Happy New You!
It’s a new year, and I know I’m hopeless, but I will never get over the feeling that a new year is a great time for a new start. How manyof us are starting a new Bible reading program or a new diet in January? I heard someone say, “I’m making only one resolution for theNew Year. I resolve to never make another resolution that I’m only going to break anyway.” I guess I’ve been there and done that, but I know me pretty well. And one thing I’ve learned about myself is that if I never set my sights on a goal and set off with a fresh start, it’s certain I’m never going to get anywhere. I would be sitting there idling in park for the next 50 years.
I’ve had plenty of instances in being disappointed in myself, and I’m very vulnerable to having dreams and goals bigger than my load limit, much like a child piles food on his plate because he has eyes bigger than his stomach. Still, because I know me, I know it’s time to scrap the failures and the almost-dones that have plagued me and ask the Lord to let me make a new start in the same old direction, the goal of pleasing Him and seeing His will accomplished in my life.
In the next few days the “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” greetings will be replaced with “Happy New Year,” and we do wish happiness in the new year to those we care about. But what about you? Will the new year be a time in your life that can be labeled with that description -- happy?
Our nation’s Declaration of Independence asserts that God has given His creation certain inalienable rights -- life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Notice that I’m not given happiness along with life and liberty. I am thankful to God for this country, but all of us know that just living in America does not guarantee that happiness is going to drop in my lap. I don’t think any of us are surprised by that. But the principles our nation was founded on say that every person has the right to make their own choices and pursue what they think will make them happy.
If you take a look around you, it seems that the ‘pursuit of happiness’ has become the great American pastime. Happiness or unhappiness has been used as an excuse for everything in the world. Everyone is in pursuit of happiness, and everyone seems to have their own version of ‘the American dream.’ For some it’s a certain house or car, a smaller dress size or fewer pounds showing up on the scales. For others it’s the cottage nestled within a white picket fence with a dog and a cat and a swing set in the back yard kind of vision. Some ladies I know have a ‘country farmhouse look’ attached to their American dream, and someone else may have it furnished in a style that might look more modern, cottage, beach-house or something else. But we all have some vision or desire of our own that spurs us on in the pursuit of happiness.
I guess your version of the American dream might actually boil down to your list of, “This is what it will take to make me happy.” But you know, a few minutes of thoughtful meditation might drastically change our perspective about the requirements for happiness. What about those folks in the terminal cancer ward of the hospital? What about their loved ones who suffer alongside them? What about those people who have unexpectedly found themselves in the funeral home today, saying an abrupt good-bye to someone dear? Somewhere in the world are those suffering persecution, being tortured and tormented for their faith. I wonder how different their list would read under the title: “This is what would be required to make me happy...”
I wonder if some of the things on our list might be recognized as frivolous, foolish, childish, selfish or worthless when we got a glimpse of what someone else had listed on theirs? As foolish as it may sound, I’ve met quite a few ladies who convinced me that they must have such a list, and maybe theirs wore the title of: “I refuse to be happy until...” I’m afraid they’re just going to live until they die, and refuse to ever be happy. Worse than that, they may be refusing to let anyone around them be happy either.
Though none of us expected an American birth to equal unending happiness, I’m afraid that most of us felt it a rather rude awakening when we discovered that the new birth of salvation does not automatically guarantee lifelong bliss, either. You and I can be truly saved and remain as unhappy as we insist on being. Still, there is no worse advertisement for Christianity than a miserable, discontented Christian. Do unsaved folks ever think, “Stay away from me. I don’t want to catch whatever is making you so miserable?”
God did say His people should be characterized by a happy outlook on life. “Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the Lord.” (Psalm 144:15) Perhaps my unhappiness might hint that I’ve made an idol out of something less eternal than letting Jehovah God be the God I am serving. “Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God:” (Psalm 146:5) I wonder if my unhappy testimony is convincing to others that there is no hope and no help in God? “...whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he.” (Proverbs 16:2) It is almost certain that unhappiness is a tell-tale symptom that there is some area in my life where I’m refusing to trust the Lord and leave things in His hands.
One purpose God has for us in this world is “.... that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.” (Titus 2:10) God meant for our lives as Christians to ‘adorn the Gospel,’ to be attractive and inviting and make the Christian life desirable to the unsaved, making them want what we have. But who wants to be a Christian if it only makes you sad and blue? If the devil can keep me locked up inside my own misery, he can destroy the value of my words of witness that might have drawn others to the Gospel.
All of God’s people are automatically happy, right? Are you and I the only misfits who have ever struggled to overcome disappointment, disillusionment, discouragement and despair? I’ll bet it’s only the worst people, the most unspiritual who ever felt that way, right?
“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance... Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” (Psalm 42:5, 11) I thought only the worst Christians would be lamenting like this. But David, to whom God gave the distinctive title of being a ‘man after God’s own heart,’ found himself in such a state. In fact, the book of Psalms describes for us many of the victorious mountaintops and deepest, darkest valleys that David experienced in his lifetime.
Please notice that David did not let his train of thought stop and stay at the first station of, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” In every instance he goes on to tell himself, “Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him.” In the darkest hour, he determined to never stop believing that the sun would shine on him once again, and the future was sure to hold some cause for praise. He purposed to actively place his hope in God, not in the ability of self, to bring him out on the other side of that valley.
David fought many giants in his life besides that visible one named Goliath. Later he faced a time when the very people he led and loved turned on him and threatened his life. Most of us haven’t faced opposition quite that fierce, but we have suffered from the fickleness of people we once trusted. I have needed to remind myself again and again to practice the same thing David did. “And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.” (1 Samuel 30:6) Have people problems brought you to the end of your patience, and caused you to be distressed and discouraged? Especially when there’s no one around who’s on your side, don’t forget to encourage yourself.
You’ve heard the statement, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Women seem to have the mood barometer control for the whole family environment That’s also true, to a degree, in a church atmosphere. We ladies have the open door before us to create a happy, friendly, positive, cooperative environment that is a blessing to everyone who comes through the doors of our church. We want our church atmosphere to be characterized with positive and uplifting and encouraging principles of working together, trusting in God, building a faith-filled and caring atmosphere for our church to go and grow and be all that God has planned in the future. We, as ladies, are an important key to the ‘mood’ or personality that prevails at church, as well as at home. Will we do our part to let God be glorified? Will I? Will you?
1) Focus on what you have and count your blessings.
“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Hebrews 13:5)
Look at Eve in the Garden of Eden. She had it all. The perfect home, the perfect husband, the perfect marriage, even the perfect appearance! But she got in trouble with God and lost it all because she allowed the devil to draw her focus away from all that she had, and to zero in on the one thing that God said was off-limits.
How often do we get the grumbles over something we think we should have, but don’t, while we totally overlook and take for granted the thousands of blessings in our lives everyday. Too many people don’t realize or appreciate what they have until they’ve lost it, and then they wish they had it.
A grateful heart is fertile ground for a blessed life. We need to be thankful for all the blessings we have, as well as all the problems and heartaches that we don’t have. Thankfulness gives us a much better perspective and outlook to keep the molehill from becoming a mountain in our estimation. Counting my blessings and thanking the Lord for them daily will bring a happy outlook to my days.
2) Let what you don’t have Become a prayer list, rather than a list of complaints.
“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication
with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” (Philippians 4:6)
God wants us to pray. He wants us to realize that we need Him. I can’t count the number of times I have caught myself saying something about my life or my relationships that could fall under no other category than complaining and whining, and oh how it vexes my soul and I know it grieves the Lord. So what is the answer? Be a liar and say everything is peachy-keen and hunky-dory when I know it’s not? No! The answer is to take my requests to the throne of grace with thanksgiving, instead of broadcasting them as complaints to people who don’t want to hear it and can’t do anything to change it, anyway.
You’ve heard it said that, “Attitude is everything.” Well, it definitely is when it comes to the difference between praying or griping. God is able. “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,” (Ephesians 3:20) “For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” (Psalm 84:11) God WANTS to meet the needs of His children. “And I say unto you, Ask, and itshall be given you: seek, and ye shall find: knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:9-13) Somebody once told a critic, “If we would pray about our problems as much as we complain about them, we wouldn’t have anything left to complain about.”
Answered prayer is a vital part of who God is, and what He wants to be in our lives. “O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come.” (Psalm 65:2) I still face problems and needs that I don’t yet have an answer for, but I know that God does. I need to keep bringing those needs and requests to Him and trust Him for the answers. “It would take a miracle!” Then I’m in good hands, right? Turn those gripes and grumbles into sincere prayers sent heavenward, and see the difference it makes in the amount of happiness in your day.
3) Recognize feminine emotional ups and downs, and don’t be ruled by them.
“He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that
ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.” (Proverbs 16:32)
The way that we are made, as women, entails an ever changing physical and emotional state. But I can choose to control it, and refuse to let it control me. I wrote down a quote years ago that has often been a reminder to me. “A leader has his feelings; he just doesn’t let his feelings have him.” Sometimes you have to stop and give yourself ‘a good talking to.’ If your emotional state says that a terrorist is torturing your first-born child, but the truth is that you just can’t find your grocery list, then it’s time to take a deep breath, ask the
Lord for His help, and remind yourself to rein in your emotions. If somebody really died, then by all means, you need to allow yourself time to grieve and heal. But if everyone is alive and well and just your emotions have dive-bombed out of control, don’t allow that same level of sorrow and grief drag you down into the depths of despair. Master your emotions, or they will master you.
4) Choose happiness and refuse misery.
“All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.” (Proverbs 15:15)
If you are ‘afflicted’ with the ‘Oh-poor’me’ syndrome, all your days will be evil and unhappy. But if you choose the merry heart that the Bible recommends, you can have a continual feast, a party of celebration every day of the year. All of us probably know that certain person who lights up the room when they walk in the door and the party has arrived. They probably have just as many heartaches and problems as everyone else in the room, but they choose happiness. They have to deal with problems and people just like the rest of us, but they refuse to park and idle in that dismal, discouraging place. Deal with it and move on. Let’s get back to enjoying our day.
If you truly have the merry heart that Proverbs instructs us to cultivate, it will show up on your face. “A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.” (Proverbs 15:13) A merry heart will affect every area of your life in a positive way, including your physical health. “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)
In the end, we are probably all about as happy as we choose to be, and as happy as we are obedient to the Lord and the Bible so that God can shower down His blessings on us. Happiness is a by-product of obedience to God and blessing from God, and it is largely a result of our own choices. But one of the main decisions some of us have to make is just to decide to be happy, and decide to get rid of all our requirements.
It’s time to stop saying, “I could be happy if...” or “I won’t be happy until...” Do you know when happiness will finally be within reach? I will be happy when I decide to be happy -- where I am, with what I have, doing what God says He wants me to do.
If you’ve been drowning in the Slough of Despond, there’s no better time than now to make a new start. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful gift to your family and your church to get to enjoy a happy atmosphere with a happy you? Wouldn’t it be a gift, (and maybe even a sacrifice,) of giving glory to the Lord for you to make a new start with the right spirit that gives praise and thanks to God and rejoices in His love? Wouldn’t it be a welcome relief for YOU to have 365 days of the happiest year you’ve ever lived?
Happiness is not found in the right set of circumstances, but in the choices that you make. Happiness is always holding hands with Obedience and Surrender. You can have that Happy New Year if you’ll let the Lord create a Happy New You.
“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight:... Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness. O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise. For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (from Psalm 51)