Thursday, February 4, 2010

Day 35: Happiness is ...

When you're exhausted and fatigued, it's cold and rainy outside, and all you want to do is curl up on the couch by a roaring fire, a commitment to run everyday is not as appealing as it was in the planning stage. But I'm learning to do things that I've committed to regardless of how I feel.

I'm also realizing what an important life lesson that is.

Everyday marriages fall apart because someone says, "I'm just not in love with you anymore." The feelings they once had aren't there, so the appropriate action seems to be calling it quits.

But what if our feelings are a result of our actions
rather than the other way around?

What if treating someone with love eventually develops love for them in your heart? What if being at peace comes not from the absence of conflict but from being a peacemaker? And what if happiness is actually a choice?

The following is an assignment I had this week for my Pre-Marital and Marital Counseling class. We were to think on the concept of practicing "the habit of happiness" and here were my thoughts on the topic:

When I think of scriptural references on happiness, the first thing that comes to mind is a portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount commonly referred to as The Beatitudes. Most translations begin each of these verses with “blessed are …” but the Greek word “makarios” could also be translated “happy.” So who, according to these verses, is happy or blessed? Is it the rich, the successful, the ones married to gorgeous spouses with no issues? Hardly. In an unexpected plot twist, which let’s face it Jesus became known for, He instead elevates the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, the persecuted, and the like. Instead of lecturing on the dog eat dog world we live in and charging every person to do what they have to in order to get ahead, He applauds the merciful. Instead of encouraging global domination even if it takes war to get it, he says the peacemakers are actually the winners. Likewise, in Paul’s first letter to the church at Thessalonica, he concludes with charges of peace, patience, love, and three of the most succinct and difficult commands in scripture: “Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances” (I Thess 5:16-18 NIV).

What does this say about practicing the “habit of happiness”? For starters I think it communicates that it is not based on circumstances. Clearly the mourner is in less than favorable circumstances. Peacemakers can only be such because they are in conflict. Jesus’ statements seem to be so ironic they are almost cruel … unless we see things through God’s eyes. Perhaps Paul’s passage offers us a key ... not referring to three mutually exclusive actions as first seen. How can we be joyful always unless we pray continually and give thanks in all circumstances? Happiness, or more accurately joy, is not based on circumstances; it is a choice. The term “habit of happiness” alone seems to indicate our attitude is more of our choosing than we typically like to think. However, it is deeper than merely “looking on the bright side of life” as one song describes. To be joyful always is to lay all our difficulties at Jesus’ feet in continual prayer, and continue to be thankful for what He’s done and is doing. It is living with an “attitude of gratitude” or what Paul describes as “giving thanks in all circumstances.”

In practical terms, this habit is developed as any habit is … through practice. It requires choosing to focus on our spouse’s strengths rather than living in perpetual discontent over his/her weaknesses. It is celebrating the differences that first drew us together as one another’s compliment instead of using them as examples of incompatibility. How do we do this? We stop looking to other sinful people to be what only God can be.

In short, it is being happy despite anything we may lack in the flesh because of all we have been given in the spirit through the perfect love of the Great I AM. Choosing happiness is not just realizing all our needs can be met in Christ, it is seeing they already have been.
So as Day 35 comes to a close, I find myself learning to choose more than just to run.


  1. Awesome - thank you for the reminder!!

    Have a great weekend!


  2. yes, yes yes. thank you.

    (i love you.)

  3. This is such a great post, Mere! I wish I were taking that class with you. We would have so much fun together!

    Choosing happy today, Betsy