Be Happy No Matter What – Do Everything with Joy!
Being joyful makes a huge difference in the quality of our lives and in the lives of those with whom we come into contact. We all know how fun it is to be around someone who loves life. "[J]oy is life in excess, the overflow of what cannot be contained within any one person," Eugene Peterson explains in The Message in his introduction to Paul's letter to the Philippians.
How do we find and experience this "life in excess," this "overflow" of wonderful feelings?
- Peterson explains that "happiness is not a word we can understand by looking it up in the dictionary."
- Rather, happiness is best learned or experienced by being around someone who is a "master" at being happy.
Paul was such a master, and continues to serve as an example for us. In his letter to the Philippians, which he wrote from prison, Paul's own happiness provides insights that can help us lead a genuinely happy life. This is what he says:
"I'm glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess.… I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. (The Message, Phil. 4:10-13)
- Be content with and grateful for what we have, rather than focus on or complain about what we don't have.
- Make the most of what we have, whether it's a lot or a little.
- Remember Jesus' story about the men who were given the talents, or the money. Those who improved them got more. The one who didn't do anything with the little money he was given, lost it (KJV, Matt. 25:14- 29).
- If we've been given a lot, share it. There is joy in giving.
- Realize that no matter what type of situation we're in, we can make it through: "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (KJV, Phil. 4:13).
If Paul can find contentment in prison, we certainly can find contentment at home, school, work -- regardless of whether or not the situation we're in is exactly what we want it to be.
- Finding contentment does not mean that we settle for a bad situation or simply paste a smile on our face and pretend we're happy.
- True contentment comes from understanding how much God loves and cares for us.
- Paul reminds us, "You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need" (The Message, Phil. 4:19).
- So, there's no reason to get stressed out or feel unhappy since God is giving us absolutely everything we need -- including joy.
Paul's example and words provide more help:
Brethren … this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (KJV, Phil. 3:13-14)
- Forget what's past. Often we get unhappy because we dwell too much in what we should have done, what mistakes we've made, how we wish we would've acted with others (the list could be endless).
- Dwelling on past mistakes does not make us happy.
- Dwelling on past happiness doesn't always make us happy in the present. Sometimes it makes us feel worse, especially if we feel we're not happy now and wish we could go back to the past when we were "happier."
- But being grateful for past happiness and trusting that real happiness has never left us, is always with us because joy comes directly from God, revolutionizes how we feel and how we act.
- Be aware of what's needed at the moment to bring joy to our present situation. All we need to do is listen to God for direction.
- Be glad that we're striving to understand and live the life Christ Jesus wanted us to live -- a life full of the happiness of freedom and life.
Paul highlights the need to express our rock-solid sense of happiness in what we do and how we share it with others:
Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God's energy, and energy deep within, you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.
Do everything readily and cheerfully -- no bickering, no second-guessing allowed. Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air…. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. (The Message, Phil. 2:12-15)
- Being ready, willing, and cheerful in everything we do enables us to enjoy the mundane tasks in life (such as washing dishes, cleaning our rooms, taking out the garbage, etc.). These are things that must get done. Why let them make us unhappy? It's not worth it.
- Understanding that the energy we express comes from God, and therefore is unlimited, makes it easy to be happy.
- Being "sensitive before God" enables us to be sensitive to others' needs.
- Allowing God to work His work through us ensures that everything we do will have a sense of beauty, symmetry, and pleasure.
- Expressing joy in our own lives provides a model for others and helps them find joy in their own lives.
- Being that "breath of fresh air" fills others with joy, refreshes and rejuvenates their lives.
- Being a transparency for God enables others to see God, and therefore themselves, clearly.
And if we're ever tempted to let worry (about anything or everything) take away our joy, Paul has some great counsel:
Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you're on their side, working with them and not against them….
Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious -- the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. (The Message, Phil. 4:4-9)
Isn't it wonderful that:
- God is working us into "his most excellent harmonies;"
- God is making us happy;
- God's wholeness settles any concerns we have and replaces them with joy!
And as we dwell on the "best" in life -- on what's "true … honest … just … pure … lovely … of good report" (KJV, Phil. 4:8) -- we can't help but be filled with a joy that is overflowing, a happiness that is lasting and strong. What's more, when we do as Paul suggests -- "Be glad in God" (The Message, Phil. 3:1); "Rejoice in the Lord alway" (KJV, Phil. 4:4) -- we know that our happiness can never be taken away: it's ours because God has given it. How much easier and natural it becomes, then, to share it.