Thursday, November 14, 2013

Happy, Happy, Happy

A Facebook friend, in response to one of my comments, recently observed how we feel about things and life in general, like being happy or sad, is largely a matter of choice. There’s a lot of validity to that. I recall years ago someone wrote a book called Happiness is a Choice. I never read it, so apparently I chose to be happy without it.

In many instances we can actively choose our attitudes. Urban Meyer, head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes football team (it’s my blog, so I can mention them if I want!) has been using a formula with his players supporting this concept: E + R = O (Event + Response = Outcome).

That idea finds affirmation in many quarters. We all remember the lilting Bobby McFerrin tune, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” I’ve not become an avid fan of the TV reality series “Duck Dynasty,” but noticed Phil Robertson, the original Duck commander (head quack pot?) has written an autobiography called Happy, Happy, Happy. Better than sad, sad, sad for sure.

"Happy" can come and go in
an instant. "Joy" stays forever.
Being essentially a glass-half-full kind of person, finding the happier side of things might be easier for me than for some others. But I only agree with the notion that we can choose to be happy to a degree. Since our state of “happy” is strongly influenced by happenings around us, remaining happy about everything would require some level of lunacy or cluelessness.

Suppose you’ve had an enjoyable time at the mall, bought a few nice things you needed – or wanted – and you’re feeling happy. Then you notice the fender on your car, smashed, taillight in smithereens on the pavement. You search for a note from the offending motorist, but there’s none. It was hit-and-run, and now you’re calling your insurance agent, unsure about the extent of your uninsured motorist coverage. How happy are you now?

Or you’ve been having a bothersome pain, so you go to your physician, who orders a couple of tests and some blood work. “It’s probably nothing to be concerned about,” she assures you in her best effort to avoid admitting, “I don’t have a clue what’s wrong with you.” A day or two later you receive a phone call and learn the “probably nothing” is definitely something, and it needs to be treated immediately. How happy are you now?

Or you report for work, as you have the past dozen years or so, ready to tackle another day of challenges. Your boss calls and asks you to come by his office. As compassionately as possible, he informs you the company is being forced to make some regrettable cuts – and sorry, you’re a “cut-ee.” How happy are you now?

There’s even a misconception that if you’re a follower of Christ you’re supposed to be continually happy. After all, doesn’t the old hymn say, “and now I am happy all the day”? But in reality, the state of being or feeling happy is neither requirement nor expectation for following Jesus.

Checking with my trusty concordance, the word “happy” appears less than 30 times in the entire Bible. However, there are more than 200 variations of the word “joy” in the Bible. In reality, happy is to joy what a housecat is to a tiger. Totally different animal.

Yes, there are many times when happiness and joy intersect. But joy can exist – even endure – when happy goes away. That’s the promise Jesus made to all who follow Him.

He said, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:9-11).

One thing Jesus never promised His followers was they would always be happy or without problems. In fact, He assured just the opposite. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). In place of “take heart,” other translations use the words “be courageous” or “be of good cheer.” In other words, we can rejoice even when we find nothing to feel happy about.

Gazing at the world around us, some of us may be delighted by what we see, others may feel distressed. You might have just experienced one of the happiest moments of your life, or you may be enduring a great personal loss or tragedy. Regardless of the circumstances, even when we feel overwhelmed, incapable of choosing to be happy, we can experience the joy only Jesus can give. 

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