"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law."1
We all know what it’s like to have our lives beset by problems. Financial difficulties, inclement weather, or even rush-hour traffic can cast a pall over our spirits.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. The Holy Spirit can help us rise above our problems, big or small, and cause us to be happy and cheerful in spite of circumstances.
I was 20 when I first read the gospels. That was also when I began to form my own thoughts about God and Jesus. Until then my beliefs had been sketchy at best and based on things I'd heard others say. The truth was that I’d never given the subject any real thought.
As I read, most of it was so new that it made little sense. I didn’t understand it, but it drew me in a strange new direction. I couldn’t say I believed it, but I wanted to. Who wouldn’t want to be part of a world where miracles actually happen, where wrongs are challenged, the weak and downtrodden are defended, and love has the last word? Things Jesus said, like, “If you abide in My word … you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,”1 kept me going back for more. I read all four gospels and started over at Matthew.
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
—Jesus, Matthew 11:28–30
Does our attitude toward life determine our level of happiness? I became convinced that it does while volunteering with survivors of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that devastated parts of Chile in February 2010. Our team met many courageous and remarkably optimistic people who were finding ways to make the best of their horrible situations.
On our first trip to the area, we met a woman who had owned a hair salon. The tidal waves had swept through her shop, leaving total devastation in their wake. When she had dug through the mud where her business had been, she found only one pair of scissors, one buzzer, and one cape. Miraculously, the wave had also spared her large mirror. Thankful that she still had one of each of the items she needed, she cleaned them and reopened for business.
Question: I’ve been happier than ever since finding Jesus, but I still have problems and sometimes get quite down. My friends try to cheer me up and tell me to “put on my happy face,” but how can I smile and look happy when I really don’t feel that way? Wouldn’t that be hypocritical?
Answer: It is not being hypocritical to put on a happy face even when you don’t feel happy. It’s a sign of inner strength and maturity. It shows you realize that whatever is dragging you down at the moment is relatively small in the grand scope of things, and that it will pass.
Happiness of the spirit is far above happiness of the flesh, for happiness of the spirit is something that will always be there for you, even through the loneliest nights and the darkest times.
Happiness of the flesh is fleeting; it comes and goes with your circumstances and surroundings, with the things you see and feel and experience physically. But happiness of the spirit comes from knowing that I am your Savior and that I love and watch over you; those truths never change.
Regardless of whatever else we may be looking for in life, we all have one aspiration in common: we all want to be happy.
Happiness is different things to different people, of course, but some seem to think that it is as simple as having a good time. As children, we all do that. We think that happiness means doing as we please, having lots of fun and not much work. Eventually, after getting into plenty of mischief and suffering many stomachaches, most of us learn that happiness does not come from grabbing everything we want—that happiness is not the product of idleness and chocolate creams.
For the sorrowing every day is evil, for the joyous heart it is festival always.
—Proverbs 15:15 TJB
If you will call your troubles experiences, and remember that every experience develops some latent force within you, you will grow vigorous and happy, however adverse your circumstances may seem to be.
—John Heywood (1497–1580), English playwright and poet
It’s sad how many people are content to let life pass them by. Sure, they may be busy keeping up or trying to get ahead, and they may fill every spare moment with activities that they hope will be relaxing and enjoyable, but where is all that busy activity taking them? When do they really live? The secret to getting the most out of life is living close to Me and My Word.
I don’t mean that you should hide away and give yourself solely to quiet reflection and study; I mean that you should try to include Me in your daily activities and apply My Word to whatever you’re doing. If you do that, your life will take on new meaning and depth. You will not only be much happier and more fulfilled, but you will brighten the lives of those around you as you reflect My love and the light of My Word in all you do.
Nothing truly valuable arises from ambition or from a mere sense of duty; it stems rather from love and devotion towards men.
Mahatma Gandhi identified the seven sins in the world as wealth without work, pleasure before conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice, and politics without principle.