorities, and was surprised to find he was instantly restored to his status of beloved son.  

The eldest son was  not happy with his brother's return. The story leaves him standing outside pouting over what he perceives as an unfair, unjust action by his father. His brother squandered all of his inheritance after wrongly asking for it. He, the older, more responsible son was never met on the road with such jubilation. He worked hard without so much as a "Why thank you, son. Here have a party with your friends." Of course he could have done that, but he never asked. Instead he drudged along, building resentment. What if he changed his mind? What if he changed his priorities - his point of view - and looked at things from a different perspective? Would the story have a different ending?

Would changing our minds, our priorities, lead to a more balanced perspective,  and consequently more joy? Not much to lose in trying, except unhappiness.

So, I think I'll change my mind about a few things.  Do a little prioritizing.  A wise man once said that most crises have a very short shelf life. If it won't matter in a couple of weeks, then it probably isn't that important.

At first I'll need to focus on one moment, one hour, one day at a time until I get the hang of it, and I'll stumble, I'll fail, and I'll revert to old habits often, but with practice it will become easier. However, I do have one very important advantage  - God. With Him all things are possible. If I align my desires with His will, well then, I will be happy, truly happy, without any of the except-for nonsense because I will no longer be looking for that perfect moment. There never will be one on this earth, but there certainly will be joy, if I change my mind about a few things and decide to find contentment when and where I can. How about you? Are you happy?

Comments

  1. Happiness is elusive. I can't say I'm happy, but I am joyful in my life. Like you said, life is full of things that keep us from finding happiness on this earth. Writing and my family produce the greatest joy (and sparks of happiness) right now. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. Great post....one I think to think about more often.

    I think there is a big difference between happy and joyful....Happiness comes and goes according to circumstances but joy can be a constant when we are focused on God instead of our circumstances. I find I have greater joy when I have an attitude of thankfulness and staying close to Him. Like Peter when we take our eyes off Him and onto the circumstances, we most likely fall...

    Thank you for sharing; a very important topic.

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  3. I think you hit at everything I have walked through this week...so thank you very much.

    My five year old continues to show me how to change my mind. I will say...well....(something bad happened) and he will reply, "yes, but ......didn't happen, or look how cool it is...) anything to change the negative to a positive...I need to learn his habit.

    Thank you for your post as I work one minute, one hour, one day, one week.....to change my mind

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  4. A change of mindset. That's all it takes. I learned a long time ago to do this and it takes praise to do it. If a circumstance occurs that is not to my liking or some negative thought pops into my noggin, I turn it all around and praise the Lord.

    Sometimes, it starts out through gritted teeth but my mind and heart change as I continue to praise the Lord...for whatever! Joy comes through praise. Happiness? Too elusive to be counted on.

    Great post, sweetie! Bless you!

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  5. Sheila, you are right, happiness is fleeting,but joy remains, even during sorrow. Streams in the Desert this week had a beautiful anthology of how Joy and Sorrow intertwine.

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  6. Nancy, you are also right. When we focus on Him rather than ourselves we can find joy, and in heaven joy and happiness will be merged into one.

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  7. Children are great for viewing the world a little differently from we adults, and often their little bit of wisdom hits us below the belt, right where we need to be hit to get our attention. I continue to pray for you and your family as we both practice changing our minds in the right direction - always toward serving Him.

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  8. Lynn, you are well ahead of me in the wisdom department. I am still figuring out quite a bit, with a good nudge from Him from time to time. Some lessons I need to repeat over and over before they finally sink in. Thank you for sharing your life experience and faith with me.

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  9. Very, very thought provoking. Thanks for sharing.

    On another note, this is fantastic blog.

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  10. Glad you stopped in Christian Book Marketing, and were kind enough to leave a comment. It is very appreciated, and I appreciate your compliment. God has been so much a part of my life, I have to share His miracles with others. Of course there a few chastisements thrown in as well. All designed to help me - us - grow as His children. Blessings to you.

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  11. I marvel at the possibility to hold sadness and joy in your hand at the same time.A young missionary in the Sudan, Michelle Perry rescues abandoned children from throw-away piles and yet sees beauty and joy all around her. She's a wonderful example. I think Lynn has the key--praise. Jeremiah goes form the deepest pit of despondency to: Great is thy faithfulness. Blessings

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  12. To me, happiness is a matter of circumstance but joy is a matter of perspective. Although I'm only 25, there's been a lot in my life to be unhappy about, but with the Lord's grace, he can see me through and give me joy -- my middle name -- in the meantime!

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  13. Agreed, Jolina. Happiness and joy are in the prospective and the circumstance. Joy, prevails through our attitude and choices. Thank you for stopping in and commenting.

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