We all have those things that we know will make us laugh harder than anything else. Maybe it’s a certain movie scene. Just hearing a quote from a particular movie will make some people laugh over and over. Then, there are those rare-gift-of-laughter people. You know the ones. They are blessed with “contagious” laughter. They are the ones you want to sit by in a movie, because once they start laughing, the whole room starts laughing. For about 99% of human beings today, it’s a favorite meme, YouTube video or a fail video that will make them pee their pants, no matter how many times they have seen it.
One of the funniest things in the world to me is when little kids try to smile. Literally, as I am typing this, I am shaking from laughing because I’m picturing my little cousin’s face with a painfully awkward smile on it as we try to take his picture. Just keeping it real here–I’m not the one to talk about awkward little kid smiles. For some reason the lip curl was my staple move when someone said, “smile” to me. I am here to tell you that the lip curl is NOT the move, but it does make for some hilarious pictures.
When I was going through my “awkward smile” stage, I do remember getting frustrated with my smile. So frustrated that I decided, as I think other kids must do, that I just wasn’t going to smile anymore. Nope. Done. I simply would refuse to smile. This is when my parents would resort to the famous reverse psychology move. Once that move was in play, and it would work every single time, the lip curl would begin. I’m sure some of you were victims of this technique too. It goes like this:
Parents say, “Don’t you dare smile”
Don’t do it
Don’t do it
Don’t do it
Don’t do it
Don’t do it
Don’t do it
Don’t do it
Don’t do it
Me: (lip curl) “CHEEEEEEESSSE!!!!”
As I was thinking about sharing a message to encourage people to be happy in today’s world, I couldn’t help but think of my “smiling” frustrations. It’s silly, I know, but I felt some serious pressure to have a good smile. When it wasn’t happening, I made up my mind to not smile at all. At least I tried not to until my parents used that reverse psychology stuff on me. And I’m glad they did. Because, I didn’t and don’t want the world to see me as a person who doesn’t smile.
Sadly, there are a million reasons to not smile. A million life stories that are sad. A million world events screaming at us, causing us to see the bad in the world and not smile. Just reading the news could cause us to stubbornly refuse to ever smile again, and I understand that I am probably writing to so many of you right now who have decided to stop smiling. But, don’t give in. I think we need to let that childlike instinct to “smile” when we’re challenged to “not smile” kick in every time the world sends us the message “don’t smile.” That’s the time to press past the awkwardness, curl our lips (or not), show the world what Jesus did for us, and belt out a loud “cheese.”
I’ve been talking about smiling and laughing, but my topic today really is happiness and joy. Of course, I wanted to go to the bible to see what scripture says about it. Happiness and joy are two words that get thrown around a lot, but what do they really mean? They seem like the same thing, but they aren’t. They are connected though, or at least, they should be. One way I like to look at is this–happiness is a mood and joy is a fruit. Think about it this way. A mood is a temporary state of mind. Usually it is the result of a circumstance–what is going on around you. It’s like when your best friend says she’s coming over for a movie night. That’s an instant happy mood. But, a fruit, like joy, is the result of the work going on inside of you to see Jesus in His word and the world around you. So, happiness, being a mood, is shown in your behavior. Joy, being a fruit, is sown in your heart, but it should also be shown in your behavior. If you have joy (like the down-in-your heart kind of joy) you will want to show it in your actions, attitudes, and behaviors.
Read these scriptures that talk about joy:
Proverbs 10:28 AMP
“The HOPE of the righteous [those of honorable character and integrity] IS JOY, but the expectation of the wicked [those who oppose God and ignore His wisdom] comes to nothing.”
Proverbs 16:20 AMP
“He who pays attention to the word [of God] will find good, And blessed (HAPPY, prosperous, to be admired) is he who TRUSTS [confidently] in the Lord.”
Romans 15:13 AMP
“May the God of HOPE fill you with all JOY and peace in BELIEVING [through the experience of your FAITH] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you will abound in hope and overflow with confidence in His promises.”
John 15:11 AMP
“I have told you these things so that MY JOY and delight may be in you, and that your joy may be made full and complete and overflowing.”
Joy is all about your hope, faith, expectations and trust, rather than your present circumstance or even your own reasoning. While happiness is about what is going on around you, joy is about the state of mind within you.
Over the past ten years of traveling, I have noticed that the people in the poorest of the poor countries, with nothing to their name are, most of the time, happier than people who live in wealthier places and have everything. As fascinating as this has always been to me, reading these scriptures lets me see why this is true. If joy is more about what you are hoping for than what you have, everyone has the same opportunity for joy. I love how in Proverbs it says that the HOPE of the righteous is JOY, but the expectation of the wicked is nothing. If we spend our days hoping for things to make us happy instead of being content in our hope for the righteous, we will not be happy people.
What are you hoping for? Where are your expectations? Answer that and you are on the right path to finding joy. The definition of hope is: a feeling of expectation and a desire for a certain thing to happen. This verse tells me that I will have joy, not when I GET certain things, but when I HOPE for and desire certain things. This is the same for you. When you begin to fill your mind with the word of God, the promises of God, and the presence of God, then you will be filled with joy. They go hand and hand because joy is a fruit of who He is. And that is something to smile about.
Now that we know how we can fill ourselves with joy, let’s look at when, where, and why we should be happy based on scripture and plug this into our 24/7.
Psalm 16:11 AMP “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.”
This verse knocks out “where” and “when” by telling us that joy is in the presence of God. It is not at the end of the path; it is on the path following the guidance of His right hand.
Philippians 4:4 AMP “Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, take pleasure in Him] again I will say, rejoice!”
This verse also gives us the “when,” and it says ALWAYS. I know what you’re thinking… (Eye roll) how is it even possible to rejoice always? I believe this has a lot to do with contentment. The bible says in 1stTimothy that godliness and contentment are great gain. When the things of God are the things you delight in and take pleasure in, you can rest knowing you have all you need all the time. Resting in a place of contentment assures a state of happiness and an internal feeling of joy. I also love how the writer of Philippians repeats the word rejoice at the end of the verse. Sometimes we just need to tell ourselves to rejoice, and if you find yourself not listening to yourself, say it again!
In spite of everything you have read and heard, you may be asking why does it even matter if I am happy or have joy? In today’s world, moodiness seems to be an accepted mindset or attitude, so why be happy when being happy would take more effort? I think, and it’s been my experience, being happy is a more enjoyable way to live; it’s a better way to spend your 24/7, and it makes life more enjoyable for those around you. Besides all of that, I believe there are legitimate biblical reasons to have joy and show happiness. Some of them we have already read about. Here is another:
Nehemiah 8:10 say, “…And do not be worried, for the joy of the Lord is your strength and your stronghold.”
I love that Nehemiah reminds us, “Do not be worried.” He basically says to replace worry with joy. The truth is, the choice between worriedness and happiness are like two roads you come upon. Both roads come with expectations and trust for what is to come. Both require a certain state of mind that allows you to pick one over the other. But the road to worry and the road to happiness are as different as one road going left and one going right. Worry produces fear; happiness produces faith. Worry travels with a heavy heart; happiness travels with a light spirit. Each way depends on trust and an expectancy of the future. Not one of us can predict the future, but we can control the state of mind we face it with.
We all have a 24/7, how do you want to live in yours?