Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment. Ecclesiastes 11, verse 9.
For a very long time, I wanted to be happy. I thought happiness was something you created, or that things or people or status or something made you happy. During these years, I thought it was up to someone else to control my happiness. If I wasn’t happy, or if I thought I was supposed to be happy but I wasn’t, I thought it was someone else’s role to make me happy. It wasn’t that I wanted to be unhappy, or that I didn’t know how to be happy. I simply wasn’t, and I misunderstood the role happiness plays in our lives and the roles others play in our happiness
When I was a kid, we moved around quite a lot. I was born in Minnesota, which was the only home I ever knew when we left it at age 9. I couldn’t conceive of being happy anywhere else. Then we moved to Iowa, lived there for a year, and moved away. I had felt happy there, but it ended. Then Pennsylvania, then Oklahoma, then back to Iowa, Indiana and I finally left home…to go into the military, where moving around is an art form. Somewhere along the open road I lost track of why happiness happens, or what makes us feel happy.
At first, when we started moving around, I made friends quickly; when we left, I lost them quickly, too. You keep up with phone calls and letters, but you lose the intimacy of close friendship. By the third move, I simply gave up trying, but I didn’t give up thinking it was someone else’s job to make me happy. I wasn’t happy. I blamed my parents, I blamed the Army, I blamed my friends who didn’t keep up, and I even blamed myself for not keeping up too. And I blamed God. Why did He allow this? After all, it wasn’t my doing that we moved; why should it be my responsibility to see that I’m happy?
Funny, isn’t it, how so many grown-up’s think much like that child I once was. I look back now and realize I squandered many opportunities to enjoy life.
These days I see happiness as a condition. It isn’t just something we do: it’s a benefit of what we do, how we live, and especially what we believe. I find happiness and enjoyment in serving others; example: these words. It makes me happy to write them knowing someone, somewhere is being encouraged in some way. And it makes me happy to cook. At Christmastime, I bake quite a few cookies. In fact, after I send out this blog, I’m going to the kitchen to make gingerbread dough. It makes me happy to see people enjoying them, or to give them away so others can enjoy. I feel happy to read the Word, and to realize God is teaching me lessons that I need to know right then and there. Spending time with my family makes me happy; time with my wife and kids and our extended family. Having dinner with good friends leaves me feeling happy. A job well done makes me happy. Knowing you care makes me feel happy.
It’s a condition, a by-product of something else. Happiness is a God thing. I now see happiness as what happens when the right things, when good things, occur in your life and you’re content with them. If you boil away those right and good things, behind all of them is God. We can keep investigating deeper and deeper to get to the root cause of something. When we investigate our blessings deep enough, we always find that they somehow end up with God.
That’s the way it’s supposed to be. God made us to be happy, to be content, in His love. All that is good in this world is fruit of that love, and what we have, who we are, and how happy we are is a downstream effect of God sharing His love in our lives. When we reach the end of our lives, God does indeed judge us for how we lived our lives, for what we did with His love. When we squander it, God is just; when we share it, God is just. Scripture says that when we share His love, He multiplies it and that it always increases. When we give Him away to share with others, He always comes back in more blessings than we gave away. It’s simply a natural fact of dealing with such supernatural love. And when we do that, we usually find we’re happy.
At least I do. How about you?
Christmas is next week. It’s only five days away. Due to circumstances – the wedding, finances, my mom’s illness, work and travel –I’m finding this season to be more full of stress than most I’ve known. Let’s just say I have a lot on my plate. Yet through it all, I’m not unhappy. I’m actually content to know I’m doing what I can, and that God is not indifferent in my life today, even with all the outside pressures. Last night, there were many things I wanted to get done, but instead of doing them, I opted to sit and watch TV with my wife. There were dishes do to, ironing to do, words to write, cookies to bake, studying to be done, filing to be finished, laundry to be folded, calls to make, reports to finish, emails to be sent, games to be played, and a myriad of other things beckoning me to act. You get the picture. Instead, I opted for an hour or so of time with my honey, time to just be together and relax and recharge together watching a Christmas movie. We watched, and shared a piece of cake, and talked a little, and looked at the Christmas tree. And I felt happy. Happiest, in fact, that I’ve felt in days. God was there in the moment. He was there with us, holding our hands together and joining His in them. For a very long time in my life, I wanted moments like this one. For a very long time, now, they keep happening and I’m happy when I know I’m blessed by them, and through them, and by her, and for Him.