We want to be happy. Thousands or maybe it’s millions of books are published yearly on this subject. The entire self-help section in the bookstores could be relabeled ‘How to be Happy’ and it would it as accurate if not more. Daily I see Facebook posts about being or not being happy. Yet, this most wanted state is so scarce. We all have lists of what will make us happy. I have mine. You have yours. However, are they the things that will truly stratify or are they pale shadows?
Some say it’s impossible or even fictional.
Some would say certain things like a chocolate chip cookie, sex, or winning the lottery is the only way to be happy. Others see happiness in a more spiritual way. Others see happiness as a moral outcome to a well-lived life. Others see it a different light.
Rabbi Yehuda Berg writes, “Happiness is when we see that the Light is bigger than the challenge. We all know there is no limit to how bad a situation can be, which is why this state of consciousness is a real mountain to climb. But as along, as we keep climbing—by injecting the thought, “I’m sure the good is here”—even the worst of the worst can change.”
Happiness seen as the choice to see the light of God in even the darkest times of life can empower us to the kind of lives we all want and to know that no matter bad it gets we will be able to get through it. Henri Nouwen said, “Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.” C.S. Lewis said, “There is a kind of happiness and wonder that makes you serious. It is too good to waste on jokes.” Happiness as a choice and serious can transform our lives and open ourselves to the kind of happiness that can and will last.
God never promised us happiness. Jesus did advise us to abide or remain in him, so that when a storm comes and sweeps away all that we assume makes us happy, we will have solid ground to stand on. I have experienced this. When a long close relationship ended, the storm blew and blew, but I was part of a loving community and I knew the Jesus of the bible, I had a rock to stand firm on. I won’t say that I wasn’t brokenhearted, because I was. I had Jesus, friends, and a community who surrounded me with love and grace to help me through. Some of them may not know what I was going thorough or how much they helped. I now know that I have a savior who loves me, real friends who will be there for me, and a loving community I belong in and for that, I am thankful.
Sadness and tragedy will overwhelm us, but that doesn’t mean it will break us. No! I say and know it will make us stronger, more Christ-centered, God-glorifying, humble human beings.
Happiness as a choice is something we must do deliberately each day and extend it to others. Smile at people, greet them, make time for them, take friends to lunch, and show others images of beauty and works of literature. Ralph Waldo Emerson advises us to “scatter joy”, and Mark Twain tells us to “Let your joy be unconfined!” These two great writers are simply saying to not hide our joy under a basket or keep it to ourselves, but to share our happiness and guide others to it. The more you give something like happiness, love, or hope away the more you will have.
If Anne Frank, who suffered so much, can say, “I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains”, than we should be able to say the same and not just say it, but live it. Listen to Buddhist monk Thich Naht Hanh, “The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.” Happiness is in the present moment. If we are concerned about the past or looking into the future happiness is not with us. When we are aware of the present moment than we are free to be happy.
Just think of the many moments that have overwhelmed you: gazing on a lover or your children, reading an awesome piece of literature, watching the sunrise or set, a blazing rainbow glow across the sky, listening to a moving piece of music. God sees, hears, and touches all these and so much more constantly. As one reporter once noted, “Towering clouds of gases trillions of miles high, backlit by nuclear fires in newly forming stars, galaxies cart wheeling into collision and sending explosive shock waves boiling through millions of light-years of time and space.”
God bathes in joy. We in turn should be happy whenever possible. I find each day that happiness is more possible than not, even when we are suffering happiness is there waiting for us to embrace and share it.
May you be happy today and onward, and may you share that happiness with others.