1. Happiness for You
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IN A certain comic motion picture produced some time ago one of the players repeated many times, "Happiness is good for you!” "Happiness is good for you!” It was intended only as a joke, but those words are more true than perhaps even the author of that statement ever dreamed. "Happiness is good for you!”
There is in the Bible no command of greater importance, nor one more often repeated or less heeded, than the command to "rejoice, and exceeding be glad.” Yet comparatively few people can be said to heed this command. Many have flashes of perceptions as to what it means to be truly happy when their heart for a moment is filled with love and joy and a feeling that it is good to be alive, but how many are able to sustain this feeling until it becomes a habit of everyday living?
Christianity is supposed to be the gospel of love. Therefore it should surely be the happiest religion in the world. Many have found it so, but many others either consciously or unconsciously still think that a spiritual life is one in which practically all the joys and pleasures of life are taboo. It is such people who criticize the acts of others with such expressions as "And she a religious woman!” and "He such a good church member!”
If only we could see Christianity as Jesus taught it and meant it to be! If in our daily activities we could take our religion in our stride, as He did smiling in tenderness at little children, laughingly entering into the festivities and gaieties of His friends, and His face shining with radiance when He triumphed over death! But in the minds of many people His persecution, trial, and crucifixion overshadow to a great extent the blessings of vital love, joy and shining, radiant overcoming of that victorious life. Many people seem to think it is wrong to enjoy things, to be happy, gay. Religion to them is always serious, sedate, and very prim.
Do you actually think that this is what Jesus intended? Surely He wished and expected you and me to be happy, fun-loving, full of life and laughter. “Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven,” He said. Surely He is still saying to every one of us today: “Happiness is good for you! My gospel is good news, the gospel of freedom, joy, and vital, flowing life, of fetters broken, of health restored, of fears overcome, of inhibitions dissolved, and of talents and abilities uncovered and brought out into the light of usefulness and service. Rejoice and be glad that you are a Christian! Happiness is what I expect of you!”
Do you think you would find these injunctions difficult to live up to? Perhaps you have loved ones away from home and are lonely and anxious. Maybe you try to be cheerful and to get that feeling of joy, but in spite of this you are depressed a great deal of the time. If this is so, do you know what has happened? You have forgotten to be thankful! You have forgotten that you are companioned by a Father who loves you and that your indwelling Christ is never absent but always with you as your comforter and friend. You have forgotten to let gratitude flow through you. A thankful man is a happy man. He cannot be grateful and depressed at one and the same time. It is impossible! If you get out of bed in the morning consciously grateful for the things with which you are blessed, you have started on a happy day. If you remember to give thanks several times through the day, not only for present blessings but for future ones, allowing a feeling of gratitude and love to flow through your whole being, you will find at night that you have had a happy and successful day.
There is a passage often quoted: "To them that love God all things work together for good.” In that brief passage you have the universality, the activity, the harmony and beneficence of God’s government; and you are God’s creation and are governed by Him. "All things!”
No experience however difficult, disturbing, or tragic but can be transformed into a lesson and blessing by turning it over to God and His love and wisdom. This government has no uncertain purpose, no doubtful issue, only the calm, settled, constant, powerful purpose, of eternal love. In the loving care of the Lord of the universe and under the ever-guiding influence of the indwelling Christ the humblest person is secure. God is able at all times to raise you up out of the fog of worldly hurts and disillusionments and fears into the sunshine of His love. But you have to meet Him halfway, and you can do this by remembering to be thankful. That starts the raising process. You can feel yourself becoming lighter in heart and mind just as soon as you start giving thanks. Jesus worked wonders with this formula. So can you and I!
We should make praise and gratitude a habit. A day filled with it is a success and a gain. A day without it is a loss, though materially it may be a success.
Yes, "Happiness is good for you!” If you are interested, really interested in being happy, or happier than you now are, I have a few suggestions or rules for you. If you put them into daily practice, you are bound to find more of that happiness which is so good for you.
1. Get it into your head and heart and religious creed that it is right for you to enjoy things, that Jesus taught enjoyment of all wholesome activities. He used children as an example of the way to be carefree and happy and to enjoy life. Remind yourself frequently that God loves you and approves of what you do. You won’t go far wrong if you are claiming this approval! Don’t allow yourself to feel either inferior or superior. Do all to the glory of God and know that "with God [through you] all things are possible.” His courage is your courage, His power is your power, His faith your faith, His vision your vision, His strength your strength.
2. Make a mental list of all the things that have been given you to enjoy and find happiness in, your home, your family, your garden, your friends, books, music, pets, and more. Then consciously learn the art of enjoying them by giving thanks for them.
3. Realize how many beautiful things are free gifts to us. Sunrise and sunset, the stars at night, the loveliness of moonlight, the warmth of the sun, all the beauties of nature, mountains, rivers, valleys, oceans, trees, waterfalls, rainbows, and flowers. All these are free to be enjoyed every day of our life. Then there is love, loyalty, sympathy, faith, understanding, generosity, whether found in ourselves or others—oh, so much for which to be thankful! Learn to pray often:
"Thank You, Father, for Your strength, Your courage that leads me through the darkness into the light of Your eternal love. Thank You for the ability You have given me to let this love flow through me out to my fellow men. Thank You for Your nearness, for being a 'lamp unto my feet’ and my never-failing source of wisdom. Thank You, Father, for all the things.”
4. Realize that the greatest of all joys lies in making others happy, in bringing out the best in them, and in helping them to help themselves. The most effective method of accomplishing this is to get the habit of silently blessing people. The simple, silent statement “I behold the Christ in you” will work seeming miracles in harmonizing relationships, bringing happiness to yourself and others, and incidentally raising the whole world a little toward universal peace and understanding. You cannot be happy if you are holding a grudge, being critical, or finding fault with yourself or others.
5. Cultivate your ability to see beauty all around you. In people, in nature, in experiences. John Ruskin declared, "Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see.” Refuse to see ugliness, imperfection; refuse to entertain fears, anxieties, and doubts. Any or all of these will come into your mind at some time or other. It is no sin to be tempted! It is what you allow yourself to entertain in your thoughts that causes so much trouble, or so much joy, as the case may be. Your choice is whether to entertain negative or positive thoughts, and on your choice hangs your happiness.
6. Learn not only to see beauty but also to give it out, to radiate it. Let others see that you do not serve a hard master, one who expects you to be glum, stiff-backed, or perpetually dignified, but show by your cheerful disposition, your loving wisdom in dealing with others, your willingness to be understanding and helpful that you serve a Master who is love; that serving Him is not a penance but a joy. "Ye are the light of the world.” Clean and polish up your lantern and "let your light shine”!
7. Remember that happiness must be shared to be real. Selfishness is nearsightedness and sometimes blindness. It defeats the very ends for which it aims.
Yes, happiness is good for you. Dr. A. A. Willits in a little book published many years ago called "Sunshine” likens a happy, useful life to a singing brook. Happiness needs circulation; it must be a living, vital stream, ever expanding and touching other lives. A blessed circle is the joy that you pass on to others and that comes back to you multiplied.
Do not be afraid to be happy, fun-loving, laughter-loving. Happiness is good for you. Good for your body, good for your mind and soul.
I shall just briefly go over these seven suggestions for happiness:
- Get it into your head that it is right for you to be happy.
- Make a list of the things you have to enjoy.
- Consider how many beautiful things are free gifts to us.
- Realize that the greatest of all joys lies in making others happy, in bringing out the best in them.
- Cultivate your ability to see beauty all about you: in people, in nature, in experience.
- Remember that happiness must be shared to be real.
—Kathleen W. Welch