|Irene Mathias, aged 4|
1 Seek Happiness
George Mueller considered happiness the normal state of the Christian.
“I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished.
Martin Luther too took happiness very seriously. Note the urgency with which he deals with unhappiness. “First, when I feel that I have become cool and joyless in prayer because of other tasks or thoughts (for the flesh and the devil always impede and obstruct prayer), I take my little psalter, hurry to my room, and, as time permits, I say quietly to myself and word-for-word the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and, if I have time, some words of Christ or of Paul, or some psalms, just as a child might do.
2 The Kingdom of God is within you.
Happiness mostly depends on one’s thoughts and attitude, on zapping negativity.
Chuck Swindoll memorably writes:
The longer I live, the more I realize the important of one’s attitude. Attitude, to me, is more important than the past, education, money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company…a church…a home.
The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you. We are in charge of our attitudes.
And we need to feed the white dog, not the black dog.
For continued joy, we all need ways to process our past, and give thanks for both the episodes we have seen God redeem, and those we have not yet watched him redeem.
4 Cultivate Cheerfulness
While we all have a set point for happiness determined by genetics and our experiences in utero and in early childhood, anyone can cultivate the habit of cheerfulness. The cheerful heart has a continual feast (Prov 15:15).
Cheerfulness is a decision which becomes a habit, and then a temperament.
I have discovered that going through one’s day giving thanks for the ever-changing tapestry of the skies, and the day’s little goodnesses makes a perfectly ordinary day magical.
5 Temple Maintenance
We are spiritual beings having a physical experience. Exercising, a healthy diet (minus too much sugar, which is toxic and white carbs, which are unnecessary), enough sleep, and tidy, pretty surroundings enhances happiness. I am working on all of these!
6 Acceptance and Serenity
Holiness is “giving what God takes, and taking what he gives with a big smile,” Mother Teresa said. Yeah, happiness too!
The famous Serenity Prayer attributed to Reinhold Neibuhr captures this best
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
7 Prayer and Scripture as anchors for one’s life
For me, joy leaks within hours if I have not prayed. Friendship with Christ, a secret friend always with you, is probably the biggest bringer of contentment.
Besides, God promises us a mysterious, unspecified but tempting and tantalizing reward for spending time with him.
With practice, prayer soon becomes a sweet, silent melody flowing through one’s day, a secret stream beneath its surface.
8 Deal with the Joy-Blockers
We need our own strategies for dealing with inevitable failure, guilt and shame—rapid, thorough repentance and seeking God’s forgiveness (and basking in his love) to help us escape continued patterns and vicious circles of sin.
9 Learn to Convert Worry to Prayer
Worry and anxiety is another joy-devourer. I have been trying to develop the habit of instantly praying about my worries—trying to instinctively convert them to prayer, as a sunflower naturally turns towards the sun and butterflies.
I am learning to rapidly chuck my anxieties and uncertainties into his arms. To let my worries become his worries, as in this lovely little Max Lucado story.
Friendship causes “perhaps half of all the happiness in the world,” says C. S. Lewis in his brilliant essay, The Inner Ring. Lewis was a bachelor for most of his life, or he would have certainly added a happy marriage and happy parenthood to life’s joys.
What would you add?