Shawn Achor and his family belonged to my church in Woodway, and I had the privilege to consulting with Shawn as he prepared to study at Harvard. He was discerning where God was calling him and what he was going to do with his life. Through his time at Harvard (he will tell you that he got there and never really left), he began to understand the inner workings of the human mind and began extensive work in the field of positive psychology. Shawn is now one of the leading experts in the world on the subject of how happiness and positivity affect the human psyche, and some would argue, the human soul!
As I have read his work, it makes sense to me! Happiness is something God wills for us! To be blessed (as we learn from the 5th chapter of Matthew’s gospel) is to be happy. This happiness, however, is not just about the ethereal feeling of happiness; it is the peace that passes understanding and that provides a true “advantage” to whatever endeavors we undertake in life.
In my world, I have discovered that happiness is, in fact, one of the greatest blessings of the Christian life. There are many Christians who are not happy. There are those for whom faith seems like a huge burden they are willing to bear so long as there is the hope of some eternal reward. There are those who look absolutely depressed as they seek to follow Christ.
Then there are those who exude a very superficial sort of happiness. After church, one Sunday many years ago, our family was eating at a favorite Chinese restaurant in Arlington, and I saw a couple who were obviously Christians (my guess was a minister and his wife). They both wore Christian jewelry and were very dressed up. Her hair and makeup were way overdone, and they both had what struck me as “painted on” smiles. At one critical moment, after they had been seated, the man stood to go toward the restroom. When he turned his back, the woman “let go” of the smile and I saw the most tragic look I think I had ever seen. Huge “laugh lines” were drawn in her face; her smile turned almost immediately to a scowl, and for a moment, I thought she was going to start crying. The man got only a few steps away and then remembered that he forgot to tell her his drink order to give the server, and he turned back. When he did, her smile immediately reappeared and the laugh lines and scowl magically disappeared.
It was in that moment that I chose happiness that was a true, authentic happiness and not something that was shallow and superficial. In no way do I believe that Christ calls us to that kind of shallow happiness.
So happiness for me is integrally bound in a spiritual maturity; it is a natural part of the intimate relationship that I seek to have with God. When Jesus talks about happiness or blessedness, he is talking about that peace … the peace that passes all understanding … it is what comes from knowing God and abiding only in God’s love and grace. My challenge for us is that we might find that happiness. My prayer is that people will look at the joy in our lives and call us blessed!
Is happiness your choice? My prayer is that you will find true and everlasting joy and peace!
Remember who you are!