White Bears and the Pursuit of Happiness
This past year, I've been so focused on trying to be happy... trying to appear happy for others, trying to be happy about my circumstances, (because, at least they're not as bad as others)... just trying to convince myself to be happy. And then, I would feel guilty when I could not think myself into happiness; when I couldn't pray hard enough, believe hard enough, or quote enough scriptures, to make myself happy. I felt like a failure; like I had let God, myself, and everyone else in my life down.
I tell you, it's exhausting!!!
Then, several weeks ago, I listened to a sermon by Pastor Ron Macey. He said, “We don't have to always be happy with our circumstances, happiness is dependent upon the external. But, we can have joy regardless of our circumstances, because joy is internal, it comes from The Lord. And, as long as we have joy, we'll have the strength to go on, until we are happy again.”
A few days later, I was talking to Bro. Stephen Collins, and I told him, “I'm going to be ok.” And he replayed “yes, you will be. But, it's ok not to be ok.” And, as simple as that statement was, it was very liberating for me.
I realized, it's foolish to try to force myself to be happy, when life as I know it has been reduced to sand; when I, as I know myself, have been reduced to ashes.
I stopped trying to pretend to be happy. I stopped trying to convince myself that I was ok. I realized that I was expending so much energy on trying to be happy, that I had lost my joy. And we know, the joy of The Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). So, I surrendered my pursuit of happiness to God, and I started praying that He would restore to me the joy of His salvation (Psalms 51:12). And, I started growing stronger.
It wasn't until I stopped trying to 'not think about white bears,' that I stopped thinking about them (see article, "Paradoxical Effects of Thought Suppression"),
This was not a new revelation to me; but sometimes, in the throes of a dark storm, you lose your way, you lose sight. Sometimes, you have to be redirected to the landmarks, to the lighthouse on the shore. Sometimes you just have to be reminded: “You don't have to be happy. You don't have to be ok.” As long as you have joy, joy that can only come from God, you'll have the strength to keep going on, until you are happy again, until you really are ok.