“Happy” is so not my word; I strongly dislike its conditional status. In fact, in my circle of friends, if you talk about being happy, I might just interrupt you and tell you to “stuff it.” I would tell you that I’m pretty sure I haven’t been “happy” a day in my life. But the truth is, if I think about it, I’m lying to you. Yes, I’ve been happy, but recognizing this has been a journey in and of itself. I’d like to tell you about it.
This idea of happiness has been an elusive concept for me, so I decided to go to the experts. Over the past few months, I have read three works of nonfiction centering on the idea of happiness— two of these books specifically focusing on Biblical happiness. Is it okay to pursue happiness? Does God want us to be happy? What is the difference between joy and happiness? Is there a difference at all?
Over the course of my research, I learned that Scripture often uses the words “joy” and “happiness” interchangeably. In this way, happiness can be seen as an obvious counterpart to joy, not as an opposite perspective. I had always thought that joy was the more holy of the two words. One shouldn’t seek happiness; one should be focused on attaining joy. Like I said earlier, happiness is such a conditional thing; its root “hap” makes it easy to think about what “happens” and correlate it to how “happy” it makes me. Joy always seemed like a deeper, inner contentment. To learn that joy and happiness are often one-in-the-same threw me for a loop. I was intrigued. I wanted to dig deeper.
One of the books I read over the past few months was The Happiness Dare by Jennifer Dukes Lee. In reading her book and working through my Gallup StrengthFinder results, I realized that I am an achiever and doer. Getting things done and being productive is what makes me the most happy and fulfilled. It goes beyond that first, initial response upon completion. I don’t just sigh in relief that I have accomplished something; I carry this feeling of completion with me throughout the rest of the day— sometimes the rest of the week. I find incredible satisfaction in reaching a goal and knowing that I did it well.
The only downside to my doing and achieving nature is that I don’t often stop long enough to revel in that happiness. I need to take time to celebrate my accomplishments before rushing on to my next goal, otherwise, I will feel that drive to accomplish again, and just like that I will be off to the next thing.
Being a doer and achiever is the best version of myself that I have to offer to the world; only I know what makes me happy and I shouldn’t be burdened by other’s expectations for my life. What brings me joy and happiness is unique to the way in which God created me, and I believe that He finds joy in the moments when I celebrate a job well-done.
Here are a few snapshots of moments where I experienced happiness:
- Dancing around my kitchen after a late-night decision at camp that was resolved in my favor
- Reading and relaxing after having dinner with friends who are like family
- Sitting at Lambeau field with friends and my sister
- Finishing the process of writing a book or song
- Sunday afternoons after leading worship,, knowing that I did my best and I can relax
- Quiet Christmas Eve dinner for one
- Packer victories
- Following my performance at semi-finals in Nashville because my response was both of happiness and inner peace
- The day I found my first apartment
- The morning after my CD release when the phone woke me up because I was blissfully sleeping
- Having coffee with my pastor on the day he offered me the job
- First days entertaining in my new home
- Hazelnut Tree Christmas concerts
- The first taste of a vegan cupcake
- Chris Tomlin concerts
I’m still exploring this idea of Biblical happiness, and I think the concept of joy and happiness will always be something I will be working through. I don’t think I am naturally joyful; in fact, I’m pretty sure I am more introspective and I allow particular situations to dictate how I respond. I want to be more conscious of those snapshots of happiness and seek to recognize them when they come along. I am hoping that by concentrating on seeking happiness that I will find a deeper sense of joy within my heart and in my relationship with God.
In the coming weeks, I want to move forward with this idea of happiness as it relates to suffering and struggle. I want to examine happiness through the lens of disability and adverse circumstances. I want to find joy— even happiness in the midst of the darkness. Will you join me on this journey?