Lasting Happiness

Earlier this week, a friend shared an article with me about maintaining lasting happiness. Since my friend thought the article was useful, I agreed to read it. After all, we can all benefit from learning positive techniques to better ourselves, right?

smilesAccording to the article, psychological studies over the past several years have consistently shown many of us are dissatisfied with our lives and depressed due to daily pressures, stressful life circumstances, money concerns or family strife. The article’s author followed the analysis by giving several suggestions on how to maintain happiness: act happy even if you don’t feel it, indulge more frequently in pampering yourself and focus on the things you have and not on the things you don’t.

An Analysis

The article, although well-meaning, seems to provide little comfort for anyone who has suffered with long-term situational depression or difficult moments in life. I know, at least for me, the solutions the author suggested to maintain happiness rarely ever equal anything lasting. However, I will concede to the fact that feelings associated with experiencing happiness can temporarily relieve mental anguish. I also agree there are benefits to filling our lives with encouraging people and things that reinforce positivity and improve our general sense of wellbeing. But if happiness is temporary, what is long lasting?

Why the Difference between Happiness and Joy Matters

As a follower of Christ, I have learned over the years that happiness is a byproduct of joy and a renewed mind, meaning happiness is a product of what resides in the deepest recesses of our hearts (Romans 12:2). I may seem too picky about separating the terms “happiness” and “joy” which most people swap out interchangeably; however, these terms are starkly different from each other. It’s important to recognize and discuss these differences within Christian circles as well as with non-believing friends to discover lasting fulfillment in our lives.

Like anything we choose to make a primary focus in life, “happiness” can become an idol, which, like a spoiled, needy child, constantly demands attention. I believe this is why so many people who seek permanent happiness outside of spiritual fulfillment in Christ never find it. Life happens. Things go wrong. We experience great sorrows. Suddenly, happiness becomes non-existent.

Just as happiness is a byproduct of joy, joy is a byproduct of the One who lives within me. It is not dependent on my circumstances or emotions of the moment. I have joy so that I may bless others and wear it as a living testament of a life changed by the love, mercy and grace of Jesus. It is my identity in Christ, and when I use the gift of joy to bless others, I find the true meaning of long-lasting joy and fulfilling happiness.

When I use the gift of joy to bless others, I find the true meaning of long-lasting joy and fulfilling happiness.

Personal Lessons Learned

A couple of years ago, I experienced several painful sorrows. Those hard moments defined the weakest and most human aspects of my life. During that time, I forgot my identity. Although my happiness was completely gone for several long weeks and months, I never truly lost my joy and hope in Christ for a new day just beyond the dark clouds.

It is likely many of us have faced or will face hard times at least once in our lives. If you are struggling to find joy in your circumstances, you are not alone. Keep going. There is hope just beyond your clouds of sorrow.

Peace, love and joy to you, dear readers.
The In-Place Missionary

My Strong and Mighty Tower

If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you know my husband and I have seen our fair share of struggles over the past eight years; however, we’re probably not that different from you or someone you know. Let’s face it — sometimes life is hard. When we face difficult times, we have two choices. We can choose to give up and walk away from God, or choose to rely on Him for strength and believe the struggles do not define us, claim us, nor are they the end of the story.Lighthouse

As our family is facing another scary life situation, I am humbly reminded that I am not in control. Although anxiety no longer plagues me, I am still awake to visceral pain and anger I feel. I must acknowledge these feelings if I am honest with myself and others around me. It would be a lie to say I don’t battle myself and my humanity when facing problems; however, these emotions cannot be allowed to control me. The One who has control gives hope, and I’m called to remain hopeful and place all my cares upon Him.

Some people have suggested we should “give up and curse God” like Job’s wife once suggested to her husband because of all the struggles we’ve seen in our marriage, but why would I do that? God has always been faithful to deliver my husband and me from prior situations and has even positioned us mentally, physically, and circumstantially better than before the trouble started. Why would He change His promise now? The Bible promises His faithfulness is unwavering even though our lives shift like the sands with the tide, and my life can testify to this truth. He is my rock, my firm foundation, and my strong and mighty tower, shielding me from the storm. I am not promised a life without struggle, only that He will be there along the way to protect my heart, mind, and soul.

I have been asked before, “How can you believe in a God who is supposedly good who allows suffering, pain, and evil in this world?” My response is simple: He gives us free will, and the struggles we face are not the end of the story. As promised in Scripture, great suffering is equivalent to great blessings. Also, encouragement, love, and mercy are stronger than ever in the face of adversity. How many terrible events have you witnessed personally or seen in the news only to have stories of heroism, compassion, and love overshadow the negative outcome? Good will always prevail, and God is always for His people. Our personal testimonies of enduring and overcoming situations break the shackles that bind other people who are going through the same struggles. Our testimonies are hope and freedom.

Although the evil forces likely delight in causing or participating in the chaos that surrounds my husband and me, they cannot possibly fathom the depth of immeasurable goodness that has resulted with each trial. Our marriage is stronger than ever because God is at the center and binds us tightly together. Our personal fortitude endures because He sustains our strength. Our foundations cannot be shaken even as our lives shatter around us because He is steadfast and stable. If at the end of the day, all we have is the almighty God, we have all we could ever need.

If you find yourself in a rough situation in life, remember: rejoice in the testimony God will give you to bring hope to others around you! Your struggle is not the end of the story, and God will never let you see the battle withut first giving you the victory.

My Encounter with the God of Love

I suffered from an anxiety disorder most of my life. In addition to this disorder, I felt shame and unworthy of God’s love and grace even though I had been a Christian for almost 20 years. But now, I can’t deny I’m loved.

In September 2012, I found myself sitting in a prayer service thanks to the strong urging

Joy and freedom

of a good friend. I remember listening to the live praise music and other Christians around me worshiping God with a love and adoration I didn’t yet understand. I felt nothing. After months of crying and begging God to pull me out of a desperate situation that had only deepened my anxiety and depression, I was completely drained.

“I know you’re real and powerful God, but where are you?” I remember thinking.

The prayer service message that night was all about oppression, mental and physical bondage and how our spirits are affected by these things. As the prayer director spoke, I realized I was the person who needed to hear the message.

“What an odd coincidence,” I remember thinking. But now I know it was a divine appointment.

When the message concluded, there was an opportunity for prayer and worship before we were dismissed. That’s when I felt a tug on my heart as if God was saying, “Go ask for prayer” – so I went to the alter. As the prayer director began to pray over me, she motioned for an intercessor to join us. The girl who assisted didn’t know my story, but immediately said words I’ll never forget, “God wants to know He hears your cries. You think He’s not listening; but He hears you, and He loves you. He calls you His precious daughter.”

After the young intercessor spoke, the prayer director placed her hand on my forehead and prayed for God to break the hold of spiritual oppression and restore my joy. Suddenly, I was overcome with an immediate feeling of immense love and joy. It struck me so hard and so fast that I felt like I might stagger backwards during the prayer, and that’s when the giggles started — and I couldn’t stop. During prayer, joy and happiness overpowered me, and the silly giggles increased into laughter. I felt the love of the Father completely engulf me, sweeping away the pain and the darkness I suffered for so many years.

When the prayer ended, I realized I was a different person. My anxiety disorder was gone and peace had replaced it. I undeniably know God loves me. I will never question His love for me again. For the first time in my life, I have learned to trust with my whole heart.

Thank you for reading my story, and I hope it has encouraged you.

A Life Well Lived

My family recently suffered the loss of my dear uncle who was battling pancreatic cancer. He wrote the family a letter a couple of weeks before his death; and, with the permission of my grandmother, I’m sharing his words with you.

To those I love,

I do not know what God has in mind for me with this illness, but I do know that “All things work together for the good of those who love and trust in Him.”; therefore, I am putting everything in His hands.

I have had people say to me, “You are sure to go to heaven because you treat everyone so well.” As if my by own goodness, I should be rewarded a place in heaven. Let me assure you, my own goodness has failed more often then not! But I am assured a place in heaven because of what Christ did for me over 2000 years ago. On an April morning in 1936, about one month before my 7th birthday, I asked Jesus Christ into my heart and accepted the grace offered through the blood of Jesus on Calvary’s Cross.

On June 14, 2013, when the doctor informed me of the serious nature of this illness, he said without treatment, I would have about three months to live; with tretment, possibly six months to a year. Being the eternal optimist I am, I hope maybe much longer. But if God so wills, I am ready anytime He calls. My desire has always been to live to be 100 years old. Now, I would just like to live long enough to help my friend Col. Stanley Hand celebrate his 100th birthday, and since that is less than five years away, maybe God will grant that wish!

I don’t know why God has chosen me to receive so many of His blessings, but let me assure you that I have been blessed beyond measure! First, He gave me to my parents, a couple who could have been extremely butter because of their early lives; but instead, they were a couple who loved and served God, and whose sweet dispositions blessed everyone around them. They loved their children and understood children so well. I had several friends from my youth tell me they would bring problems to my mother or dad because they would understand, but their own parents would not. When my oldest sister’s high school class held their 65th anniversary, they wrote letters to the class, and of the nine of her classmates who were there, some mentioned something that my mother had done for them. No other parents were mentioned in the nine letters.

I ha three beautiful and wonderful sisters and through them, seven nephews and one niece. I have loved them all very much and strongly feel their love for me. I used to wish I could have been nearer to my sister’s ages. My youngest sister was seven and a half years, middle sister was nine and a half years, and my oldest sister was thirteen years older than I. When they got up in age, I found out why God had spread us out, as I was able to help two of my sisters in ways I couldn’t have, had I been older.

As I grew up, God provided me with wonderful friends. In grade school, high school, college, service, and later in my work-a-day life, God always provided Christian friends. Here at our active living facility, I found a great friend, a former missionary, who has been so faithful through this illness to drive me back and forth for some treatments, and hospital visits.

We have only lived in our current location for a year now, but I have felt the warmth and caring so much from the people here. My wife said she wished she had started counting at the beginning of this illness how many people have told her that they were praying for me. We have had so many offer help in rides, chores and whatever, and Paul, my blind friend, has even offered money to help. This really brought tears to my eyes.

My greatest joy would be to see all those I love in heaven. God does not have a large scale where He weighs the good and the bad; and if the good outweighs the bad, we get to go to heaven. God’s criteria is perfection, and the only sure way to perfection is to put your trust in what Jesus Christ did on Calvary about 2000 years ago. The bible says “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.” I hope and pray everyone who reads this letter will do so.

Love,

Joe