How to be happy - tip #7

Don't worry that this is tip #7 but post #6 -- a couple were combined early on :)

Let's recap briefly:
1. Check out possible physical problems (fatigue, hormones, illness)
2. Acknowledge God's command to be joyful
3. Don't blame others - accept responsibility for your own joy
4. Confess sin
5. Address systems errors (ways to do things better/more successfully)
6. Accept the unchangeables.

7. God's Word. Get in it.

I could just leave it at that and it would be sufficient. But I am afraid this tip would be disregarded, treated as trite, as "the Sunday School answer." So I won't leave it at that. I'll pontificate.

First, why. Then how.
Why. God's Word is not good advice. It is actually life. It is living and breathing. Yeah, I know that's difficult to understand. But we don't have to understand why it works, just that it does. We are transformed by His Word. I Thessalonians 2:13 says "...when you received the Word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is - the Word of God- which performs its work in those who believe." It has the power to change you and me. But, just like that eye cream that obliterates wrinkles, you have to apply it for it to work. Does no good sitting on the shelf.

God's Word not only transforms us, it comforts us and directs us. The Psalms are a treasure trove of encouragement to me when I am hurting. Knowing that spiritual giants such as David had to do battle with the blues keeps me from self-condemnation. I am eternally grateful that God included this man's failures and his transparency in Scripture. Otherwise, I'd feel pretty much an isolated failure.

Similarly, Scripture has principles to guide our decisions, our behavior, our attitudes. Without the compass of His Word, we are left not knowing what to do. And that in itself is depressing.

How. How to get God's Word in you, not how it works. Cuz I don't know how - just know that it does.
Look at it. Everywhere you go. Have Scripture prints on your walls. Verse a day calendars in your bathroom and kitchen. Bible passages on cards to take with you. Everywhere. We have even printed out verses on 3/5 cards and stuck them on the doorframes in our house. (See Deuteronomy 6:4-9. I take it literally)
Listen to it. Good music is important. We must not underestimate the powerful influence of songs on our minds and hearts. For instance, if you are over 30, finish this jingle "Plop plop fizz fizz, Oh..._______________" After this many years, I'll bet you still know the words to that commercial. In the same way, words of songs stick in our brains and affect how we think, what we believe. And feeling follows thinking. If we feed our souls garbage, we are going to wind up feeling like garbage.
Study it. Looking at Scripture, listening to songs based on Scripture - fabulous. But they won't replace a commitment to personal time spent in meditating on His Word. I can get along for a while on a spoon of peanut butter for breakfast and celery sticks with pimento cheese for lunch but after a while, I need some real sustenance. Or my health will suffer. Same with spiritual health. We need to feast on His Word in order to nourish our soul.

If I can't shake the blues, many times it is remedied by getting back on track with consistent time in His Word. To borrow an old line from Chick-fil-A: Taste it. You'll love it. For good.

How to be happy - part 5

Anybody remember "The Serenity Prayer"? God, grant me the grace to accept the things I cannot change, the strength to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference!! That is a whole pile of truth right there.

How to be happy tip #6 is

Don't try to change the unchangeables. Granted, with God, there are few things that fall into this category. He is in the business of the impossible. And He delights to bring beauty out of ashes. But sometimes what He wants to change is our perspective, not the situation.

For instance, our past. If what's making us depressed is our history of past failures, we need to adjust. Our perspective - not our past. It's an unchangeable. But the way we view it isn't. Instead of wasting energy and emotions regretting what cannot be changed, focus on the attitude about it. Let God redeem it, use it for His glory, free you from its bondange.

Or other people. We spend untold amounts of valuable emotional resources in angst over people that we think should change. Maybe they really do need to change, but our stress over them will not accomplish that for them! Instead of being depressed over relationships that disappoint or wound us, resolve to let God change them.As Ruth Graham once said, "It's my job to love Billy. It's God's job to make him good". We need to change our role in the lives of those folks that stress us out. (Now don't hear what I am not saying -- I am NOT suggesting that you dump everyone that causes pain in your life!!! No, I am saying that we focus on changing our response to those folks, not on "fixing" them.)

Other unchangeables are things like world peace, government spending, and the war on terror. Although I definitely do strongly advocate being involved in worthy causes, becoming an informed and active voter, and voicing your opinion respectfully, we must be take caution that we don't stew and fret over large scale events. I can get pretty worked up over things like folks that work for me who overspend my money (just sayin') so it helps me to remember who is ultimately in charge. And it's not a certain political party. Isaiah tells us in chapters 45 and 46 truth like this "I am the Lord and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none besides me. I am the Lord and there is no other." And" For I am God and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times, things not yet done, saying 'My counsel shall stand and I will accomplish all my purpose' calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed and I will do it".
Job learned this lesson very well and responded to the Lord "I know that you can do all things and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted".

So, happiness tactic # 6 - Don't stress over unchangeables. God is in control. And all His ways are loving and faithful. His Word is true-er than our circumstances!

How to be happy - part 4 -Systems error

Sometimes our sadness can be the result of some sin that separates us from the source of joy. So we can confess it and have our Joy restored. Sometimes, though, our lack of joy is a "systems error". We feel discouraged or disheartened or disturbed because we have an insurmountable "to do " list.

Tactic #5-
Establish systems that lead to success.

In other words, if your family frequently gets frustrated because they have no clean clothes to wear, then you have a systems problem. Figure out how to fix it.

If you feel stressed repeatedly ("stress" is the antithesis of "joy") because it's almost dinnertime and you're not prepared to feed your crew, then you have a systems problem. Check your priorities.

If your daily routine is anything but routine, then you have a systems problem. It needs to be repaired.

If the numbers on the scale or on the receipt of the ATM transaction cause you to be distressed, then you need to address the appropriate system.

Sometimes the path to joy is systematic. :)

How to be happy, part 3

To summarize, some tactics to use against a lack of joy:
1. Check to be sure you are healthy and rested.
2. Embrace the truth that we ARE to rejoice - therefore, seek to be happy in the right way.
3. Don't blame others if you aren't happy.

4. This one isn't going to win me any friends, but, here goes. Confess sin. Yep, confess sin. That probably doesn't sit too well with you if you are in the pits of despair. Might make you feel worse, in fact. So why do I include it? Because it's necessary for us to examine ourselves and see what wrong resides within us. Notice I didn't say "if". Why am I presuming there is sin present just because we are depressed? Because there usually is! If nothing else, there's probably a shred or two of self-pity over our sadness......

Psalm 32:3,4 says "when I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away. Through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer".

Sounds like lack of joy and lack of confession are connected to me.

Pathway to joy - ask the Lord to reveal anything between us and Him....anything between us and somebody else. When He does, confess it. Where necessary, make things right with others. Then accept His forgiveness.

How to be happy, part 2

So, after I take care to be sure I get in bed early and have adequate exercise, etc, what do I do if the sadness persists? I am no counselor but I have found some things that are helpful. Other than considering the physical aspect of "the blues", I go through a list of strategies and apply them.

2. Embrace the truth that, as Christians, we are commanded to rejoice. In the Lord. This means we are to be happy! So we need to learn how to do just that. It helps me to understand that this desire to be happy is really a longing for Christ. In His presence is fullness of joy. So I must realize that if I am experiencing despair or despondency, I must accept responsibility for it and do what it takes to be obedient to His command. While I don't think this means we are to expect a circus euphoria perpetually nor does it mean we should be deceitful to ourselves or to others when we feel this lack of joy, I do think that we need to take seriously the need to find our joy in Him.

That said, what are some ways to accomplish this?

3. Stop blaming others and stop looking to others to "fix things" so we can be happy. This is alot easier to type than to practice. It is very natural to feel that some of our lack of joy is a result of the actions (or inactions) of others. This may be initially true but it blaming others serves only to prevent our reaching the goal line of happiness. It is probably the biggest block, in fact. Expecting others to take responsibility for our joy is immature and ineffective. In short - it just won't work. Ultimately, it short circuits not only the relationships where we place the blame, but most other relationships as well. After we pass about age 3, other people just won't accept the burden of making sure we achieve our goal of joy. That obligation takes a dramatic shift towards ourselves. And the sooner we accept that, the happier we - and they - will be.