A few days ago Ann, Nick and I were talking about some of the hard things people we know are going through. I said something like “I hope that they can be happy.”
Ann surprised me a little with her response: “I’m not sure they know how to be happy.”
If you’re like me, you’ll stop and think about that for a while.
If things are good, then you are, you know, happy.
It’s the natural order of things.
Or is it?
Just like anything else in life that is worthwhile, being happy takes hard work.
A lot of it.
Ann and I have talked about how our marriage takes a huge amount of work, yet at the same time it doesn’t feel like it takes any amount of work at all.
We think it’s because the hard work has become such a natural part of our life, that it’s just the way it is.
It is that way because the hard work needed (i.e. thinking before speaking, putting the other first, refusing to take offense where none was intended, choosing to see each other’s little idiosyncrasies as something to smile about rather than be annoyed by, and knowing that this is the most important thing we will do here on earth) has, over time, become the standard in our home.
We will accept nothing less for each other.
Wouldn’t the quest for happiness be the same?
I think there could be three schools of thought that people might believe can bring happiness:
We patiently wait for it to come to us.
You know what I mean, if we just endure things a bit longer then all the hard stuff will change and we will be happy. Just take a deep breath, hold it, and buckle down and push and eventually “this too shall pass” and things will be easier.
News flash: things really don’t get easier in that regard; in fact, they continue to get harder as our capacity to learn and grow becomes stronger.
Waiting for happiness to come after our particular circumstance has changed is futile.
So . . .
We are sure that it is out there somewhere, and we feel we must leave where we are to find it.
You’ve heard it before. Someone tells you that they need to leave where they are and go “find themselves.” I guess the thought here is that a journey of self-discovery is the key to happiness.
The thing with that type of thinking is that you can’t be the real you where you are.
The only case where I think this would be valid thinking is if we are mired in some pretty spiritually dangerous temptations and about to make some horrible choices. Then of course the only answer is to RUN.
They travel under our skin and go where we go.
So, if we can’t leave our sadness behind, then . . .
We actively look for, accept, and embrace the bits of happiness sprinkled among the hardships and trials of life – the bits that are currently being blocked either by blindness or bitterness.
We can’t run from unhappiness any more than we can run toward happiness.
Think for a moment about Betsy Ten Boom in the concentration camp and being grateful for the fleas. It truly was a blessing that made all the difference in their ability to have the gospel active in their lives at a time when they needed it most.
Heavenly Father knew that.
And He provided.
I testify with a sure knowledge that He is doing it for you just as confidently as I know He does it for me.
But just like anything else in life that is worthwhile, seeing our already-existing personal happiness takes hard work.
A lot of it.
But with our eyes open to comprehend just how our bothersome fleas have the ability to bless us, then the huge amount of work can, at the same time, feel like it doesn’t take any amount of work at all.
Now that you know that opening your eyes can help put the ever-elusive happiness within your grasp, what are you going to do about it?