Happiness is to know the Savior,
Living a life within His favor,
Having a change in my behavior,
Happiness is the Lord.
Happiness is a new creation,
Jesus and me in close relation,
Having a part in His salvation,
Happiness is the Lord.
Real joy is mine,
No matter if the teardrops start,
I’ve found a secret,
It’s Jesus in my heart.
Happiness is to be forgiven,
Living a life that’s worth the livin’,
Taking a trip that leads to Heaven,
Happiness is the Lord.
“Happiness is the Lord” by Ira F. Stanphill
I learned this fun, little song when I was a child and as soon as I began this endeavor of blogging about happiness, the memories of singing this song in church so many years ago flooded my mind. And it has been playing over and over again in my head ever since. Even now, I can’t help but hear (and sing) it! But what a great message – Happiness is the Lord! And what a perfect introduction to this final installment of “Happiness Is…”.
What have we learned thus far about happiness?
We’ve learned that it is not an object, a person, or a desired set of circumstances. These are merely vehicles for temporary pleasure. They elicit short-lived feelings and never usher us into a lasting state of true Joy.
We’ve also learned that true happiness is not a goal to be reached but rather a by-product of how we live. When we live in such a way that honors God, the Creator and Giver of true happiness, only then will we find a Joy that can weather any storm and sustain us for all of our days.
That’s good stuff! 😉
Now that we know how to attain real happiness, how do we successfully retain it?
Yes, unfortunately, it is possible to lose our Joy. Oh, don’t get me wrong. Once we’ve found the true Joy of the Lord, it’s ours for keeps. That doesn’t mean, however, that our lives will be filled with nothing but blue skies and smooth sailing. No, life is filled with storms – big ones! Difficult people, sickness, death, financial struggles and so many other trials of life are lurking around every corner waiting to steal our Joy. All of these “storms” have the potential to leave us lonely, depressed, sorrowful and hopeless. So, how do we make it through the storms of life without losing our Joy?
When the storms of life begin to threaten and we feel as though our Joy is waning, it’s helpful to stop a moment for some serious introspection. In times like these, there are four areas of our lives that we need to examine:
- Our faith
- Our foundation
- Our focus
- Our hope (Well, pooey! I couldn’t think of a fourth word beginning with “F” to complete my alliteration. How on earth do pastors do it every single Sunday? 😉 )
An honest look at these four areas is key to learning how to retain our happiness.
Where is your Faith?
The tendency we all have (as we learned in Part One of this series) is to stake our happiness on the desires of our hearts, obtaining one treasure, one relationship or one ideal moment after another. When we do this, however, we are trusting our happiness to the objects of our affection and allowing them to reign over us emotionally, mentally and physically. We are essentially placing our faith in our desires rather than in our Creator and Heavenly Father. Only when our faith is placed in God can we be filled with true happiness.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Psalm 16:2, 9-11 (NIV)
Is your faith in the pleasures of this world, temporary treasures that are here today and gone tomorrow? Or is your faith in the Giver of good things in your life and the Author of your Joy?
What is your Foundation?
Just like your house needs a firm foundation to keep it from slipping, sinking or falling apart, so does your life need a secure foundation in order to weather the storms that come your way. Unlike the several types of house foundations, though, there are only two options for the foundation of your life: Rock or Sand. Take a look at what Jesus has to say about your foundation:
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.
Matthew 7:24-27 (NIV)
You see, your life’s foundation is your faith put into action. And the consistency of that foundation depends on where your faith lies (see question #1). If your actions, words and thoughts are driven by your faith in people, things or ideals, your foundation will be shifty and unstable just like the sands on the beach. If, however, you live your life in accordance with God’s Word, putting Him first and allowing Him to be Lord over every area of your life, you’ll find there’s no storm big enough to shake your Joy because your foundation is established on the Rock of your salvation!
Truly HE is my rock and my salvation; HE is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
Psalm 62:2 (NIV)
Are you building your life on shifting sand by living out your misplaced faith? Or are you building a firm foundation by honoring God in every area of your life?
Where is your Focus?
There is nothing that can affect your happiness more than your focus. Even when your faith is sure and your foundation is firm, your focus can make the difference between a joy-filled life and a life consumed by negativity and sadness. When you choose to focus on problems, irritations, frustrations and other pains of life, eventually, that’s all your mind will be able to see. And what a shame that would be! God has given each and every one of us so many good things like family, friends, time, the comforts of home, hugs, beautiful mornings and on and on the list goes. Who would want to miss such wonderful blessings!
Focusing your attention on the positive is essential to maintaining your Joy each and every day. It reminds us of what is truly important in life and helps us to stay above those pesky, threatening waves of negativity.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Philippians 4:8 (NIV)
Is your attention on the negativity of life? Or are you focusing on the good gifts the Lord has given you?
What is your Hope?
At this point (if you’ve stuck with me this long), you may be saying, “Come on! Sadness is a given. There’s no way anyone can be happy all the time.”
You’re right. We all experience sadness, anger, regret, grief and every other negative emotion there is. We are human. We are going to misplace our faith. Our foundations are going to crack under pressure and our focus is most certainly going to be diverted from where it should be. And all of this will result in the loss of our Joy.
But if you take anything away from this post, I hope that you will remember this: No matter your struggles, no matter your sorrow, no matter your pain, it will not last forever. The God who gives us our Joy also walks with us through the storms of life. He comforts us. He leads us and more often than not, He carries us. And when the last rain drop has fallen and the winds have finally settled, He will remind us of His great Joy that has surrounded and sustained us through our troubled times.
Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
That, my friend, is your hope. It is the hope to which I tightly cling.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV)
The Choice is Yours
There’s nothing easy about maintaining our Joy. I struggle with it more times than I’d like to admit but each time I let anger, hurt, disappointment or sadness overtake me, I try to remind myself of the questions of faith, foundation, focus and hope. Ultimately, though, hanging on to our Joy is a matter of choice. We can choose to live a life of misery or we can choose a life of Joy.
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
Habakkuk 3:17-18 (ESV)
When your happiness is being threatened, you have a choice to make: either give in and allow your circumstances to steal your joy or stand firm and hold tightly to the precious Joy of the Lord.
As for me, well…
I CHOOSE JOY!