“The greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.”
– MARTHA WASHINGTON –
Bad days will happen; bad situations will happen. And we’re entitled to a few of them – we’re only human. It’s natural to be brought down when life doesn’t go perfectly according to plan. Further than that, it’s totally understandable. No one’s going to blame you for being upset. But what happens when bad days turn into bad weeks, and bad weeks into bad months? At what point do we say enough is enough and start trying to turn “I can’t” into “I can” and “I won’t” into “I will?”
At what point do we swallow our pride and admit to ourselves that happiness is an active decision that only we can make for ourselves?
Because the truth is that we can’t rely on other people or material things to make us happy; your friends, your boyfriend/girlfriend, and even your family members are just as human and prone to mistakes as you are, and earthly possessions don’t last forever. Truthfully, you can’t even rely on yourself to make you happy: you are going to make mistakes, you’re going to know that you’re in the wrong, you’re going to know that maybe you had that consequence coming for you. When you rely on yourself for your happiness, you’re going to expect perfection. When that perfection isn’t achieved – and if you’re anything like me – you are going to beat yourself up and believe the lies that try and say you’re not enough and that you’ll never be enough, no matter how hard you try. I’ve come to realize it’s a vicious cycle when you try to identify your happiness in your relationships, in your situations, in your surroundings… because when all those things are gone, what do you have left?
I remember going through a time of my life a few years back when I felt like I had nothing. I lost my relationship, I lost my best friend, I was in the midst of changing my major once again and felt like I had no direction for my life, my anxiety was allowing me to push my family away, and I put no effort into existing or new friendships, making me feel like I had nowhere to turn. I was broken.
However, it was in those moments of confusion, fear, and hurt that I clung to hope. I clung to joy. I clung to God.
My church did a series at the beginning of this year called Climb Higher. It was an 8 part series, but the general gist of the series as a whole was that if we want to understand what’s happening in the valleys of life, we have to actively climb our mountains in order truly understand what He is doing in us. But the thing is that we can’t go back into the valley to confront our trials and forget what He taught us on the mountaintop.
On that particular climb of mine, I learned that if I can grasp onto His love, His peace, and His promise, I will find hope. I will find the strength I need to rise and run after my purpose and into the next chapter of my life. I will find joy despite my circumstances. And sure enough – as I continued to find joy in Him despite what little I felt I had, my life began to come together.
Three years later, I still haven’t forgotten what God taught me. I haven’t forgotten that He is the strength to carry on when I can’t. I haven’t forgotten that He stands in front of me with an outstretched arm to pick me up and walk with me through the unknown territories of life. But I had to make an active decision to see it and to accept it. I could have remained discouraged and discontent, and allowed myself to get lost in the shadow of depression and self-doubt. But if I had done that, I wouldn’t have met some of my best friends. I wouldn’t have mended broken relationships. I wouldn’t have applied to OU, where I have met incredible people, made memories that are going to last me a lifetime, and have learned lessons that I know are critical to my growth as young professional. Even during the times when I feel like I have everything, I continue to know that everything and everyone in my life is a gift from God – and if any of those things are taken from me, it only means that God has something better waiting for me around the corner. Sometimes that’s a hard pill to swallow when you’re sitting in a rut, but people and opportunities have an interesting way of waltzing into your life when you least expect them to and showing you why the former never worked out.
I have needed to remember what I learned on that mountain in 2014. It’s gotten me through a lot in the last three years, last couple of semesters, and even the last week.
Don’t take this all to mean that you can’t get upset and that you can’t be unhappy with life. Just remember that the happiness mindset comes when you know it’s time to put your big girl/boy pants on and make a choice to find the positives and to find the strength to take control of what you’ve been handed instead of letting it control you.
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
– 2 CORINTHIANS 4:8,9 –
And sometimes, God likes to be funny and give us words at the exact moment we need them. If you need extra encouragement, my church is starting a new series called Joy Ride. It’s a good reminder regardless of if you’re going through a hard time or not. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and persistent in prayer,” my friends – it will take you so much farther than you realize (Romans 12:12).