Our dear friend to RaisingRices, Mary Rabe has written a GREAT piece to share with us about How to Be Happy! This is practical, biblical and thought provoking! Thank you Mary for your wisdom and letting God mold and change you!
How to Be Happy
5 Keys to Happiness from Someone Who’s Learned the Hard Way
By Mary Rabe
If you had seen me at this time last year, I would not have described myself as a happy person. There were some difficult circumstances I was going through at the time, and it had just been a tough year overall, but I also had a lot of beliefs and behaviors that were definitely not conducive to happiness. It’s only been through many months of gaining wisdom and insight through my counselor and putting her advice into practice (as well as countless hours of prayer and dependence on God) that I realized that truth, let go of those negative attitudes and actions, and was able to discover tangible ways to live a truly happy life. Here is what I’ve learned, and some of the changes I’ve made.
- Find your value in God, and enjoy who He made you to be. I wish I could lay out a step-by-step plan to attain this gift for those who are struggling with insecurity and low self-esteem like I was. I think this is one thing that just takes a lot of time, work, processing, and prayer for some people, but I also believe that one positive to that is that those who work to discover who they are and learn to truly enjoy it have a deeper appreciation for that healthy self-esteem. I lived so many years finding my worth and value through what others thought or said about me, and I needed constant reassurance and encouragement in order to be ok with myself. Giving people that kind of power never leads to happiness. It is only by desperately seeking God for His opinion and then believing what He says about us that we can have the kind of settled, peaceful contentment about ourselves that brings real happiness(that doesn’t get blown away the next time a person says something mean or critical). I’m not talking about pride or sinful self-reliance; what I mean is seeing the unique, beautiful creation that you are, accepting how God designed you, being willing to see your flaws and work on them (but notget hung up on them or degrade yourself for them), and being so “ok” within yourself that you don’t need other people to build you up.
- Get rid of jealousy, competition, and any others-centered attitudes/behaviors. We can’t be happy if we are too busy focusing on other people, whether that is by being jealous of what they have, feeling like we need to be better than them, or even centering our lives on making sure everyone is happy. God does call us to love others and even to set their interests above our own (Philippians 2:3) but that does not mean that we spend all of our time trying to make everyone happy, fretting about their opinions and striving to meet their expectations. That kind of a life is just too much work, and it never leads to true fulfilment. Likewise, being competitive with or jealous of others only leads to broken relationships, heartache, and frustration. Any life that is overly focused on other people will not have lasting, genuine happiness.
- Assume the best in others. On the flip side, we can’t have happiness if we are consistently thinking negatively about other people. Going through our days getting offended by everyone, seeing their actions as a personal attack, leaves us viewing the world in a pretty negative light (and who could possibly be happy while believing the world and all of the people in it are “out to get us”?) We do live in a fallen world, and every person we meet is sinful, struggling with their own vices and downfalls. Just think though, what would happen if we gave each other the benefit of the doubt. What is the person who cut you off in traffic wasn’t being a selfish jerk, but was a distracted mommy trying desperately to comfort her screaming baby? What if your spouse never intended to come across as unfeeling in that text message, but was just caught up in a really bad day and was floundering? What if the grumpy checkout cashier is reeling because he just lost a loved one that week and is barely holding it together? What would happen if we took on the practice of purposely excusing each other instead of automatically jumping to being offended? This, of course, does not mean we ignore or excuse blatant sin; the Bible is clear that we are sometimes called to confront sin in the church (an excellent article in how to do that can be found here https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/when-should-you-confront-someone-about-their-sin) but even that is done in a spirit of humility and meekness, not anger or selfishness in the moment.
- Slow Down. We hear this all the time, don’t we? We are urged to “stop and smell the roses” and enjoy the season we are in, but do we really do this? I can’t count the number of times I have rushed through my day, striving to check off tasks, dragging my poor little ones along behind me while being driven ahead by the incessant urge to “do, accomplish, succeed”. There is such a balance to be found between being responsible adults caring for what God has entrusted to us and remembering to be still and enjoy the gifts He has poured out on us. We aren’t going to get a bigger trophy in Heaven for having a longer to-do list accomplished. If our tasks and goals become a slave driver forcing us ahead and rolling over those around us rather than a helpful map to help us navigate life purposefully, then it’s time to STOP. Put away the lists. Set aside the goals. Push pause on the resolutions. Take a day, a week, a month, and stop doing. Get your mind and heart back on track, pray for God’s guidance and wisdom, and learn how to enjoy life again. Once you feel peace and the crazy race inside your soul has ceased, you can prayerfully and slowly add in one thing at a time, checking to make sure you’re still on track and that you are the master of your goals and schedule, rather than the other way around.
- Love what you have. I think one reason so many of us struggle with the point above (slow down) is because we always feel the need to get more. We need to work hard so we can get the next raise and buy a better car/house/fill-in-the-blank. We need to push our kids to excel in school so they can get good grades and have a leg up in life. We have to add in that extra workout so we can lose these last 5, 10, 20 pounds. What if we took time to just celebrate what we have? What if we stopped and said a genuine “thank you” to God for every little thing that “gives us the happiest”? Now, there are some really hard circumstances that we are called to deal with, and God even tells us that “hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12), so it isn’t at all wrong to wish for something we don’t have,unless we let that longing steal from our enjoyment of what we do have. I’ve written about this before (https://raisingrices.com/2018/04/24/i-scream-you-scream-we-all-scream-for-contentment/) but I think it really bears repeating. We can’t fully appreciate and enjoy the life we have, and experience happiness in our days, if we are wrapped up in what we don’t have. Counting your blessings, savoring each moment, finding good in tough circumstances…all of these things “flip a switch” in our brain to go from wanting to appreciating, longing to thankfulness. A practice I’ve found extremely helpful in this arena is doing the Joy Dare challenge from Ann Voskamp. Each month she has daily prompts for finding gratitude in everyday life, and I’ve found it so helpful in getting my mindset right. I’ve written the prompts in a journal, and also taken photos of each one in seasons when I have a little more time. You can find the original post here http://annvoskamp.com/joy-dares/and the entire collection of joy dare prompts here https://s3.amazonaws.com/a.voskamp/BlogFiles/JoyDareCollectionFinalRevision.pdf
I am so thankful for all that God has done in my heart and mind in the last several months to bring about the changes I needed to make in order to experience happiness again. I’m still a work-in-progress, just like everyone else, and I definitely still have seasons of feeling anything but glad; but overall, I can honestly now describe myself as a happy person, and I hope that can be true for each of you as well.