I love the time spent in the car with my kids. They feel more free to talk and ask questions where they can’t be overheard and there are fewer distractions. Recently, my youngest was in a talkative mood, and she loves to ask rapid-fire questions. If I don’t respond quickly, she moves on to her answer or another question or topic, but the question that stuck in my mind was this:
“What made you the HAPPIEST in your whole life?”
As a Christian, I know the answer should be when I committed to follow God. As a mom, I know my answer should be the birth of my children. I don’t “should” on myself, so …. what, when, where was I the happiest?
As a teen, I can remember flying across the Lake on a slalom ski and experiencing pure joy! On the best days, I got up before my siblings so I could be the first one on the lake. My mom or dad would wade into the water to throw me the life jacket, rope, and ski, then get all set to take off. When I was set, the engine would roar to life and then I would step onto the ski as the rope reached its limit. There would be a moment of uncertainty, wondering as I committed to the ski if I was balanced and had timed my take-off to glide across the water or would fall into the frigid water and have to shiver while the boat circled back for another try. On those early mornings, the lake was smooth and shone like glass and I could ski as long as I wanted before signaling to return to the shallow water where we began. On good days, I wasn’t wet above my knees. On other days, I was drenched from head to toe and the wind and water were chilly, causing my teeth to chatter, but it was a risk I was willing to take for the EXHILIRATION and JOY of skiing early in the morning on the smoothest water. (And bragging rights for the day.)
I remember those scenes so vividly. As an adult, it’s harder to remember the times when I’ve been deliriously happy. Maybe I’m so blessed and have had so many wonderful times that they blur together and it’s hard to distinguish ONE memory. My happy place is in nature, so snow skiing, camping, and the beach would be among the top collective memories. I can also remember the day I was awarded my first national certificate in sign language interpreting and spinning in circles with a friend who helped me celebrate!
As an adult, I also see the flaw in the question. No THING makes me happy. I choose to be happy. I choose joy even when my child is in ICU. I choose to be happy despite disease, illnesses, surgeries, divorce, death, depression, broken vehicles, money problems, etc… I can have hours, days, and sometimes weeks that STINK! There are more problems than hours, it seems. I can choose to be mad, angry, frustrated, sad and depressed. OR I can choose to tackle the problems without letting them steal my joy.
That’s the choice I have. It is to deal with the situation with grace and love and joy, or let the “problem” overwhelm me and steal positive feelings such as happiness. I’m so grateful to have learned that I can be happy even when circumstances aren’t great. I am glad I’ve had many chances to practice living joyfully despite the situation.
James encourages us to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. ” (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=James+1&version=NIV) I wouldn’t have written this verse–why do I want to be HAPPY about the bad stuff? What Can I possibly learn from the struggles? But my Heavenly Father, who is wiser than me, tells me to survive with JOY!
I’m still working on JOY, but I don’t fall into deep despair and gloom when trials appear. I’m practicing the joy. I feel like a grad student at final exam time sometimes–ready for the testing to be over, but the tests have produced good qualities in my life. And God sends people to help me through so that I’m not alone. It may be a friend, or a coworker, or a neighbor, but God has always blessed me with help and comfort during those darkest times. Jesus cried in the Garden because He was ALONE! God made us and knows we need each other. And He supplies all our needs.
So ask yourself, When have you experienced PURE JOY? When have you been the happiest? The question was eye-opening for me.
Acknowledgment: Depression is real. I’m so grateful for professionals and medications to help me through the deepest valleys. In fact, large percentages of individuals use medications to control their depression and to stabilize their moods. Some do it for a short time while others are on medications for extended periods or life. Prescribed medications are safer and have more predictable results than the “self-medicators” who use illegal substances, or legal substances in illegal ways. There is no shame or judgment for anyone getting the help they need.