Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Secret To Greater Happiness

Dear Friends,

Cleo’s birthday was last Friday and that morning I went to visit her at the assisted living home and pray with her. If you met this wonderful woman of God who is so vital, lively and full of life, you would be shocked to find out how old she really is. Cleo just turned 105 years old. For two years now, we have held a church service at this assisted living home and she has not missed a single service. She parks her wheelchair in the front row directly in front of me and everyone knows that’s Cleo’s “reserved” space! Church is what she looks forward to all week long. On Wednesday mornings she makes sure she is dressed in her “finest clothes” and her hair is fixed just right. She’s going to church! The residents know that Cleo is the person to go to if they need to talk to someone, have a question about God or need prayer. She is the oldest person I have ever known and she’s the happiest person I have ever known. That’s no coincidence. When people ask her what the secret is to her long life or when people ask her how she can be so filled with joy all the time, she will give them the same answer to either question. She will tell you the answer is that she is grateful to God, for everything, all of the time.

One of the most troubling scriptures is, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Troubling because it seems as if God is telling us to do the impossible. Rejoice always? Pray constantly? Give thanks in every thing? Impossible we say! But God never asks us to do the impossible and Jesus reminded His followers that in the Kingdom of God: “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” Matthew 19:26 And for us pessimistic naysayers who pin the word “impossible” on God’s commandments for us like a badge of defeat, we would only have to look at the radiant smile on Cleo’s face to see that with God, it really is possible to rejoice always!

Much of our unhappiness comes from stress and anxiety that is created by circumstances outside our control. Our emotions are engaged. We are angry, sad, fearful. Just in these last few weeks: huge raging wildfires in the western states, devastating floods in Houston, massive destruction in Florida, hate and political violence rocking America, an earthquake in Mexico and the expert’s rush to assure us in Los Angeles that our own big 9 point earthquake is surely on its way. All this and fears of a nuclear attack from North Korea and God says to rejoice always? Yes! Because in the middle of the worst and most fearsome circumstances, when we know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, all is well with our soul. 

But we still may have no internal peace if we live with one foot in the sacred and one foot in the secular. Of course we’ll be unhappy, fearful and stressed during our week if our only time in the presence of God is for an hour and a half on a Sunday morning. That’s why God says we are not to rejoice just on Sunday morning, we are to “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” Philippians 4:4 And here’s how to do that: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 Do you want to “rejoice always”? Then we need to pray “without ceasing” and give our cares and worries to God.

Do you want to “rejoice always”? Then like Cleo, “in everything give thanks.” We don’t give thanks for everything. We don’t thank God for that devastating diagnosis we just received from our doctor. We don’t give thanks for earthquakes, fires and floods, but the word of God tells us that in everything give thanks.” In the worst circumstances, there is always something for which we can be thankful to God. The morning after hurricane Sandy devastated parts of New Jersey in 2012, a woman was interviewed on camera by a news reporter. As she looked at her flooded house and ruined possessions she said, “We were blessed. It could have been worse.” 

Did you know that the word of God and medical science agree on how we can have greater health and more happiness in our life? According to the Harvard School of Medicine, being thankful is one of the simplest ways to feel better. According to the Harvard Medical newsletter: “The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means gratefulness. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.”

Cleo shows us that when we are constantly grateful to God and are thankful in all things, we will find ourselves rejoicing always. Do you want to feel better than you do? Do you want to be happier and healthier? Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in all things give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  Amen?

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