Monday, March 8, 2010

More Than Happy

"Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." ~Abraham Lincoln

A warm soft pretzel (with mustard). A snuggle hug from your kid. Date night with your hubby. A clean kitchen sink. Your favorite meal. Good conversation with a friend. Relaxing on a sandy beach listening to the gentle roar of the waves. As the song says..."these are a few of my favorite things". And I would feel happy having any one of them right about now.

Have you ever tried to define "happy"? Webster defines "happy" as being "lucky or fortunate; having, showing, or causing great pleasure or joy". Would you have defined it that way? When I think about "happy" I think about smiling or laughing, feeling content, but I also think of it as fleeting.

The truth is, happy is a feeling. And feelings change like the wind. One minute we're happy, then the baby starts screaming, the kids are going crazy in the living room while you're trying to make dinner and pretty soon happy turns to irritated, stressed-out, and maybe even angry.

For whatever reason, of course when I was young & naive, I felt an amazing pressure to achieve "happy". Half of the time I don't think I even knew what that looked like, I just knew I didn't "have it". I bought into this idea that life isn't supposed to be hard. That the best thing was to "get happy" as soon as possible. Or if I wasn't happy then my circumstances needed changing. I didn't ask for any of this! It definitely couldn't be ME!

So the "grass is greener over there" mentality can really get you in trouble. No one knows how to persevere anymore. Hardship is not acceptable. We must retreat from struggles at all costs. Nothing good can come from this. Well, you may be right. Happy is appealing for a reason. No one likes to struggle. I don't want to scream and cry and feel disappointment and NOT GET WHAT I WANT!

I know I'm not alone here. Do you get disappointed by life because you expected it to be easy? That's what we always say, isn't it? "Isn't this supposed to be easy?" Who said it would be? Did someone actually promise that? We are mad because life is hard. Good things happen, bad things happen, God gives & He takes away. God doesn't promise "easy". He says when bad things come He'll be there with us when they do.
"When we suffer, we long for God to speak clearly, to tell us the end of the story and, most of all, to show himself. But if he showed himself fully and immediately, if he answered all the questions, we'd never grow; we'd never emerge from our chrysalis..." --Paul Miller "A Praying Life"
Happy feels good, but so does a good night's sleep. Sometimes, though, it's through the trials that God not only reveals himself to us, but shows us things within ourselves that are holding us back, that may be keeping us from experiencing REAL JOY! I encourage you to embrace the challenges in your life. You don't have to like them. You don't even have to be happy about them. (And I hope it goes without saying that I am in no way trying to diminish the awfulness of undeserved, overwhelming trials that people go through. The ones that leave you asking "why did this have to happen?". The trials that may never make sense to us this side of heaven.) But allowing God to work in your heart, in the midst of trials, can lead you to a peace and happiness you have never known. And the next time you are TRULY happy, you will also be filled with overwhelming thankfulness for all that the Lord has done.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything... Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him" (JAMES 1:2-4,12).

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