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Summary: "You and I were created for joy, and if we miss it, we miss the reason for our existence.” The findings of "Positive Psychology" researchers are remarkably similar to what the Bible teaches about finding happiness.

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"You and I were created for joy, and if we miss it, we miss the reason for our existence.”

That’s what it said in the book I pulled from the bookstore shelf, You Gotta Keep Dancin’. The subtitle really intrigued me. It said, "In the midst of life’s hurts, you can choose joy!" Well I wasn’t very interested in pain, but I liked the idea of having joy in life, so I bought the book.

The book is written by Tim Hansel who tells how he fell when climbing a glacier in the Sierras. The fall left him with fractures in his vertebrae, crushed discs, and some fragments of bone in his neck. Ever since the fall, Hansel has lived with continued physical pain. Because of his pain, and his faith in God, the author came to a deep understanding of the dignity of what can happen in, through, and because of pain. The book is a wonderful compilation of journal entries and quotations on finding joy in pain. Tim Hansel has this to say about pain and joy:

Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional. We cannot avoid pain, but we can avoid joy. God has given us such immense freedom that he will allow us to be as miserable as we want to be.

I know some people who spend their entire lives practicing being unhappy, diligently pursuing joylessness. They get more mileage from having people feel sorry for them than from choosing to live out their lives in the context of joy. (p. 55)

Here is a proven strategy for increasing your happiness and satisfaction in life:

Step 1: Let go of any strategies that promise happiness but don’t deliver. Last Sunday, we saw how the Teacher, in Ecclesiastes, experienced most of the paths we take, searching for happiness: money, wealth, prestige, knowledge. The Teacher found that each path leads to emptiness; it’s all meaningless.

We need money and we need knowledge. But if you are counting on these things to make you happy, give up. These paths do not lead to happiness.

Step 2: Develop Gratitude.

Philippians 4:6-7

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Researchers of "Positive Psychology" believe that much of our happiness comes from how we view our past. As we look back on our personal history – the way we were parented, our experiences in school, our family life... If we look back on these experiences with gratitude, we are very likely happy people. Those who look back with bitterness or anger are also unhappy people.

So these researchers suggest these practical activities:

1) Make a Gratitude Visit. Write a page on why you appreciate someone in your past. Then make an appointment with that person and read what you wrote to them. Leave them with a laminated copy of it. They will feel great - and so will you.

2) Keep a Gratitude Journal. Dr. Martin Seligman recommends stopping each night before bedtime and writing down three things that happended during your day for which you are thankful. Do this for six weeks. See if you are not significantly happier at the end of this time.

Step 3: Plan and perform acts of kindness.

Matthew 22:37-40

"Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’a This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’”

We show our love through acts of kindness.

Galatians 5:22

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness..."

There’s a saying:

If you want to be happy…

…for an hour, take a nap.

…for a day, go fishing.

…for a month, get married.

…for a year, get an inheritance.

…for a lifetime, help someone.

Sonja Lyuborsky’s Exercise

Sonja and her colleagues asked students to perform five "random, intentional acts of kindness" per week, over the course of six weeks (35 total acts of kindness). Students were told to choose acts of kindness that met two criteria: (1) The act benefited another person and (2) The act required them to give something away (for example, their time, their energy, their food, or some other personal resource)

Step 4: Forgive somebody NOW.

Matthew 5:43-44

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”

Negative feelings about life are tied directly to bitterness associated with past events that we can’t seem to let go of. Like gratitude, forgiveness enables us to think about the past in a new perspective.

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