What would make you happy right now? If you could have anything in the world, what would you ask for right now to make you happy? New car? New house? New job? New kids? New wife? What would it take to make you happy?
Once there were two twin boys celebrating their 8th birthday. One boy was always very chipper, upbeat and positive; he always had a “half-full” view of life. The other was the opposite – pessimistic, melancholy, depressed, lived with a “half-empty” view of life. The parents of these twins became worried about the extreme discrepancy between their children. They wanted to balance them out a little so they came up with a plan.
For their 8th birthday, the parents were going to fill the room of the second child – the “sad” one – with toys. Floor to ceiling, wall to wall toys! All the toys a kid could ever wish for. And for the other child – the “happy” one – they were going to fill his room with horse manure. Once again, floor to ceiling, wall to wall manure.
They filled each room with the appropriate “surprise” and then sent the kids up after school. They waited 15 minutes and then went up.
First they went to the room of the “sad” child. To their surprise, he was still sad. “What’s wrong?” they asked. He responded tearfully saying “It’s not fair. I didn’t want this toy. I wanted that other toy that my friend Billy Joe has instead. And this game is missing a piece… I wanted an orange skateboard, not a blue one…” And on and on he went.
Frustrated, they left and went to check on their other child – the “happy” one. And to their surprise once again, they heard laughing and giggling as they approached his room. They opened the door but couldn’t find him. They heard his voice, but couldn’t see where he was. A few seconds later, the boy burst out of the middle of the pile of manure. And with a huge smile on his face he said “THANK YOU SO MUCH! This is best gift ever!”
The parents were a bit confused (obviously) and asked why he was so happy. The boy responded, “Well, I’ve always wanted a pony and from the amount of all this poop, THERE MUST BE A BIG ONE IN HERE SOMEWHERE!”
Happiness is not a feeling, it’s a choice.
The question I asked earlier was a trick question: what would make you happy? Even the wording of the question implies that there is something that can “MAKE YOU” happy. But there isn’t. Nothing can make you happy. You are the only one who can make you happy. Happiness doesn’t come from circumstances; it’s a choice you make – a choice to focus on what you have, not on what you lack.
If you don’t believe me, go read Philippians 4. In it, you’ll see someone suffering in prison and going through one of the toughest times in his life. He was old, alone, sick and awaiting death in prison. There really wasn’t much to be happy about or look forward to for St. Paul at this point in his life.
But what does he say? What would you say? What would your outlook be?
I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)
Content means that he is choosing to focus on what he does have instead of focusing on what he doesn’t have.
So often we quote verse 13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” without realizing its connection to verse 11 “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” The two are more connected than you think.
Happiness is not a feeling; it is a choice. Right now, you have the ability to be happy. But you must choose it. You must choose to focus on what you have, not on what you lack. If you do that, then there’s nothing that you can’t do. You’ll be able to smile and find happiness in any situation… even in a room full of manure!
For discussion: what lessons have you learned about finding happiness in the tough situations of life?