Tuesday, April 30, 2013

On being happy (Psalm 128:1)

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 128:1 (CEB)
Everyone who honors the LORD, who walks in God's ways, is truly happy!

QUOTE by C. S. Lewis:
To ask that God's love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God: because He is what He is, His love must, in the nature of things, be impeded and repelled by certain stains in our present character, and because He already loves us He must labour to make us lovable. We cannot even wish, in our better moments, that He could reconcile Himself to our present impurities--no more than the beggar maid could wish that King Cophetua should be content with her rags and dirt, or a dog, once having learned to love man, could wish that man were such as to tolerate in his house the snapping, verminous, polluting creature of the wild pack. What we would here and now call our "happiness" is not the end God chiefly has in view: but when we are such as He can love without impediment, we shall in fact be happy. 

Here is an article, which appeared in Reader’s Digest. It is condensed from the book, Glamour, by Adair Lara. It says it much better than I could:

A woman I know climbed on the bathroom scale after two weeks of butterless toast and chilly jogs around the park. The needle was still stuck on the number where she'd started. This struck her as typical of how things had been going lately. She was destined never to be happy.
As she dressed, scowling at her tight jeans, she found $20 in her pocket. Then her sister called with a funny story. When she hurried out to the car -- angry that she had to get gas -- she discovered her roommate had already filled the tank for her. And this was a woman who thought she'd never be happy.
Every day, it seems, we're flooded with pop-psych advice about happiness. The relentless message is that there's something we're supposed to do to be happy -- make the right choices, or have the right set of beliefs about ourselves. Our Founding Fathers even wrote the pursuit of happiness into the Declaration of Independence.
Coupled with this is the notion that happiness is a permanent condition. If we're not joyful all the time, we conclude there's a problem.
Yet what most people experience is not a permanent state of happiness. It is something more ordinary, a mixture of what essayist Hugh Prather once called "unsolved problems, ambiguous victories and vague defeats -- with few moments of clear peace."
Maybe you wouldn't say yesterday was a happy day, because you had a misunderstanding with your boss. But weren't there moments of happiness, moments of clear peace? Now that you think about it, wasn't there a letter from an old friend, or a stranger who asked where you got such a great haircut? You remember having a bad day, yet those good moments occurred.
Happiness is like a visitor, a genial, exotic Aunt Tilly who turns up when you least expect her, orders an extravagant round of drinks and then disappears, trailing a lingering scent of gardenias. You can't command her appearance; you can only appreciate her when she does show up. And you can't force happiness to happen -- but you can make sure you are aware of it when it does.
While you're walking home with a head full of problems, try to notice the sun set the windows of the city on fire. Listen to the shouts of kids playing basketball in the fading light, and feel your spirits rise, just from having paid attention.
Happiness is an attitude, not a condition. It's cleaning the Venetian blinds while listening to an aria, or spending a pleasant hour organizing your closet. Happiness is your family assembled at dinner. It's in the present, not in the distant promise of a "someday when..." How much luckier we are -- and how much more happiness we experience -- if we can fall in love with the life we're living.
Happiness is a choice. Reach out for it at the moment it appears, like a balloon drifting seaward in a bright blue sky.

And then I ran across this statement from, How to Counsel from Scripture, by Martin and Diedre Bobgan:

A fascinating study on the principle of the Golden Rule was conducted by Bernard Rimland, director of the Institute for Child Behavior Research. Rimland found that "The happiest people are those who help others." Each person involved in the study was asked to list ten people he knew best and to label them as happy or not happy. Then they were to go through the list again and label each one as selfish or unselfish, using the following definition of selfishness: a stable tendency to devote one's time and resources to one's own interests and welfare--an unwillingness to inconvenience one's self for others." (Rimland, 'The Altruism Paradox,' Psychological Reports 51 [1982]: 521) In categorizing the results, Rimland found that all of the people labeled happy were also labeled unselfish. He wrote that those "whose activities are devoted to bringing themselves happiness...are far less likely to be happy than those whose efforts are devoted to making others happy" Rimland concluded: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." (Ibid, p. 522). 
May our choice today be one of happiness and so, Lord, change the desires of our hearts until we desire nothing more than to do for others. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this important reminder, Jim. It's so easy to feel "entitled" to happiness because of our actions. As you have pointed out, it is SO much a state of mind. The key to happiness is inside of our hearts; it is just a matter of allowing God to turn that key.