Is happiness a choice?
Is it a responses to one's situation?
Many struggle with this looming question when going through very trying times.
"Is happiness a choice and if am unhappy - have I failed to make the choice to be happy?"
Defining "Happiness" might help us some.
According to Merriam-Webster, "Happiness" is Defined as:
1a: a state of well-being and contentment : JOY
b: a pleasurable or satisfying experience
"I wish you every happiness in life."
According to an article I recently read in Psychology Today on this very topic.
Some "prominent voices on the subject of happiness Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage says this,
"What I want people to realize is happiness can be a choice, and it’s something you can practice. But if you’re feeling unhappy, that’s not failure. What we want to steer people away from is apathy, which is that loss of movement. So, we want to focus on getting people back towards movement..."
Michelle Gielan, author of Broadcasting Happiness goes on to say,
"It’s about being conscious about how we devote our mental resources and training our brain to do it."
Is happiness that simple?
Can happiness truly be found by consciously devoting our mental resources and training our brain by practicing?
This might be a good place to start, but "Happiness" goes much deeper then just mental determination - and in the midst of our struggles and pain - having to put more effort and mental determination into willing ourselves into a "happy" state is just not that simple.
In the book of Matthew 5 Jesus suggests a much more unconventional way to find happiness.
Let's look at His famous Sermon on the Mount on the very topic of "How to find Happiness"
"1 Jesus saw the crowds and went up a hill, where he sat down. His disciples gathered around him, 2 and he began to teach them.
3 “Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor; the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them!
4 “Happy are those who mourn; God will comfort them!
5 “Happy are those who are humble; they will receive what God has promised!
6 “Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires; God will satisfy them fully!
7 “Happy are those who are merciful to others; God will be merciful to them!
8 “Happy are the pure in heart; they will see God!
9 “Happy are those who work for peace; God will call them his children!
10 “Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires; the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them!
11 “Happy are you when people insult you and persecute you and tell all kinds of evil lies against you because you are my followers. 12 Be happy and glad, for a great reward is kept for you in heaven. This is how the prophets who lived before you were persecuted.?"
**Disclaimer** I am in NO WAY encouraging anyone to stay in a relationship or situation that is emotionally, mentally, physically or spiritually abusive and dangerous. I have spent enough time with women and students to know that many stay with abusers because they believe they can "save" their abuser, or keep their abuser happy, or that in some way it is the "Christian" thing to do, to stay and "honor" an abusive parent or spouse/partner.
IT IS NOT - get out and get help. Find a church, a domestic violence advocate, police, trusted friend - or Anyone - that will help you get out and get safe.
Now, what I am writing about today is:
Can we experience happiness when we are in the midst of difficult days and if so, how can we find and experience happiness?
In the next several blog posts we will look at each "Happy are those..." statements to hopefully discover why God would suggests we follow this way of living.
But for today - know this - in the first verse of this passage, it tells us a very important truth that anyone who is hurting needs to hear and know - "Jesus saw the crowds and went up a hill, where he sat down."
Jesus sees you
Jesus comes to you and helps you where you are at
Jesus sits with you and will not leave you.
1. Jesus sees you - God's word tells us that His eye is always on us. For some that may be intimidating - God sees everything I do? Yes- it should be a bit intimidating - yet at the same time it should comfort you- to know that you are never lost from His sight.
For others, knowing that God sees them in their suffering and doesn't stop it can can also bring about other feelings - like anger or confusion. I will discuss this more in another post - but for today- try to let yourself be encouraged that God sees your suffering and is working in the midst of it and does care about your pain and if you can have just a little bit of faith in Him - it can move mountains (Matthew 17:20)
"The eyes of the LORD watch over those who do right; his ears are open to their cries for help.
“For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”
2. Jesus comes to you and helps you - God's word not only tell us that He sees us (in our good times and hard times), but that He is always with you and actively drawing you nearer to Him and actively at work to care for you and help you.
"Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God."
3. Jesus sit with you and will not leave you - God tells us throughout His word that "He will never leave you forsake you" Deuteronomy 31:6- and that "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Psalm 46 and that we can "Be strong and courageous and not be frightened, or dismayed, because God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
Trusting in these promises that God will never leave those who are His, can and should help comfort us when we are in a fog and we "feel" alone, hurt and left wondering if we will feel happy again.
Talking to God about what is causing you sadness or pain can help, reading through the Psalms can help, talking with and surrounding yourself with trusted caring friends can help you as well.
Knowing that in your pain you can be find moments to smile and laugh - and have moments of happiness -can help you get through dark days - one moment at a time.