The last few weeks, I’ve been digging into Jennifer Dukes Lee’s soon to be released The Happiness Dare. Jennifer’s last book, Love Idol, was life-changing for me. So, even though this new book of hers frightened me, I took on the challenge and joined her Launch Team, trusting that the LORD would again bless me through it.
The biggest question I’ve been asking myself reading it is: “What exactly is happiness?” Before reading Jennifer’s book I was almost allergic to the word. It felt like this word made no room for sadness, for grief and for the very necessary permission to cry. In my own book I share about God teaching me to acknowledge the grief that resides in me, to even sit in it to minister to others who are walking through dark valleys.
In the past you see, I thought people expected me to be perpetually full of sunshine and because I wasn’t, I pretended I was, to not stick out like a sore thumb. Jennifer’s book Love Idol, among other things, helped open my eyes to see how I was crippling myself through idol worship. God was not calling me to live my life seeking approval and acceptance from others by pretending to be someone I am not, but rather to worship Him alone and to surrender myself to the JOY of walking the path He has prepared for me.
Now, in reading The Happiness Dare, I am coming to understand that happiness does not mean perpetual sunshine. As Jennifer says:
“Happy people cry. Happy people are familiar with the fear of thundercloads building up on their insides. Happy people are the people who know it’s a waste of effort to show up somewhere with the plastered-on Sunday smile…Feeling sad is a part of what makes your happiness more real and durable.”
I can tell you that I used to wear this plastered-on smile. If people would ask me how I was doing I would lie and say I was fine. I can so identify with what the mother of someone who lost their little girl shares in the book: “it has been easier for me to live in my darkness rather than face the light that comes from being truthful”. For me, it took the crippling flashbacks of PTSD to break me open, to allow God’s Light in. Finally, I admitted the pain and grief I had hidden inside for so long and began to pour it out to God and those close to me. And it is then something unexplainable began to happen. I began to feel true happiness.
The smile on my face has become a real one because rather than fleeing from and numbing pain, I have begun to enter it and pour it out. Where I used to keep people out, I’ve been learning to let them in. I’ve been witnessing the walls I built in the past fall and crumble, as I follow God’s calling upon my life.
And it is this stepping into the Light that is growing my trust in God and slowing me to listen for and feel God’s heart tug for others who are carrying grief inside of them. You see, Jennifer is right:
And as strange as this is going to sound, this “sitting with” and cupping of their broken shards, this lifting up of others to God through their suffering is making my heart sing. Because as I am doing this, I am witnessing the powerful, pursuing and compassionate love of our Savior for His people. I’ve sat holding the hands of a woman with tears falling down her cheek, as she’s spoken of the goodness of God, of our prayers being answered, of her witnessing how God has not abandoned her or her children. This, for me, is true happiness: the knowledge that God is a good, good Father, who will never, ever abandon His People and the experience of witnessing this Love in action in my own life and the lives of others.
I am happy through the weeping. I am happy sitting in the sad places of this world. I am happy pouring out my emotions and deepest yearnings before my Savior. I am happy because because I am finally daring to be who He has created me to be, the one whose heart weeps AND sings for joy. The one whose heart is tethered to the gifts of heaven here on earth: faith, hope and love.
Yes, “May the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.” (Psalm 68: 3, NIV). I am excited about pursuing my HAPPY calling as a child of God … and I hope you are too. Be encouraged that each one of us is unique with a unique HAPPY calling and a happiness style through which God yearns to bless us in the pouring out of His love and JOY into the lives of others.