“It’s a good thing I’m a happy person, or that would really bother me.”
I stand in the living room, observing a double-whammy as I say those words. First, the dog has tugged one of the stockings, complete with its heavy stocking hook, onto the hardwood floor. Second, the stocking is misshapen. Not due to the dog, but due to my own poor choice in yarn.
Annoying, but because of what I said about being a happy person, my husband and I chuckle as I set the stocking and hook back up on the ledge.
Why laugh? Mostly, because it’s not true. I’m not a noticeably happy person. I try to be nice and have faith and keep my cool, but some things annoy me fairly easily. I take myself pretty seriously; it’s easy for me to disappoint myself. I have high expectations; in some circumstances, others find me easily disappointed, too.
I suspect I’m in good company because there are very few people in my life that I would say are noticeably happy. That’s probably what makes my husband’s aunt and uncle stand out in my mind. Though they’ve experienced their share of hardships, they have a good sense of humor about life (and themselves), they are active and inquisitive, and they limit worries by recognizing what they can and cannot change. They’re fun-loving but not frivolous.
It is because of this couple that I recently told my husband I want to be happy, too.
The next time I was getting annoyed with his driving, my husband replied, “It’s a good thing you’re a happy person.”
I smiled. I relaxed. I chose to be happy. After all, I’d just made the declaration I wanted to be a few minutes before.
And so, the joke was born. When something inconvenient would happen, and one or the other of us would say, “It’s a good thing we’re happy people!”
But as much of a joke as we made it, the reminder worked. We ended up chuckling when we would’ve been annoyed.
Why was that little line all it took?
The stuff we were tempted to lose our cool over was really, really small stuff. So small that both the example I opened with and the one about my husband’s driving are made up. I mean, yes, they’re based on true experiences, but is that when we used our line about being happy? Not sure. The choice to be happy made a bigger impression on me because the inconvenient events threatening my mood were petty.
There’s no better time for it. This is the season of comfort and joy. As the angel said: “Do not be afraid! Listen carefully, for I proclaim to you good news that brings great joy to all the people: Today your Savior is born in the city of David. He is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10b-11, NET)
That is good news–We have a Savior! We have eternal hope!–and this should still bring me joy today.
The eternal hope we have in Christ is why Paul could write, Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, rejoice! (Philippians 4:4, NET)
The mindset that everything is in God’s control and is for the good of those who believe is how James could write, My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. (James 1:2-3, NET)
When it comes down to it, all believers should be happy people. Or joyful, anyway.
In the verses above, I interpret joy to mean hope and assurance that God is good and God is in control, regardless of circumstances. Those verses don’t mean we’re in the wrong to experience grief or even anger or sadness. They don’t mean we’ll take the worst news with a smile. The joy we have as believers in those times might not be expressed in laughter or jokes. It might simply be the hope that pulls us through.
But if we have that kind of joy in hard times, shouldn’t that result in harder-to-shake, closer-to-the-surface happiness in the everyday moments of our lives? Shouldn’t joy lead us to choose laughter over annoyance more often? Shouldn’t it recognize in daunting circumstances that the outcome is out of our power and in God’s perfect, loving hands?
In my experience, often all it takes to redirect everyday negative moods is an accountability partner and gentle reminders. Though my husband and I have begun to let our joke fall by the wayside, I’m resurrecting it because I want joy. I want to be a happy person.
When I make a mistake, instead of taking myself so seriously, I want to acknowledge with humor that I’m not really all that anyway (but Christ is). I want to choose laughter whenever I can. I want to find comfort in the fact that though I cannot make my dreams come true, in Christ, my every eternal need is already met. And that, really, is a dream-come-true I can’t even fathom.
It’s time to choose joy.
What can you do today to choose joy?