Choosing joy and happiness over despair

Sunday, June 3, 2012

"Life is what you make it." That statement sounds ordinary and trite, doesn't it? However, it contains pearls of wisdom.

You contain everything within that you need to make your life a successful one, or a failure. We are like snowflakes in that we are all different. People are all different sizes, shapes and possess separate gifts. Every person also has his own schema of what makes him a success or a failure. What is yours?

Things occur that you wouldn't choose, for sure, but you alone can decide how you will react to them. You can either accept them or turn them around to your advantage, or you can reject those challenges and cause a negative outcome. You can fume, complain and worry but you are wasting life's time. You must endure certain dilemmas regardless of how hard you try to escape their ramifications. Why suffer the upsets of life with a hopeless and angry attitude? Keep on hoping for the best. Keep God in the picture and remember there are particular laws of the universe that automatically work for or against what you do. They are patterns of ethics, truth, persistence and love. According to philosophical writer James Allan, if you persevere, believing that circumstances will improve, God and the whole universe will smile upon you and come to your aid.

Richard Wagner said, "Joy is not in things. It is in us. Whether we live in a 40-room mansion or struggle to pay the rent month to month, we can be satisfied and live a life with true meaning." Indeed we hold, in our hands, the ability to turn disabilities into challenges. The worse condition we can impose upon ourselves is self-pity. Once you resort to feeling sorry for yourself, you are doomed. That emotion is debilitating. Self-pity is like a poison, but good things happen when you assume a positive attitude.

Helen Keller was a notable woman who was both deaf and blind, yet she accomplished a great deal. Her laudable accomplishments inspired many. Helen said, "Happiness comes from within. It's not what we see and touch or what others do for us which makes us happy. It is that which we feel and think and do, first for others and then for ourselves." Although Helen Keller did not choose her condition, she chose her reaction and attitude toward it.

Spend less time thinking about your problems and more time thinking about the possibilities in your life. It is stated in Samuel 16:7: "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man does. Man looks at the outward appearance; the Lord looks at the heart." What determines one's success is whether it brings him genuine joy, inner peace and fulfillment.

I have a friend who is a Catholic priest. During a talk at a confirmation retreat, he related a story to the audience that we could all learn from. The priest initially intended to become a medical doctor. However, shortly before he was to make the final commitment, he received a nudging he interpreted as coming from the Holy Spirit. He became unhappy and felt becoming a doctor was not his true calling. Consequently, he withdrew and is now a successful Catholic priest. His joy is immeasurable because he knows his vocation is actually a calling from God. The priest sought spiritual gain within his ministry.

Yes, joy and happiness lie inside your heart and mind. So look for what's truly important to you and then let go of the rest. Life is wonderful. Don't be discouraged by adversity. Instead, meet it and defeat it with courage.

Life is kind of like a math problem. If you don't work it out right, you'll get the wrong result. You have to keep at it until you find the right answer and then amend it.

Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.

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