“It’s hard to make flamingos happy.” That’s what my son, Clayton, said to his friend, Brandon, a few years ago.
“How do you know about the emotional state of flamingos?” I asked as I placed a cheese pizza on the table.
Brandon began to explain that with his computer game, Zoo Tycoon, he could create natural habitats for animals. He shared a quick list of the animals that were easy to satisfy because their habitat needs weren’t very complex.
“See, Mom,” Clayton interrupted, “I told you computer games were educational.”
“Flamingos,” Brandon went on, “are never satisfied with their habitat.”
“Really?” I asked. “So what kind of habitat do they need?”
The boys went on to talk about the balance between saltwater and freshwater. They described the exact amounts of sand and savannah grass that flamingos craved.
I must admit, they had a lot better handle on the subject than I did. When I think of flamingos, they’re usually hot pink and plastic, sticking out of a summer drink or planted in someone’s yard. The boys talked all through the pizza about how they could make those flamingos happy.
I sank my teeth into my slice and thought, “Maybe it’s hard to make flamingos happy because they’re a lot like people.”
We humans are a persnickety flock too. If life doesn’t present just the right balance, or if our habitat falls a bit below our standards, we tend to puff out our feathers in indignation. We think that happiness is simply a matter of habitat, and if we could somehow adjust all of the happenings of a given day, we would be happy.
But the truth is, happiness really has very little to do with our habitat. But it has everything to do with our hearts.
Sometimes, though, “happy” gets a bad rep in Christian circles. We extoll joy and degrade happiness, thinking the former is more spiritual and the latter is, well, just plain self-serving and shallow.
Honestly, I used to think that—I even wrote about it.
I was taught that happiness is dependent on what happens on the outside, while joy is based on what you have on the inside. But, when I really looked in Scripture, I couldn’t find that distinction.
If Christ is in you, your life is bursting with the fruit of His Spirit—joy! And that joy shows up as you find pleasure in all that’s good—laughing and experiencing delight and rejoicing with a smile.
So, if you’re joyful, then you’re happy. Unhappy joy doesn’t exist!
But … what about when things aren’t so good? How do you find the happy then?
Sometimes it’s just plain hard to choose happiness. Life is too heavy, sorrow is too deep, and stress is too high. You can, though, choose to press into the love of God, the comfort of His Spirit, and make choices that bring joy and allow room for happiness in your life.
On this episode of the 4:13 Podcast, KC and I talk about how happiness and joy are far more than emotions you feel. They are also expressions of your faith. You’ll discover what the Bible says about being happy and we’ll share with you three things you can do that are proven to promote happiness even when life isn’t handing out grins.
3 Ingredients for Happiness
- Something to do. Every day needs a purpose. It brings us joy when we have something to accomplish, improve, tackle, contribute to, or enjoy. But, we don’t always know or notice our purpose. Finding our purpose begins with finding our source of life. Our “do” flows from our “be.” We begin with who we are and then live out our identity in what we do. Paul wrote in Ephesians that “we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10). God created you. He is your source of life. And, He created you for a purpose. So, if your day is missing a little zest, press into God’s Word and get to know the God who created you. You will grow in insight as to who you are and your purpose will become clearer—and, as this happens, you’ll taste the sweet ingredient of happiness.
- Someone to love. We feel deep joy and experience happy moments when we love other people. When you love someone else, you live outside yourself. That brings happiness because when we are the only lonely thing on our minds, self-focused thoughts consume us—as in, eat us up and gobble up our joy. Selfish people aren’t happy people. So, whether it is a significant other or a pet or a person in need, love someone besides yourself.
- Something to look forward to. Seeing beyond today ignites our happiness and joy. Sometimes we get the blues because our lives feel “same old, same old.” Even when we’re fulfilling our purpose and loving others, we can still lose a little of that happy shine because we can’t see beyond this day, this task, this situation. We all need something to look forward to. There is power in anticipation! Looking forward to just one thing every day or every week will stir up your happiness and joy.
Your Father God wants you to experience all the joy and happiness you can as you walk with Him all your days—whether it’s through the dark valleys or by the still waters.
So, make at least one of those choices this week and see how it impacts your happiness. Or, you could just decide that you are going to begin these three disciplines for the next month and see how it changes your level of happiness and your awareness of joy.
Remember, whatever you face, however you feel, you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.
This post originally appeared on JenniferRothschild.com and was republished with permission.
Jennifer Rothschild has written 14 books, including the bestseller Lessons I Learned in the Dark and Me, Myself, and Lies. She’s been featured on Good Morning America and Dr. Phil and is the founder of Fresh Grounded Faith events. Jennifer became blind at age 15 and now helps others live beyond limits.