What goes HA, HA, HA, plop? Answer: Someone who laughs his head off! A gifted public speaker was asked to recall his most difficult speaking assignment. He said, “That’s easy. It was an address I gave to the National Conference of Undertakers. The topic they gave me was ‘How To Look Sad At A Ten Thousand Dollar Funeral.’
There is an old Arabic proverb that says, “All sunshine makes a desert.” A young single woman just learned from her doctor that she only had one year to live. “Isn’t there anything I can do to extend my life?” she asked her doctor. “The doctor reflected on her question, hesitated, and then said, Well, you might try marrying a boring man. Perhaps your last year of life will seem like more.”
Holiday Inn interviewed 5,000 people to fill 500 positions that were needed to open a new facility. When the hotel managers interviewed these candidates, they excluded anybody who smiled fewer than four times during the course of their interview. This standard was applied to every available job and to every prospective employee. How many of us would qualify for a job at Holiday Inn?
We have a lot we can learn from children, for research shows children laugh an unbelievable 400 times a day on average. This is compared to adults who average 15 laughs a day. The writer of Proverbs knew what he was talking about.
Misconceptions about happiness. Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you. But if you turn your attention to other things, it comes and softly sits on your shoulder. Joy is never in our power and pleasure is. I doubt whether anyone who has tasted joy would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasure in the world.
One of the biggest deceptions of today is the belief that leisure and money are the two essentials of happiness. The sad fact of life is that there are no more frustrated people on the face of the earth than those who have nothing to do, and those who have too much money for their own good. God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. The Chicago Tribune (9/1/96) ran the story of Buddy Post, “living proof that money can’t buy happiness.” In 1988, he won $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania Lottery. Since then, he was convicted of assault, his sixth wife left him, his brother was convicted of trying to kill him, and his landlady successfully sued him for one-third of the jackpot. “Money didn’t change me,” said Post, a 58-year-old former carnival worker and cook. “It changed people around me that I knew, that I thought cared a little bit about me. But they only cared about the money.” Post is trying to auction off 17 future payments, valued at nearly $5 million, in order to pay off taxes, legal fees, and a number of failed business ventures.
A Gallup Poll reveals that less than 10% of Americans are deeply committed Christians. Gallup says only 6% – 10% have what he termed a “high spiritual faith.” The people of this minority group are categorized as particularly influential and happy. These folks are, as Gallup says, “a breed apart.” “They are more tolerant of people of diverse backgrounds. They are more involved in charitable activities. They are more involved in practical Christianity. They are absolutely committed to prayer. They are far, far happier than the rest of the population,” said Mr. Gallup.
Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life, and have it abundantly.”
In the May 1996 issue of American Scientific magazine, a myth about happiness has been exposed. It noted, “People have not become happier over time as their cultures have become more affluent. Even though Americans earn twice as much as they did in 1957, the number that are ‘very happy’ has declined from 35 to 29 percent.”
Joy is that which encompasses and transcends both happiness and sadness.
Once endowed with joy, a person is not likely to lose it and in fact it grows with awareness of it. Joy is like the sun, always shining even when night falls or clouds cover it. Happiness is a kiss, joy a golden wedding anniversary.
Happiness is frequently shared but not always — joy is always. Happiness is born in the mind, joy in the heart. Happiness comes from humans, joy from God. Happiness is exchanging Christmas gifts — joy is awareness of what Christmas is all about. There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved. Victor Hugo wrote, “The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved.” “Friendship is the greatest of worldly goods. Certainly to me it is the chief happiness of life. If I had to give a piece of advice to a young man or woman about a place to live, I think I should say, ‘sacrifice almost everything to live where you can be near your friends.’ If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Cor 13)
If you observe a really happy person you will find him building a boat, writing a symphony, educating his son, growing double dahlias in his garden, or looking for dinosaur eggs in the desert. He will not be searching for happiness as if it were a collar button that has rolled under the radiator. He will not be striving for it as a goal in itself. He will have become aware that he is happy in the course of living life twenty-four crowded hours of the day.
The happiest of people don’t necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the most of everything that comes along their way. The joy is not always in getting what we want but in letting go of what we don’t need. “A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes.” Hugh Downs said, “We can complain because rosebushes bear thorns, or we can rejoice because thornbushes bear roses.”
We do everything we can to avoid and escape pain but to live without pain is to live half alive. Pain and joy run together. When we cut ourselves off from pain, we have unwittingly cut ourselves off from joy as well. Neh 8:10 Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.
Alexander McClaren, tells a marvelous story about when he was fifteen years old in a village outside of Glasgow, and he was sent to work in order to earn his way to college and to find resources for his family. His father walked him to work the first day and they went by a ravine in which people said there were evil spirits and anyone who walked through the ravine would be invested with those evil spirits. When Alexander McClaren got to Glasgow, he realized that he was going to have to go back through that ravine on his way home. It worried him Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, all day Saturday, and it filled his mind all Saturday evening. He got to the edge of the ravine and he could not do it! And then suddenly he heard a voice, and the voice said “Alex, it’s your Dad. I’ve come to walk through the ravine with ya!”
That’s what God is saying right now, “I’m going to walk through the ravine, through the valley of the shadow of death, through the impossibilities with you. Put your hand in mine.” “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me.” “I’m with you. I’ve come to walk with you.” May you have enough happiness to make you sweet, enough trials to make you strong, enough sorrow to keep you human, enough hope to make you happy.