By Jennifer Maggio, Crosswalk.com
The Secret to Happiness
The endless demands of changing diapers, working two jobs, juggling parenthood, sisterhood, the piles of dirty clothes and laundry, balancing countless balls in the air….the weight of it all seems too much to bear sometimes, doesn’t it? If we are not careful, we find ourselves longing for the next season. We think about how much easier it will be when the kids get potty-trained, start school, or begin driving. We think about how much free time we will have when they go away to college or begin their young adult lives. We dream of finding a new season that will be easier, lighter, more meaningful, and ultimately, one where we will be happier.
The writings of Paul to the church at Philippi give us the key that unveils the truth to finding true happiness. “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty one, plenty or little. For I can do everything, through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13. The secret to finding happiness is in the day-to-day. It is being fully present in every moment, not secretly longing for the next. It is eye contact and deep breaths and laughing….a lot. The joy of the Lord is indeed our strength – the joy of being in His presence and being aware that He is in the details. He walks with us. He does not leave us. The thought of learning to be content in every situation seems simple but can be hard to actually live out. Read on for some tips to uncover how to do just that!
- Forget everything except Jesus. 1 Corinthians 2:2 says, “For I decided that while I was with you, I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified.” What does that actually mean? How do you do that in day-to-day living? What does it look like?
a) Forgetting everything else means forgetting the past. It means forgetting what they did and what you did. It means letting go of bondage that holds you down. It means forgiving, even when they did not deserve it.
b) Forgetting everything else means forgetting to get offended. When they make you mad and hurt you, and are unfair to you, it does not matter. You are carrying the hope that they need. You smile with genuine joy. You forgive with ease. You do not have to be offended. Your savior was crucified that you may be set free.
c) Forgetting everything else means seeking Jesus daily and hourly and in some instances minute by minute. The question is, “Father, what would you have me to do today? How can I serve you? How can I bless you? How can I honor you? The prayer daily must be, “Father, direct my steps. Show me hurting people at work. Help me bless my boss by working with excellence, being on time, and remaining humble. Help me to show kindness to a stranger in Wal-Mart or a cashier who has a less-than-positive attitude.”
2. Trust. 1 Corinthians 1:9 says, “God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.”
a) What does He say He will do? He will keep you strong. He will protect you, fill you with courage, and mount you up on wings like eagles. He will place you as the head and not the tail. He will love you and never leave you and spend eternity with you. He will sustain and provide every need and place the lonely in families and speak to you.
b) What has He done for you before? What has He rescued you from? Has He provided a meal when you did not know where it would come from? Has He sustained your parenting when you did not know how you could do it? Has he moved mountains? Has He created a river in the middle of a dry wasteland? When all else failed in your life, did not Jesus shows up? Rest assured, He will do it again? Peace comes in trusting that God is who He says He is. It knows that no matter what, it will all work out. It is not in lying awake all night fretting about tomorrow. It’s not in trying to figure it all out. It’s in living a righteous and holy life that honors God, then trusting that He will work it all out. Peace comes in the trusting, and when peace comes, joy comes. True happiness is in walking in the peace that God’s got this.
Trust becomes hard when you have been hurt and disappointed by those you thought loved you. Trust is hard when the hopes you have had have been crushed repeatedly, but God is faithful. He who promises is faithful. Learning to trust the Lord allows us to truly rest in each season and find happiness in each and every one of those seasons.
3. Choose joy. The joy of the Lord is our strength. What is joy in the Lord? This Joy is the eternal hope that what you walk through today is temporary. It knows that there is something to look forward to. The joy is in knowing that the temporary pain will end. What you are experiencing right now will end, and joy comes in the morning. I cannot begin to fathom in my mind to know when your morning will come, but I do know joy is coming. And so…..I could hang out a: I don’t feel like it. I don’t want to. I’d rather sit in the corner, complain, sulk and cry, but Father, today I choose joy. I choose truth. I choose your Word. I live by it when I don’t feel like it, when I don’t see fruit from it, and when the world seems against me. I stand firm. I choose joy today. I choose joy tonight. I choose joy in my Spirit when my heart does not feel it. I make a conscious choice this day, this moment, to choose joy.
4. Retrain your thinking. Stinking thinking is a habit. More than likely, this is a habit we developed through childhood, through a divorce, through disappointment, through hurt or pain. It has been a fallback move. It often becomes our go-to. You are a new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17. Sour responses have become a habit. Bitterness becomes a habit. Eye rolling and seeing the glass half empty becomes a habit. But do you know what else becomes a habit? Choosing to respond in love, despite their words, speaking life in spite of hardships. We will fix our minds on whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. This is our focus.
When a thought comes in, we determine its merit. Is it true? Does it line up with what God said about them or me? Does this thought add value to my life? Yes, it is true he cheated on you. Yes, it is true your boss is not fair. Yes, it is true what they did was not fair. But, it is also true that you must forgive and move on and live your life free from bondage. We have control of our thought life. Walk in the authority you have been given. Cast down every lie of the enemy that you so you may live free.
5. Surrender and Submit. Surrender to Jesus being the Divine authority in your life. Submit to His authority. Obey. We are miserable and unhappy because we, as believers, choose not to honor Him in our thoughts and deeds. When we do not live according to His will, we are miserable because we are His children. We live lukewarm lives, straddle the fence of holiness and worldliness, and then expect to be free and happy. We cannot live two lives. Now, hear me clear. Christianity is not perfectionism. We all will fail every day, so we are not called to live perfect lives. We are called to live in a way that honors Him. We are called to apologize, submit, live humbly, and repent when we have failed, then Get back up and do it again the next day.
What do people really get for all their hard work? 10 I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. 11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. 12 So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. 13 And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God. Ecclesiastes 3: 9-12
14 But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. 15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. 1 Peter 3:14-15.
There are people counting on your happiness. They are counting on your indescribable joy. What does happiness look like? It looks like laughter. It looks like laughing so hard you near wet your pants. You laugh so hard your belly aches. You feel light, not heavy and burdened.
Jennifer Maggio is a national voice for single mothers and hurting women. Her personal story has been featured in hundreds of media venues, including The New York Times, Daystar Television, The 700 Club, and many others. She is CEO/Founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries, a national nonprofit that works with churches to develop single mom’s programs and currently serves more than 1,500 churches.
The Life of a Single Mom has served 406,000 single mothers over the last decade and counting. Maggio is an author of several books, including The Church and the Single Mom. For more information, visit www.jennifermaggio.com.
Jennifer Maggio is a national voice for single mothers and hurting women. Her personal story has been featured in hundreds of media venues including The New York Times, Daystar Television, The 700 Club, and many others. She is CEO/Founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries, a national nonprofit that works with churches to develop single mom’s programs and serves more than 1,500 churches and 71,000 single mothers annually. She is an author of several books, including The Church and the Single Mom. She also hosts the podcast Single Mom 101, which you can find at LifeAudio.com. For more information, visit www.thelifeofasinglemom.com or check out her Facebook and Instagram pages.