- Janyne McConnaughey, PhD
Live--Be Happy and Do Good
I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 NIV)
If you haven’t watched Pharrell William’s video of his song, Happy. Do so now! It is totally contagious. One line of the song states, “Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth.” That really is not too far from the truth in Ecclesiastes: “I know there is nothing better for people than to be happy . . .” It is the truth. God wants us to be happy. You can put caveats on that, but the truth is that happy is a feeling and we recognize when we are there.
Many times, as Christians, we believe (erroneously) that God only wants us to endure. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly “(John 10:10 NASB). I don’t know how he could have said it any clearer. Unhappiness comes from the thief; abundance comes from God. Even if you only view that as spiritual abundance (which is limiting), it involves much more than endurance.
A couple years ago, I realized that I was spending a lot of time not being happy. Now, those who know me will find that hard to believe because there is just no question but that I can always make a room fill with laughter. Yet, without a good reason to be funny, I found my life less than abundant. Why? There were many reasons, but most were without substance. The problem was really all in my head. I was allowing negative thoughts to control my life—to destroy my happiness.
This is what I learned. All depression begins with one single negative thought. All distaste for our jobs begins with one negative thought. All dissatisfaction with our home and family starts with a negative thought. One disagreement begins with . . . yes, one negative thought. All unhappiness . . . you got it, one negative thought. To cut to the chase, all sin begins with one negative thought. There were difficult circumstances in my life, but my unhappiness was all in my head.
The interesting thing about negative thoughts is that they multiply like rabbits—exponentially. It starts with one negative thought that attracts another one and soon life is just miserable. If two people work at this, the result is complete discouragement. Get a room full or an office full and soon the world is ending. Facebook can be an example of how quickly the negative thoughts can spread. Keep it positive folks!
One of the best days of my life was the day a friend bluntly said, “It is in your head Janyne. It is how you allow yourself to think.” Ouch. Then she talked to me about horses. I don’t know where she got this, but it changed my thinking forever because it helped me understand that my thoughts are my choice.
“There is a line of horses and you choose which horse you want to get on. If you choose the crazy horse, it is going to run into the forest, beat you up with the branches, make you fall off and then turn around and trample you. You have a choice to choose a different horse in the first place, but if you get on the crazy horse, as soon as you realize it, get off it and get on a different horse.” (Paraphrased)
The following week I was completely worn out from switching horses. It became a family mantra: Get off that horse! We weren’t necessarily grateful when someone caught us on the wrong horse, but slowly we began to choose the happy horses. Getting on that negative horse destroys what God intended for us—happiness.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. (Philippians 4:8 NIV)
How many years ago did I memorize that verse? Yet, I was not even aware that my thoughts were not in control. On the surface yes, but there was an undercurrent of negative thinking that was destroying me. I had to find ways to change horses—pure effort isn’t always the trick. It is interesting that “Be happy” is followed by “Do good.” Actions do follow thoughts, but action can also change your thoughts and feelings. What then? The result is clearly what God intends for all of us: “That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.”