One of the many reasons we loved my grandmother, “Gag”, was for her cheekiness, and for making us laugh at the wrong moments. She died in 1991 but still I hear her smart answers in my head, day in day out.
Her answer to the questions at the top would be along the lines: “Well it’s better than being a misery guts anyway”.
Simon asked a good question a couple of Sundays ago: “How can we shine like stars?” The image behind him gave me a clue which is extremely obvious. They’re bright against a dark sky. Duh! I.e. they stand out in contrast to their surroundings.
It can’t be only me who notices a fixation in our culture with what “makes me happy”. Parents say they want their kids to “be happy”. People choose partners based on how happy the Significant Other makes them feel. Retail therapy happens because the shoppers believe that buying stuff makes them happy. They may even be right! For a couple of hours. Endorphins have a short shelf-life. (Google them!)
So God must have a lot to say on the subject??? Em… No! The New Testament uses the word “happiness” twice in NIV, and “happy” 4 times. A bit more in the Old Testament but not a lot. Apparently it’s not particularly high on God’s agenda: our happiness. How shocking!
He does discuss several alternatives. Here are 3 that I am very grateful for:
Joy (68 mentions in New Testament!)
All these 3 are given by God – so can be asked for. Try it!
I did the other day – for joy. It’s January. (I’m part-plant and the dark and cold just don’t do me any favours.) Plus Richard has had the flu for a week now, and has been wretched, and looking after someone who was too sick to be grateful, I was starting to feel sorry for myself. (You may recognise the endless battle not to give in to self-pity. Especially when there’s nothing worthy of pity!) Anyway, as they say, the first step is recognising the problem, and I was joyless, so I asked for joy. Sometime later I was surprised to catch myself singing, and remembered my manners enough to say “Thanks!”
The thing with happiness is that it requires life to be meeting your expectations. Which it rarely is. Especially when you’re putting a lot of effort into planning for your happiness. Being given joy or contentment or being blessed – whatever that might look like on a given day – none of these depend on how life is treating you. Only how God is.
Who God is.
And he is good.