Motivation Article: Look Up For Happiness

April 29, 2023 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Sandra Adams

According to author John Haggai, "It is a basic law of human nature that you feel as you act or think."  Sometimes I don't feel very happy.  I admit it.  Now, you may be tempted to say to me something like, "Turn that frown upside down!" or "Don't worry, be happy!", and your encouragements, well-intentioned as they may be, probably wouldn't help me very much.  That is because my unhappy feelings stem from (what I consider to be) some lousy circumstances.  The solution, of course, is not to try to pump myself up with positive thinking, though, all things being equal, positive thinking beats negative thinking nine times out of ten.  No, positive thinking is an insufficient remedy for curing the blues because it ultimately depends on me.  Lord knows, little ol' me and my wobbly determination level isn't quite enough to get the job done.  I need more than that.  I need help from above.


Thankfully, there is a kind of "positive thinking" that is godward in nature.  It consists of thinking on good things (cf. Phil. 4:8,9) as they relate to God and His kingdom. This kind of thinking goes to the root of the problem–my unbiblical perspective on problems and difficulties, and my faulty expectations for what my life should look like.  So then, it all starts with correcting my thinking.  That said, negative emotions can sometimes be very difficult to overcome by focusing only on renewing my mind and changing my thinking–as helpful as that is.  Sometimes it's necessary to go one step futher and choose to act as if I'm happy (in ways that will be delineated below) even when I'm not feeling particularly so.  

At this point, some of you are probably thinking that acting happy when you're actually feeling sad is the ultimate betrayal of the virtue of our age, that is, the "virtue" of  "authenticity".  To this line of thinking I say with as much gentleness as possible, NONSENSE!   In fact, 1 Thes. 5:16-18 commands me to "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances".   Notice, that is doesn't say to rejoice if I feel like rejoicing, or, if after careful consideration, I determine it is a good idea.  It simply commands me to exercise my Holy Spirit empowered will to obey the call to continual rejoicing.  In other words, God commands me to be happy!  He is able to do so because he knows that He will provide for my happiness when I choose to obey Him.  St. Augustine put it this way: "Give what you command, and command what you will." 

Notice also that the commands to "rejoice," to "pray," and to "give thanks," all involve engaging our bodies in particular actions designed to further our happiness, and, at the same time, bring glory to God.  We are inescapably bodily creatures.  We worship God not only through our thoughts, but also through our actions.  Dispelling sadness is a whole body effort.  (Sometimes the best thing to do when you're feeling down  is to simply go outside for a walk.  It's a good way to clear the mind and refresh the body.)

In conclusion, when I'm feeling sad or despondent I need to change my thinking and even my actions regardless of how I'm feeling at the moment.  When I choose to exercise my will in this way, God will meet me, whether sooner or later, and the dark clouds of discouragement will slowly lift.


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