I thought about that recently when Lucas told us how his little strip of land two blocks from the beach seemed to be a dividing point in weather systems as they passed through the panhandle from the west. He could walk outside and look south to sunny blue skies, puffy cotton ball clouds and palm trees waving in the sea breeze. Yet if he looked north, he saw billowing black clouds lit up by lightning that occasionally streaked its way to the ground. Take your choice of weather: look north or look south; go out the front door or go out the back.
Which reminds me about the essential truth of happiness: it’s a choice you make regardless of the conditions you find yourself in. “I have learned in whatever state I am in to be content,” Paul says in Phil 4:11. The disciples rejoiced that they were “counted worthy to suffer,” Acts 5:41. If that doesn’t prove that happiness is a choice, what can?
That doesn’t mean I can face every day with a smile—I haven’t gotten there yet. But it does mean that when I am not in a good mood, I understand it’s up to me to change myself not my circumstances. “I can do all things through him who strengthens me;” that old timeworn citation immediately follows Paul’s assertion that contentment is a learned behavior. He understands that although happiness may be a choice, it isn’t always an easy one—it takes some help to manage when the outward man must face pain or illness or persecution or other suffering, whether physical or mental. If it takes the help of Christ, it must be a difficult task.
But it can be done, and while the doing may be difficult, the how isn’t. All you have to do is face in the right direction, “looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith,” the Hebrew writer tells us in 12:2, and then goes on to tell us how our example did it: looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God, Hebrews 12:2. He looked ahead to the joy, not around him to the shame and pain, the hostility and the weariness.
What do they teach us in our Lamaze classes, ladies? You focus on something besides the pain. How many of you took a picture with you that they tacked on the wall? Then you chose to look at it. Even then you needed a little help—that’s what those men of yours were there for. They helped you keep your focus and count your breaths. You chose to listen to them and follow their instructions (when you weren’t grabbing them by the collar and telling them through gritted teeth not to ever touch you again!), but yes, it worked and you got through it, and you even wanted it again before much longer because you remembered the joy when that precious little bundle was placed in your arms, John 16:21.
Do you want a happy marriage? Do you want a good relationship with your family and your brothers and sisters in Christ? Do you want to greet life every day with a smile instead of a sneer, laughter instead of tears? The weather you can’t change, but you can change which door you leave by and which direction you look.
We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal,. 2 Corinthians 4:18.