Two weeks ago. . . I began my blog . . .
“Blueberries make me happy,” I smiled as I popped several in my mouth while preparing breakfast. They are full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals—all things beneficial. I am amazed that God in his goodness created these round blue gems. At another time I run to the window when I hear a flock of Canadian geese squawking overhead. I am awed at their journey, taking them south for a winter vacation or north to their summer home. Imagine. They have been traveling this route for years, knowing perfect dates and timing for travel. I love that I am in this moment at this time, and I smile.
For me, it is the simple things. I spot a bright cardinal out the window now, and I smile. “Grateful people tend to appreciate simple pleasures, defined as those pleasures in life that are available to most people. And happiness is near impossible if you are selfish about sharing it.” (Journal of Social Behavior and Personality)
I mentioned to Tom one morning that I was saddened that someone I know is not happy. Happiness is a choice he said. This sent me on a search to discover why some humans are happy—no matter what —and for others, happiness escapes them. You just choose happy. Right!
The next days I focused on happy—choosing to rejoice. And I smiled at all I met. After all, “A happy heart makes the face cheerful.” (Proverbs 15:13) Gratitude, thankfulness and happy are all wrapped up, and I am like a kitten playing with a ball of colored yarn. After months of illness last year, I readily embrace the beautiful blessings of today.
Then I had the blueberry morning!
I had written a few more positive comments on the choice of happy and left the blog to finish and finesse the next day.
Today, after many days, I write . . .
That evening a phone call changed my perspective on happy. I had to decide if blueberries made me happy any longer. Could I smile at those I met in the marketplace? me . . . through tears of pain and sadness. My search now led me another route.
Happiness is a Choice wrote Minirth and Meier in 1978 in dealing with issues of depression. That phrase is easily tossed around by me, a wanna-be PollyAnna, when counseling someone struggling to survive life at the moment. But can I choose happiness when disappointments and heartaches come? Are the blueberries as good? Do I believe Ecclesiastes 3: 12? “I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live.”
One theory in psychology research suggests that we all have a happiness “set-point” that largely determines our overall well-being. We oscillate around this set point, becoming happier when something positive happens or the opposite, afterwards returning to equilibrium.
But this set-point, to a certain extent, can be reset. Although our general mood levels and well-being are partially determined by factors like genetics and upbringing, roughly 40 percent of our happiness is within our control, according to some experts, and a large body of research in the field of positive psychology has shown that happiness is a choice that anyone can make. As psychologist William James put it, “The greatest discovery of any generation is that a human can alter his life by altering his attitude.” (The Huffington Post, December 2013)
After three storm alerts from the phone, serious lightning, hail and heavy rains sent me to my safe place last midnight. Tom stayed warm in the bed so he could watch the storm (maybe another lesson for me in that!) Snuggled in my small space, I wondered at blueberries and tried to smile. As I processed the storm noises with the storm of pain within, I had one choice. I could trust in the One who knows and loves me that even if the house blew away, we would somehow be safe. That was my only option.
This morning opened with skies colored with glorious blue. One would hardly know there had been a storm hours previous. I was reminded of the verse in Nehemiah 8:10 as I walked later: “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Suddenly it dawned on me that I could also say, “the strength of the Lord is my joy”, and I choose joy this moment.
Joy verses abound in Scriptures. The words happy, joy, joyful, rejoice, blessed are you –translated ‘happy are you’ in some texts — are used multiple, multiple times. Even though ‘happiness is a choice’ may sound too simple, too easy, too difficult—it is the only choice we have. My research ends in the same way. I can choose.
Philip Yancey tells of a letter he received from a friend whose daughter, Peggie, was terminally ill. The mother wrote:
The weekend before she went into the hospital for the last time, Peggie came home all excited about a quotation from William Barclay that her minister had used. She was so taken with it that she had copied it down on a 3 x 5 card for me: “Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory.” She said her minister must have had a hard week, because after he read it he banged the pulpit and then turned his back to them and cried. (Philip Yancey, Disappointment with God (Zondervan, 1997), p. 157)
Life hurts. There are hard things. Sometimes too hard; there are no blueberries, no geese flying–just storms. But I can choose to turn the pain into glory. I can choose happy; I can choose trust.
Choosing . . . to smile. . . through tears