If I were to ask you to say, “I’m happy,” how would you say it? What would be your overall tone-bouncy like a cheerleader? Would you get up on the pew and give a big shout, “I’m so happy. Go life?”
Or are you an Eeyore type? Would you mutter under your breath, “I’m happy if you want me to be?”
Are those words, “I’m happy,” even difficult to hear because any thoughts or feelings of anything happy are so far from you?
Well, I am willing to say that we always have a reason to be happy, even in the hardest of times.
Granted, that reason may be buried under a lot of frustration, disappointment, heartache, and weariness, and we never want to minimize these times for we are to go through them as unpleasant as they are for all their worth, for they do add worth to our lives.
Some of the best lessons in life are learned through hard experiences, for when we stick it through, our character is built up in many ways.
We all have lived long enough to know about hard times, for if one is not here already, one is sure to be coming.
As much as we know that a hard time can have benefit to it, when thinking of hard times, it’s a stretch to think of anything positive about them.
So, I think it’s an essential question to talk about happiness, so we don’t have hard times consume us with fear that goes into anxiety that goes into despair.
Here’s a question for each of us to explore now: How does it help that when you are going through a hard time to believe that some sort of happiness is there?
Before you try to answer that question, and I know I’m going to sound like such a grumpy old guy now, but I’m going to say that “happiness” is overrated.
In a book called, “The How of Happiness,” a psychologist gives this definition of happiness, “The experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”
I agree a lot with this definition, for you can never can go wrong with things like contentment and saying that life is good, but it just doesn’t go far enough.
Before we go further into happiness that goes as deep as it can get, let’s stop and take a look at this definition.
This definition is talking about the “experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being.”
With a little analysis, the first part of this definition is based on experiences. We have already determined that experiences of all kinds come and go.
In general, it seems that life has some happy times, but it has mostly same old stuff times-you know those times that are routine and can get on the dull side.
Also, we know about going through losses, and we can expect some days that are sad although I don’t want to think about those kind of days and always hope that those days are few and far between.
This is the part where I say that happiness is overrated if based on experiences.
To be sure, I’m not saying that we are not to have happy times, but if happiness is based on waiting for an experience to come along, we might get impatient waiting for something to make us happy.
I know in my impatience that I can get irritable as my self-pity grows because I think everyone is happier than I am.
I start the blame-game for my lack of happiness because I am not seeing anyone or anything coming my way to make me happy.
Let’s say you see me feeling down, so you ask me the question, “Tom, what makes you happy?”
Although I do have people and things in my life that do “make” me happy, it seems a heavy load to put on a person to expect that person to “make” me happy.
It seems that we can depend too much on people, things, and experiences to “make” us happy.
We should be in charge of our own happiness. If I want to be happy, I should just make it happen for me. It’s my right to be happy. It’s in the constitution-“The pursuit of happiness.”
Again, I don’t mean to sound like a grump, but I still am thinking that kind of happiness of trying to make ourselves happy is overrated. I will even say its dangerous.
Let’s go on with the next part of the definition, “combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”
We all agree that we want to have good, meaningful, and worthwhile lives.
But, we have to be sure we are on the same page of what a good, meaningful, and worthwhile life is.
People have different ideas of what a full life is. Is success about the amount of things a person has? Is accomplishment about getting high up on that ladder of status? Is a feeling of self-worth about having done something that is known by a ton of followers on social media?
If we answer, “Yes,” to any of these questions, my next questions are, “How many things do you need to be happy? How high of a status will make you feel powerful? And how much do you need to keep doing to get noticed?
If happiness has a meter, what’s your number that marks your happiness level?
Wait! There is a meter out there. How many followers do you have to have on social media before you feel your self-worth?
This is where our happiness can get dangerous. Seeking happiness can get to the point of looking like an addiction.
Seeking happiness can ironically cause more problems that will drop us deep into a pit of despair.
When we talk about experiences, a person wanting to feel happy might create an experience that will give them feelings of that make him happy.
The example of trying to “make” happiness for ourselves is clearly seen in substance use or any compulsive behavior to get that happy feeling.
Using anything to create happiness for ourselves is artificial.
This happiness is not real because it does not last and only causes more problems down the road as more substances or actions are needed to get a higher level on the happiness meter.
It turns out that whatever a person is using to make himself happy is never enough, and that’s where the danger kicks in, for the substance or actions control you.
A real happiness lasts and nothing can shake it.
I like the definition of happiness that I read in a book about addiction. It said, “Happiness is something you want to tell your grandchildren about.”
It’s good for those of us who have had a lot of experiences in life to share with younger people, so they know that life has all kinds of times from happy to sad, and what is most important is that young people know they they will get through all of the times just like you did.
Our happiness is like no other happiness, for this happiness comes from what we believe.
Remember, in order for true happiness to happen, it needs to be lasting, and nothing can shake it.
Only what we get from God, who is eternal and unshakable, can give us true happiness.
With no doubt, many people in the world are leading hard lives, and it seems insensitive to people’s plights if I was saying something like, “Happiness is here for you today. You have reason to be happy.”
But, this kind of happiness is what they need and what we need in our lives.
This happiness comes from what we believe, and our faith tells us all that we know in our hearts and minds about a happiness like no other.
Here’s a short list of what faith tells us about happiness:
I believe God has created me. God my Father knew me before time began. He has given me life, physically and spiritually; therefore, I’m happy.
I believe God has given me meaning and purpose for my life. I was made in His own image to do good; therefore, I’m happy.
I believe God will see me through every trial and get me past every temptation. God is always building me up and gives me strength in all that I do; therefore, I’m happy.
I believe God forgives all of my sins by Jesus’ death and resurrection. I no longer have to feel shame and guilt for my sins, but I can live in the freedom that Jesus has won for me; therefore, I’m happy.
I believe that God comes to me in His Word that gives me all that I need for my life now and forever; therefore, I’m happy.
I believe Jesus comes fully into me when I eat the bread and drink the wine; therefore, I’m happy.
I believe that God is over my life by His mercy, grace, love, and power, so as I go through whatever happens, my awesome God has my back; therefore, I’m happy.
With no doubt, as we look at this world with so many troubles, it may seem insensitive to talk about happiness.
The world and our lives have pain, suffering, and heartache of all kinds, but we have reason to be happy in all circumstances.
If we are going to say that happiness is an experience, it’s an experience with God’s Word and Sacraments, and we did receive them today, and God’s promise is that He will always have “church” to receive His means of grace.
If happiness is a sense of worth, we have the highest worth as God’s beloved children.
If happiness is about knowing that we are okay in anything that happens, we have help that comes from the Lord who always takes care of us.
No matter what happens, God has our backs; therefore, we are happy right now to all the way to eternity.