By Dr. Allen Novian
Happiness is A Choice: An Inside Out Perspective
While I am not a "Christian Counselor" and I work with people of all religions and backgrounds, I am, myself, a Christian, and I thought this message was applicable, not just to people of a Christian faith, but to everyone.
This is about making important choices in life and then sticking with them. Choosing to be happy and content is one such choice we can make. We may not be able to control the events that happen, but we can with God’s help choose our responses to them.
I am going to talk to you about choosing and making the right decisions to be happy and content. Right now at this very moment you can choose to be happy. Yes, the choice rests with you. By happiness I do not mean euphoria caused by external circumstances. That kind of emotional high is fleeting and can not be sustained by anyone for extended amounts of time. No, the happiness I am talking about is inner calm, contentment, freedom from worry and anxiety. That kind of hapiness is what we seek to build our lives on. You may not be able to drive away suffering completely from life. After all Jesus told us, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)”
But we can learn to have peace and to cope with the troubles of life without losing our hearts and souls. You may not be able to satisfy all your desires, but you can learn to be content. When you are focused too narrowly, every small thing begins to bother you. But when you expand your vision to what God is seeing, you learn to put things in perspective and weigh things rationally.
Normally, your state of mind depends upon how you relate yourself with the world outside. You are happy if you have things you like or do not have things you dislike. Alternatively, you suffer if you have things you dislike or do not have things you like. I am repeating what has been said thousands of years ago by many spiritual masters of the both the eastern and the western philosophies. Yet, unfortunately, very few people take this message to heart and practice it on a day by day moment to moment basis. It is not necessary to only be happy when certain external conditions are met. Happiness is a choice you make from the inside out. Unhappiness is an emotional and spiritual condition in which you willingly give away the control of your emotions to the devil rather than to God. You are happy or unhappy according to the choices you make. This is the norm of life.
When you think back, years ago you likely gave up your freedom and decided to shape your life according to your worries and fears. Then you let the conditions surrounding you take over and overtime, one choice at a time, unhappiness became your master. You tied your happiness to things that actually do not matter, that do not last, that do not stay, over which you have no control, and about which you can do little. Whether you want to be happy or unhappy in your life is your choice. Choose God, and choose peace, love, and happiness, or choose the devil, and choose resentment, anger, and judgment. The choice is yours.
If being happy and in relationship with God is really your priority, you will find that you can be happy no matter what. You would do everything under the sun and on earth to remain happy and with God. You can choose to look at the stars or the darkness or both. You can fear the worst or hope for the best. Ultimately every action, reaction and thought of yours is your decision. Most people live and die as if their life here on earth is someone else’s responsibility. The truth is our responses to the events in our life are our choices. And ultimately our perspective and identity in the world is shaped by these constant choices so choose wisely and become responsible for your choices. If you need strength ask God to bring you strength from the inside out, he will provide it.
Once again let me restate, we may not have control over the events, but we do with God’s help and constant practice have control over our responses; anger, aggression, fear, withdrawal, submission stem from our choices but so do love, joy, peace, and happiness. The apostle Paul describes this choice and what to focus on concisely in Philippians 4 when he states “ 4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, 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. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. 10 I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Phil 4:4-13)
Each individual has the freedom to make this choice every moment of every day. Usually we give away this freedom to someone or something else, a condition, a person, a relationship, a possession, a memory or belief. Once again, happiness comes from not having but being happy independent of circumstances. Happiness comes from within. It is a choice. Decide to be happy unconditionally. Decide to be happy independent of things that control you.
How can you do it? How can you become happy? Make a choice to start right now to focus on the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that lead to growth, healing, and peace in your relationship with God, yourself, and others. Moment to moment, thought by thought, learn to become your own observer. Try to see what God sees. See where your thoughts are. Are they on God and the blessings in your life or on the devil and the problems? What is your focus? Is it on the present, where God lives or the past and future (don’t forget God told Moses his name is I Am not I Was or I Will Be)? Ask yourself, how you are responding to people and situations, with love and compassion or with resentment and judgment? Do you see any pattern in how you think and feel moment to moment to the choices you are making? Do you think there can be different alternatives, perhaps better alternatives?
Remember, no one can change this society or the world single-handedly. But you can change yourself, once you begin to let God live inside you rather than be an outside influence. Right now, at this very moment, choose to be happy independent of your circumstances. Choose to live in love and at peace with God, yourself and others. It can be done! All you have to do is choose. God has already chosen to love and forgive you. So take joy and let happiness grow from the inside out!