Happiness is… The Search Continues

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Did you know that not once in God’s Word are we instructed to seek out happiness?

It’s true!

While searching for the perfect quote to accompany this highly-anticipated second installment of my “Happiness Is…” series (Hahaha! You’re laughing with me, right?), I came across an article in which the author asserts that the pursuit of happiness does not line up with God’s instructions for our lives.¹ “Hunh!” I thought to myself as I was reading the article, “Could this really be?” I decided to do some digging into God’s Word on my own. What I found is enlightening.

Throughout the Bible, we are instructed to seek out many virtues and qualities in life. Some of these treasures to be sought are wisdom (James 1:5), understanding (Proverbs 4:7), peace (Psalm 34:14), good (Amos 5:14), righteousness (1 Timothy 6:11) and humility (Zephaniah 2:3). This list is certainly not exhaustive for the Bible is filled with instructions for living a godly life. Nowhere, however, could I find one direct instruction to seek out happiness.

What does that mean for us? Is God not concerned with our happiness?

Well, let’s not jump to conclusions. First, let’s take a look at the Biblical view of happiness and the source of that happiness.

So, what does God’s Word say about happiness?

In Part One of my “Happiness is…” series, I discussed our desperate pursuit of the objects of our happiness and the fleeting pleasures these objects or people bring. This temporary happiness comes and goes with our ever-changing moods and circumstances. If this type of happiness is all there is, we are doomed for disappointment. The good news is this fickle emotion is not true happiness as revealed in the pages of God’s Word.

The Bible speaks volumes about happiness. There is passage after passage that addresses our joy, especially in the Psalms and Proverbs. Here are a few: (Note that depending on the version you are reading, you may not find the word “happy”; often, you will find the word “blessed”.)

Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding. 

Proverbs 3:13 (NKJV) 

And now, O sons, listen to me: blessed are those who keep my ways.

Proverbs 8:32 (ESV)

He who despises his neighbor sins; but he who has mercy on the poor, happy is he.

Proverbs 14:21 (NKJV)

He who heeds the word wisely will find good, and whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he.

Proverbs 16:20 (NKJV)

Happy is the man who is always reverent, but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.

Proverbs 28:14 (NKJV)

Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!

Psalm 144:15b (NKJV)

But the righteous shall be glad; they shall exult before God; they shall be jubilant with joy!

Psalm 68:3 (ESV)

What do you see in these verses?

At first glance, you may think that the “formula” for happiness in the Bible is the same as our own:

US

IF I DO THIS (obtain/do something, go somewhere, etc.), I’LL BE HAPPY.

BIBLE

IF I DO THIS (live righteously, trust God, give to the poor, etc.), I’LL BE HAPPY.

But a closer examination of God’s Word will reveal a stark difference between the two views. You see, in our formula, the goal is happiness. It is the object we seek in all that we do. In the Biblical view of true happiness, the goal is fellowship with the Heavenly Father, seeking His will for our lives and living accordingly. Happiness in this formula is not the goal but rather the by-product, a purposefully designed result of living a life that honors the Lord.

It seems Eleanor Roosevelt had it right!

You see, God is concerned with our happiness. He has a plan for each one of our lives, “plans to prosper [us] and not harm [us], plans to give [us] hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) And “the hope of the righteous brings joy!” (Proverbs 10:28a)

Above all, God longs for all of us to have an intimate relationship with Him. He desires that we trust Him with our lives, that we embrace His love for us and then share that love with others. God loves to bless us and give us “good and perfect gifts” (James 1:17) but His priority for our lives is clear: We must seek Him first in all that we do.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Matthew 6:33 (NIV)

All these things will be given to you!

God is the Source of true happiness. He is the Giver of our joy. It is a joy that endures, a joy that is unexplainable and a joy unmatched by anything this world has to offer.

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 16:11 (NIV)

Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

1 Peter 1:8-9

Forget the chase of temporary pleasures. Who needs that drama! Follow the Source of true happiness and the Giver of everlasting joy!

Whew! We found it, my friend. But cling tightly to it for there’s someone out there who’s chomping at the bit to steal your joy. We’ll take a look at how to keep your joy in my next post.

Keep on the look out for Part Three of “Happiness Is…”!

¹Unfortunately, I forgot to save the link to the article I was reading and when I searched for it again, I was not able to find it in order to share it with you.
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Happiness is…

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As I was scrolling through Facebook on New Year’s Eve reading all the happy wishes for the New Year and all the smack talk over the highly anticipated Rose Bowl (Yay, Dawgs!), I came across a post that brought my scrolling to a screeching halt. It was a simple question asked by a friend from my high school days:

What makes one happy?

I stared at the post for a long time wondering what prompted the question. What circumstances surrounding that person’s life caused such an inquiry? Was he experiencing some deep emotional crisis and seeking clarity and encouragement from his friends and family? Or was he only curious, wondering what responses the question would provoke?

(Funny how Facebook does this to us. Unless you are closely connected to a person, you never truly know the full meaning behind every post. We’re often left to our imaginations which leads to conjecture, which leads to misunderstandings – one of the downfalls of social media. But that may be a topic for another blog post!)

After pondering all the possible reasons for his question, I felt the need to respond. The problem was I didn’t know how to respond. Because I was unsure of the “why” behind the question, I didn’t feel I could give an adequate answer. But, again, the urge to respond was strong. I began to type but quickly backspaced deleting my reply. I began to type a second time. I deleted it, as well.

“What is my problem?” I thought to myself. “Of all people, I should be able to give an answer to a question about happiness. After all, I did just complete a whole year of posts about finding and sharing SMILES!”

I stared at the Facebook post a while longer but ultimately, I moved on feeling a bit defeated. The question, however, has not moved on from me. In fact, it has prompted even more questions:

What is real happiness?

How does one find happiness?

Once you find it, how do you keep it?

How can one be happy in the midst of a sad and troubled world?

AM I COMPLETELY OVERTHINKING THIS?

Maybe.

Maybe not.

The more I ponder, though, the more I realize the importance of knowing the meaning of happiness, the source of happiness and the keys to maintaining happiness.

So, what is happiness?

Take a quick survey on your favorite social media site. Most likely, you’ll find that when asked the question “What is happiness?”, people will respond with an object, a person or a moment. I actually tested this assumption on Facebook. My post simply asked others to finish the sentence “Happiness is…” with the first thing that comes to mind. Here are some of the answers:

“Happiness is an endless supply of dark chocolate.”

“Happiness is family.”

“Happiness is the beach.”

“Happiness is bread.” (I love this one! She’s been on the Keto Diet.)

“Happiness is grandkids.”

I realize I may have skewed the results somewhat by qualifying the responses but even these lighthearted answers from my unsuspecting test subjects (Forgive me, please!) can provide insight into how we, as a society, define happiness. In general, I think many of us view our happiness as being contingent on something or someone.

If I can buy that new car, I’ll be happy.

If I can find a spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend, I’ll be happy.

If I get that promotion, I’ll be happy.

If he says that he loves me, I’ll be happy.

If she does this –

If I obtain that –

If –

If –

If –

Thus, if our happiness depends solely on others or on things, the logical conclusion is that happiness is nothing more than a feeling or an emotion. And if that’s the case, boy, are we in trouble! Happiness, as it turns out, is quite fickle. Think about it. What makes me happy today may not necessarily make me happy tomorrow. Let’s say I get that new car I was certain would bring me happiness but I find that after a few weeks of driving it, I really don’t like it. What then? I become dissatisfied and – Bam! I’m unhappy, again.

Surely, the happiness we so desperately pursue is more than a mere ride on the emotional roller coaster of life!

Surely…

Today, I again came across my friend’s Facebook question that prompted me to delve into the true meaning of happiness and to my surprise, I found that I’m not the only one who couldn’t offer an answer. After four days, he’s received only one response. Could it be that we’ve become so jaded by the disappointments in our pursuits of happiness that we no longer believe in the possibility of a happy life? Have we settled for a mediocre life over an abundant and joy-filled life?

Well, my friend, hold on. There is an answer to your question and I have to tell you, it’s a good one! There is hope for happiness and we’ll dig into that hope in my next post.

Keep reading! Part Two of “Happiness is…” will be posted soon!

 

A Year of Smiles – Day 365

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Reason to SMILE #365: A NEW YEAR

It’s New Year’s Eve! The countdown to 2018 has begun. Many of you may be getting all gussied up and will soon be heading out to a New Year’s Eve celebration filled with music, laughter, excitement and fun. Others, like me, are getting all gussied down (Is that a thing?), cozying up on the couch in pajamas and looking forward to a quiet evening with the family. Well, at least, until the neighborhood fireworks begin.

Whatever your plans this New Year’s Eve, please be safe. And remember to look out for the SMILES. They really are all around – in the little moments, the connections with others, the quiet thoughts, the striking revelations, the selfless acts of kindness, the gentle tears, the rays of hope and all the many different gifts God allows in every minute of our lives in order to grow us, mature us, and bring us closer to Him.

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With the new year comes new opportunities for so many SMILES. So keep your eyes peeled. God is always doing something new.

Happy New Year!

A Year of Smiles – Day 359: The SMILES of Christmas

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Christmas SMILE #25 (Reason to SMILE #359): THE MIRACLES

He became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14 (ESV)

The miracle of God With Us began with Christ’s advent to earth as a baby but it is not constrained to one day in the past. The miracle of God With Us is experienced every day in the life of the Christian. From the moment of salvation, Christ fills us with his Spirit and continually fills us with his character, his forgiveness, his love, his grace and his mercy.

Have you experienced the miracle of Christ’s birth in your life? If not, there’s no better day than today.

Does it really matter for me that Christ was born if Christ is not born now in my life and my time?

– Author Unknown

May we always remember the miracles of Christmas – Christ’s coming to earth as a baby, to our lives as Savior and Lord and again to earth one day as our Victorious King.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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A Year of Smiles – Day 353: The SMILES of Christmas

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Christmas SMILE #19 (Reason to SMILE #353): THE UNCONTAINABLE JOY

“Quit pushing!” cried a waiting choir member.

“Hey!  You’re stepping on my robe,” exclaimed another.

“Keep it down; I can’t hear what’s happening,” complained a third while the smallest of the singers jumped up and down attempting to see over the group as she piped, “I want to see. Let me see; let me see!”

Another songstress whined “I was supposed to be first. You cut in front of me,” as she nudged an unsuspecting choir member out of her spot causing several other members to tumble together and affecting the yelp, “Watch out! You’re crowding me!”

“Everyone be quiet!” the eldest in the group finally demanded. “We’re going to miss our cue! Do you really want to mess this one up?”

A hush fell over the choir. The Herald Angel was nearing the end of his message to the shepherds and finally, the waiting choir’s time had come. As the words “and lying in a manger” were spoken by the heavenly messenger, the host of angels spilled out of heaven and filled the night sky with glorious light and majestic praises. Songs of Joy filled the air as the heavenly host finally sang the song of the ages, the song they had waited so long to sing – “Glory to God in the Highest and on earth, peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14 KJV)

“And suddenly…”

Can you imagine what the heavenly choir must have felt on the night of Jesus’ birth? Can you imagine their anticipation as they waited for the moment when they were to appear before the shepherds? I envision the heavenly choir standing above the earth as if on a ledge, leaning forward on one another and crouching down toward earth so far that they are almost falling over the edge as they wait anxiously to hear those last five words spoken by the Angel of the Lord to the shepherds. These angels may not have been pushing and shoving each other to be the first one out of heaven that night but there’s no doubt in my mind that they could not contain the Good News of Great Joy. The choir of angels simply could not help but burst through the heavens to share this Joy with the world.

“And they went with haste…”

Have you ever been that excited? Have you ever been bursting at the seams to share good news with a friend or loved one? Have you ever been just as anxious to share the Good News of Great Joy? The same Joy of which the angels sang, the same Joy that spilled out onto the shepherds, filled them up and moved them to run with haste to find the Baby Jesus is the same Joy that inhabits the life of every Christian. Yet, we hesitate to share this Joy. We slink back and wait for someone else to step forward and spread the Good News. We bottle up a Joy that was intended to be shared and soon, that Joy is lost or forgotten.

“When they had seen Him, they spread the word…”

Do you remember that moment when you first heard the name of Jesus, when you met your Savior and He changed your life forever? Has it been a while? That’s ok. I’ll wait for you to think back for a moment….

Do you have it now?

Ah, yes, there it is. Joy! It’s a remarkable feeling, isn’t it?  It makes you want to jump up and shout, to SMILE and even do a little dance, for Jesus came to save you, to cleanse you of your sins, to provide an eternity with Him. You can’t sit still now, can you? Then what are you waiting for? There are people all around who are longing for just a taste of that Joy. They need to hear of the Good News of our Savior’s birth. They need to know that God loves them.  They need to see your SMILE. Won’t you share this Great Joy today?

 Scriptures taken from Luke 2:8-20

A Year of Smiles – Day 344: The SMILES of Christmas

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Christmas SMILE #10 (Reason to SMILE #344): THE LIGHTS

There’s a house on my drive home from work that is decked with a huge display of Christmas lights. Glowing Christmas characters and flashing trees fill the yard. And if you tune into a particular radio frequency, you can even hear Christmas music playing along with the blinking lights. This house is a bright and cheery beacon of Christmas spirit on an otherwise dark and quiet stretch of road.

The lights of Christmas are beautiful and whether it’s a simple string of white bulbs draped over the azalea bushes or a grandiose exhibit of colorful luminaries dancing wildly to Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Carol of the Bells”, you cannot deny the cheer these lights bring to a dark and dreary world. And for the few brief moments we are enjoying their brilliant display along a neighborhood street or basking in their soft glow around the family Christmas tree, we find a sense of comfort, peace and joy. We forget our worries and we find a SMILE.

Then we drive down the road or unplug the tree lights and the darkness surrounds us once again, stealing away our security and contentment.

Oh, but the respite we find while enjoying the lights of Christmas does not have to end when their gleam can no longer be seen. The darkness does not have to overrun our lives. For there is a Light that brings unwavering joy and everlasting peace. This Light reaches the darkest crevices of our lives, drives out the shadows of our hopelessness and despair and brings hope to a weary world, to a weary soul, to a weary you and to a weary me.

This True Light of Christmas is Jesus. He is the reason for our celebration, the reason for our joy. He is the reason we can SMILE in the midst of our darkest nights.

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
    and increased their joy;

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:2-3a, 6 (NIV)

A tiny baby born in Bethlehem pierced the darkness of a dying world more than two thousand years ago. Though the shadow of death followed Him, the Light of the Son of God could not be extinguished, even on the cross. The Light of our Risen Savior and Reigning King still shines brightly for all to see today. And though the shadows of darkness threaten to overtake us, we’ve no need to fear. The True Light of Christmas has conquered the darkness so you and I can have life – a life filled with uncontainable joy!

 

A Year of Smiles – Day 341: The SMILES of Christmas

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Christmas SMILE #7 (Reason to SMILE #341): THE CAROLING

When was the last time you opened your front door to Christmas carolers? It doesn’t seem to happen as often as portrayed in all the Christmas movies, does it? I wonder why that is.

Maybe it’s too cold to go trudging through neighborhoods at Christmastime. Have you ever tried singing when your body is shivering and your teeth are chattering?

Maybe no one knows the words to Christmas carols anymore. Do you know all the words or even the tunes to “Joy to the World”, “Good Christian Men, Rejoice”, “Hark! The Herald Angel Sings” or “The First Noel”?

Maybe the reason we don’t go caroling anymore is simply because we’re too busy. There’s just too much shopping, cooking, wrapping, decorating and celebrating to do.

Oh, but think of all the SMILES you could spread if you carved out a little time to go Christmas caroling. In the words of the world’s leading authority on Christmas spirit, Buddy the Elf, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” And you can’t argue with Buddy.

No excuses, folks! There’s even a day already set for you to take part in this wonderful Christmas tradition. It’s called “Go Caroling Day” and this year, it’s December 20th. (Yay! I didn’t miss it like I missed World Smile Day and World Kindness Day.) So, grab some friends and make the most of this Christmas season. And don’t worry about the cold – that’s what hot chocolate and apple cider is for!

Alright. You have ten days. So, get brushed up on those Christmas carols and prepare yourself for all the SMILES.

A Year of Smiles – Day 339: The SMILES of Christmas

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Christmas SMILE #5 (Reason to SMILE #339): THE MUSIC

During this Christmas season, please be safe. Stay alert as you are driving and be especially cautious of a white PT Cruiser in the southwestern Georgia region. The driver has been known to play Christmas music at an extremely dangerous volume and is often found singing at the top of her lungs as she is driving. She will most likely not be aware of you or her surroundings. Share the road with this driver at your own risk.

This has been a public service announcement of The United Christmas Music Lovers of the World.

SMILE and go turn up that Christmas music!

But seriously. Watch out for those Christmas music lovers barreling through traffic. We don’t mean to be reckless; we’re just caught up in our Christmas jam!

 

A Year of Smiles – Day 337: The SMILES of Christmas

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Christmas SMILE #3 (Reason to SMILE #337): THE PAGEANTS

One of the craziest times of the year in children’s ministry is Christmas. The kids are antsy, ready for a break from school. They’re on a constant sugar high as a result of all the school, family and church parties. And their excitement level is through the roof as their days begin to fill with parades, breakfasts with Santa and all the festivities that lead up to the Big Day.

It’s a magical time of year. 😉

In the midst of all that chaos is the annual Christmas play. I once thought making a trip to the mall at Christmastime was the best way to kill a person’s Christmas spirit. Well, I gotta tell ya. Fighting the crowds at the mall is a walk in the park compared to corralling a group of hyperactive kiddos and keeping their attention long enough to learn at least one verse of a Christmas carol – just one, a short one. Five minutes. It’s all I ask!

Though frustrations abound, there’s nothing like seeing the finished product. Practices may have been crazy. Dress rehearsal may have made you rethink your calling. But seeing that rambunctious group of children standing proudly on stage, singing so sweetly and bringing SMILES to everyone’s faces is worth every hair-pulling moment of Christmas pageant practice.

The next time you enjoy a children’s Christmas program, don’t forget to show your appreciation for the director and other volunteers who worked patiently with those kids. By the night of the performance, these folks are tired and they could use a great, big dose of encouragement. Give hugs. Give SMILES. And maybe give a gift card for a day at the spa – no kids allowed! 😉

 

A Year of Smiles – Day 323: Thanksgiving Countdown

Reason to SMILE and BE THANKFUL #323: FAMILY

thanksgiving-995263_1280

It’s unbelievable that I’ve gone all year without writing about such a fantastic SMILE! I’m glad I haven’t, though, because Thanksgiving is the perfect time of year to reflect on the blessings of family.

I’m not sure I’d characterize my family as the typical family. We’re a larger family than most – two parents, three sons and three daughters. (“The Brady bunch, the Brady bunch, that’s the way we became the…” Sing it with me! Hehe! I couldn’t help myself!) We’re not a blended family. My parents have been married for 56 years. (Woohoo, Mom and Dad!) And of the six children, four of us are biological and two are adopted.

My siblings and I are all grown up (at least, physically – Hahaha! Gotta get those jabs in somewhere!) and have kids of our own. But we don’t all live close enough to see each other regularly. Although keeping in touch is not our greatest strength (I’ll be the first to admit that I’m horrible at it!), holidays give us the chance to either gather together or talk with each other over the phone.

Of course, my favorite times are when we can all get together.  I cherish those rare occasions. The picture below was taken at my parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary (six years ago). Most of us were there; we were only missing one of my sisters and her kids.

Family

Awww! Look at those little munchkins! Where does the time go?

One thing is certain about my family. When the Jones clan gets together, you never know what will happen. It’s always loads of fun, especially when we start playing games. (You can read about that at A Year of Smiles – Day 123.) No matter what we do, though, even if we’re just napping on the couch after a wonderfully scrumptious Thanksgiving meal, our time together is always, well, interesting (Yeah. That’s a good word to describe it! 😉 ).

Sure. We have the usual family frustrations. We get on each other’s nerves and we make each other angry from time to time. What family doesn’t? But I would’t trade these folks for anything! Family is a precious gift, one that brings so much joy and so many priceless SMILES!