ENCOURAGEMENT TIMES OF SORROW
1 How Can I Shake My Unhappiness?
Is any one of you in trouble?
He should pray.
Is anyone happy?
Let him sing songs of praise.
James 5:13 NIV
Are you happy?
Perhaps you’ll say you have problems that prevent happiness such as:
• People are not treating you with respect.
Or maybe you’ve been “unlucky”; born into a burdensome life.
Does that sound like you?
If so, you may ask, Why are those reasons for being unhappy justified for you, but not for others who are worse off than you? People in more lowly jobs than yours, with worse handicaps? Yet who greet each day whistling and smiling? Or how about those who are sitting in wheelchairs, unable to feed themselves, who nonetheless always have something cheerful to say and are never heard to blame their circumstances? If so, don’t worry.
These people have discovered a secret, but it’s a secret that belongs to you as much as it belongs to them. It’s this: happiness is not something you are bequeathed at birth, like wealth or poverty; it is not something you earn through hard work, like a college education; and it is not something given to you because of your dialect or skin color.
Happiness is a state of mind that you choose for yourself.
Being happy cannot be attributed to circumstances—though many try—and cannot be dependent on someone else—though many think it is.
Happiness is something you can have, right now.
Just by choosing.
Your operator’s manual—the Bible—says:
When times are good, be happy;
but when times are bad, consider:
has made the one as well as the other.
Ecclesiastes 7:14 NIV
People who are happy have chosen to adopt an optimistic attitude and to approach every day in an intimate partnership with God.
This is the day the LORD has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24 NIV
So ask yourself, “Am I happy?”
If the answer is no, ask, “Do I want to be?”
Janet Marie Withers wrote about a friend who was known for asking people that all-important question:
Are Ya Happy?
My dear friend Sebastian died in December. We worked together and were best friends.
Sebastian always used a personal greeting with me. Whenever he’d come by my desk, he would smile and say, “Are ya happy?”
The day I found out Sebastian had passed away, I was in shock. I left work and prayed for a sign from God that some essence of Sebastian would still survive, in spirit, and that somehow my grief could be heard.
I had to mail a Christmas package. I didn’t feel up to it but decided to go to the post office anyway. As I stood in line, a big man in front of me, about the size of Sebastian, turned and casually asked, “Are ya happy?”
I nearly fainted.
I thought I hadn’t heard him right. Fumbling for words, I finally spilled out: “I’m overwhelmed!”
He smiled gently, turned, and moved forward in line.
I haven’t heard that phrase used often, except with my dear Sebastian. It’s not a typical greeting. I wanted to believe that, somehow, God and Sebastian were reaching out to me from beyond.
I left the post office with a surreal feeling—still unconvinced, still holding on to my grief and pain; still shrugging it off as just a coincidence.
Days later, my son and I were at McDonald’s. An older woman chatted us up and then, suddenly, paused. She looked at me and said, “There’s a book I sense you need.”
She wrote the title and author’s name on an envelope. I kept it until I got home. I was going to throw it away . . . not feeling like receiving any pep talks. But I kept it.
On Christmas morning I opened a gift from my sister, Dorothy, and there it was—that very book—When God Winks at You: How God Speaks Directly to You Through the Power of Coincidence, by SQuire Rushnell.
I excitedly showed my sister the note given to me by the woman I’d met at McDonald’s.
Now it all makes sense. It’s a comfort to know that hearing Sebastian’s phrase, “Are ya happy,” was no coincidence: it was a Godwink!
Janet Marie Withers
What a wonderful lesson from Janet. It makes us wish we all could have known Sebastian. He seems like the type of person who never wandered around telling everyone what a bad day he was having, what terrible things others were doing to him, or what a difficult hand he’d been dealt since birth. Instead, Sebastian chose to be happy. It was that simple.
So can you.
Sebastian was in sync with this teaching from the ancient Scriptures:
I know that there is nothing better for men
than to be happy and do good while they live.
Ecclesiastes 3:12 NIV
Today, decide for yourself whether you are going to look at the glass as half full or half empty. It’s your choice. Yours and God’s. And He wants your glass to be overflowing.
Try being a Sebastian today. Are ya happy?