The joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10) and the Fruit of the Spirit includes joy (Galatians 5:22). Joy is something that Christians possess from the moment we say “Yes!” to Jesus. God’s presence with us in every circumstance of life is our joy — and no one can take that from us.
Although we have spiritual joy, we do not always experience happiness.
Positive events and situations make us happy — and negative ones make us unhappy. When we are going through a season of constant challenges — employment issues, financial struggles, strained relationships, and other difficulties — happiness can slip away. When happiness seems far away, it is easy to stop being our best selves. Unhappy people can be tired, cranky, and cynical and may even push others away.
When you experience unhappy seasons, I want to encourage you to look for happiness in the midst of challenges. (The photo here of the seagull on a beach makes me smile.)
I will always remember my gentle friend Hewitt. He taught me a phrase that has stuck with me for years. In describing a positive event in his life, he said, “It tickled my heart!” What a wonderful way to describe happiness!
Take inventory now of what tickles your heart so that when difficult times come, you will smile and remember that this time will pass.
- What makes you smile? Do the antics of your children, grandchildren, or pets make you grin from ear to ear? Perhaps your biggest smile comes at watching a sunrise, listening to birds sing, or swimming in the ocean?
- What makes you get out of bed each morning? Do you so love writing that you can’t wait to get to your laptop or notebook? Perhaps you don’t care about the bumper-to-bumper traffic you fight each day because you know you will make a difference through your work?
- What makes you laugh — big belly laughs complete with tears streaming down your cheeks? I am probably the only person on the planet that loves jokes about vegetables — but sometimes they make me laugh until I cry. Remember the last time you laughed that hard.
- What makes you wonderful? Do not be embarrassed or ashamed to claim your gifts. It is not bragging if God is the source! Can you sing like an angel, paint like Frida Kahlo, tell stories like Chonda Pierce, soothe sick babies, or “whisper” to misbehaving dogs?
At times, our lack of happiness is not from circumstances beyond our control. There are moments when we rob ourselves of happiness because we cannot forgive others or ourselves. If this is part of your reality now, take the steps necessary to let go of the past and revive your happy heart.
God has already forgiven you — are you willing to say that God was hasty or wrong?
Go to a trusted spiritual friend or mentor (or your pastor) to work through the process of self-forgiveness. If appropriate, ask forgiveness of those whom you have hurt. You cannot make them forgive you, but this is part of reclaiming your happiness. When you have done what you can, the rest is up to them and God. With the Lord’s joy within, start to look for your happiness again.
When happiness returns, we will have more energy to do the holy work to which God has called us as daughters, wives, mothers, friends, mentors, volunteers, and followers of Jesus. When our happiness returns, we will be able to help others look for their own — and perhaps even discover the joy of the Lord in the process.
My prayer for you is that God “tickles” your heart today and every day. Be happy.
About Carol Pazdersky
Carol Pazdersky is an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church. She serves the faith communities of St. John’s UMC in Lutherville, MD, and Idlewylde UMC as lead pastor. As the member of the District Committee on Ministry, Carol has mentored other women as they answer their call to ministry. On a daily basis, Carol ministers with women who are seeking to balance their personal, professional, and spiritual lives. She is a wife, mother of three young adults, friend, and animal lover and on the same journey to find balance.