Monday, July 7, 2014

Keys to Happiness - it's simple...

My life has been a roller coaster of  both good and bad, happy and sad moments, some of which I wasn't sure I'd survive. Yet each one of those experiences has taught me something of great value, a message inscribed on my brain and etched on my heart. Happiness is a choice I get to make. No one else is responsible for it. 

I often hear people say that they are just not happy. Life can be hard and full of difficult seasons. The passing of a loved one, the loss of a job, sickness, getting passed over for a promotion, being slandered - I've walked through them all. Hardships give us reason to mourn and opportunities to work through our pain. I know. I've had plenty of difficult seasons apart from those I mentioned and I've even suffered from depression. So I know the dark places life can bring you to if you allow yourself to go there. Hard times don't have to lead us down that road.

I have found that being happy and having real joy often comes down to this: choosing to love yourself and the life you've been given more than you covet the life you'd like to have and the things you'd like to see happen in your life. How can we possibly think we'll be happy when we finally get what we want if we don't like ourselves, our choices and the life we now have? We are responsible for our own happiness. It's not someone else's fault or their job to make us so.

Giving is also huge in breaking the cycle of unhappiness, and I'm not talking about casual giving. I'm talking about the kind of giving you really don't want to do - the kind that sometime hurts, like giving praise to someone who deserves it but is walking in the place we want to be. OUCH! I'm talking about the kind of giving that is forgetful and that doesn't keep record as though it should be repaid. Why must we hold others hostage to our "generosity?"

I'm talking about the kind of giving that is hidden. No one sees. No one knows. No one suspects and it can't be repaid. Giving for the sake of recognition or repayment is not a gift at all. It's a loan which the recipient was not made aware of and has no idea they owe.

And while we're on the subject of giving for what we want, just go ahead and get prepared to change your thinking. Always looking to when things get better or to what you would like to see happen, will only keep you living in the future which isn't here yet and therefore, can't be enjoyed! You may need to read that again.

Dreams are good! Having vision is helpful, but wishing your present away because it's not what you want will only create more discontent. Yes, we hope for the future but we live in the here and now. We are responsible for how we steward our emotions, even when life hurts.

Stop and take inventory of what is right in your life. Look at where you've come from to where the Lord has brought you, good or bad. My guess is, your life is good! You're probably not homeless if you're reading this. You most likely have plenty to eat. God has not given up on you, and even if those things were true (homelessness and starvation) this would still be true of Him because you're still breathing! You're still here.

Rejoice in the good! Celebrate the wonderful! Thank the Lord for his faithfulness even in the difficult seasons. Talk about a sadness killer! Do these things often. Focus on what's right, bless what's good, give thanks more than you lament and see if true happiness still eludes you. I'd be surprised because when we focus on the good, the rest doesn't seem so important. Thus our perspective changes and our thinking and feelings follow suit.

Oh, and here's another one. It's a biggie and it may cause you to stop reading this all together, but I'm pretty secure and can handle that. You ready? Here it is. Please, please, please stop holding others hostage to the dream inside your head of what you want your life to look like. What do I mean by that? It's simple but not easy if you fall into this category. Release and forgive. I just lost at least one person right there.

False expectations of what we want to have happen in our lives based on our own unrealistic desires, holds others in bondage to our unrealized dreams, at least in our own hearts. We therefore, build walls between us and may even falsely accuse because what we've imagined seems real, or at the very least, the way it should be. We're holding people accountable for wrongs they've not even committed! This needs to stop. Our arrogance and unforgiveness will keep us from experiencing the joy we so desperately desire. 

My heart aches when I see people who have so much yet are so disillusioned with life. They are missing it and missing out on the joy-filled life God intended for them. 

You see over the past 40 plus years, I've looked around and here is what I have observed and figured out based on my own life lessons. The happiest people are not the wealthiest, the most prestigious or even the most popular. They are the ones who are the most content and who consistently live with a grateful heart. I am a lifelong student of those people.

The beauty of this life which the Father has given us, is that we get to choose which life we want to lead - one of joy and peace or one of discontent and unfulfillment. I know which one I choose. How about you?