If there is one thing everyone wants to have it is happiness. Yet, happiness seems so fleeting and out of our control.
We are regularly disappointed by entertainment and activities that promise happiness but fail to deliver real fulfillment. Social activities regularly leave us disappointed. YouTube marathons promise gratification with the next video but never uphold their end of the bargain. Trust me, I would know.
Ironically, trying to be happy will only leave us hopelessly disappointed. If we want to be happy, we have to deny ourselves (Luke 9:23-24). We have to focus on others. And we have to focus on things beyond this present world (2 Corinthians 4:18). Unfortunately, in a world driven by instant gratification, our view of distant bliss is often obscured by ubiquitous distractions. Keeping our attention on eternity is hard. Shining the spotlight at what we should focus on takes more than just clapping twice.
Yet, everything about us is determined by what we allow to control our attention. As Winifred Gallagher puts it, “Who you are, what you think, feel, and do, what you love—is the sum of what you focus on.” While Gallagher’s worldview may take this idea a little too far, there is certainly more than a mere grain of truth in that statement. Jesus “endured the cross” by remembering “the joy that was set before him" (Hebrews 12:2). While enduring the harshest pain, He kept his eyes on the prize. So should we. In light of the eternal joy of Heaven, earthly trials fade into oblivion.
If there's one thing I've learned during my first semester at college, it is that happiness is 100% within my control. That is, in my control as much as a 50-pound weight is in my control: I can move it, but it is no easy task.
We can control our happiness by exercising self-control and discipline in every area of our lives. Simple activities like being disciplined in our relationships with God, going out of our way to be kind to others, being thankful for blessings both ordinary and unusual, taking care of our bodies, or getting out of our comfort zones to try new things are all catalysts for happiness. In essence, we must take the focus off our immediate comfort and direct it towards what is truly best. These are all actions within our control. But that does not mean they are easy. They are definitely not automatic. Happiness is hard work!
Instead of blaming your circumstances, consider how you process setbacks. Focusing on other people will quickly remind you that you are not alone and some people go through much worse than you do every day. When disappointments crash your day, what thoughts fill your mind? Do you consider the other things affecting your mood that you can control? Do you look for the silver lining?
What do you focus on?
Joy is not a fleeting emotional feeling. It is a direct consequence of our choices. Lasting happiness is the result of lasting commitment.
Note: I am fully aware that many Christians make a careful distinction between happiness (as a mere emotion) and joy (as a state of being that comes from our relationship with Christ). I do not mean to conflate these theological distinct terms, only to emphasize that the Joy of the Lord can and should extend to happiness in daily life.
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About Nathaniel Hendry
I blog on common social issues from a reasoned, conservative Christian perspective in easy to understand writing. I am committed to academic excellence in writing and supported by solid reasoning and research.
About A Worthy Word
The Worthy Word isn't mine, but God's. I just try to explain the truly Worthy Word and encourage you from it.