“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness.”

During elementary school, likely you memorized these words from the Preamble to The Declaration of Independence. The words are rich and meaningful…a guiding star lighting our path.

Who doesn’t want to be happy? Included in Webster’s definition of happy is this: “having or showing great pleasure or joy; glad.” Thesaurus adds these words: contented, blissful, ecstatic, delighted, on cloud nine.

On cloud nine is where we’d like to live. But life often carries us to unexpected places where joy and gladness run shallow, casting gloom on our pursuit.

Early in my journalism career, I began receiving invitations to speak for church groups. Being in my early twenties, I had little life experience—but I was full of dreams. My trademark message was on happiness and my favorite quote was this: “Happiness is not a station we arrive at but a manner of traveling.” I’ve forgotten the author of those words, but they set the mood for my life-journey.

The Lord gifted me with an optimistic personality, so staying upbeat and “looking on the bright side” came naturally…when I was young. No wonder. Everything was going my way—amazing career opportunities, a blessed marriage, a future full of hope. Happy was my normal place. Two precious children completed my dreams. They were in their early teens when life took an unexpected turn as my parents and my husband’s parents began declining in health, soon after my 1986 book Twice Pardoned hit the national Christian bestsellers list.

After a very public life as journalist and bestselling author, I left the limelight to take care of people I loved. Gradually the Lord eliminated every non-essential thing, shrinking my life to basics: driving our parents to medical appointments, attending school functions involving our children, attending church, shopping for groceries and cooking (often for our three families), doing laundry for our three families.

I call this period my shrunken life because of my limited circle. A better term would be a life hidden with Christ. My circumstances sent me to his feet seeking strength for each day. Those were precious years of growing in faith, getting to know my Savior’s heart, and learning to rest in his everlasting arms while returning to our parents some of the loving care they had given us.

During this exhausting but sweet time in my life, I began to understand what it means to pursue happiness as I learned to depend on God and love his Word. I memorized Scriptures highlighting the source of happiness, joy, and gladness.

“Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God” (Psalm 146:5).

“Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold” (Proverbs 3:15-16).

“…whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he” (Proverbs 16:20).

“And he brought forth his people with joy, and his chosen with gladness” (Psalm 105:43).

“And he brought forth his people with joy, and his chosen with gladness” (Psalm 105:43). Click To Tweet

“But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee. For thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield” (Psalm 5:11-12).

“For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands” (Isaiah 55:12).

“…the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10b).

Happiness really is a manner of traveling. When the joy of the Lord is our strength, circumstances won’t diminish our gladness. Joy is among the cluster of fruit the Holy Spirit produces when we surrender fully to the Lord (Galatians 5:22-23).

Walking in the Spirit is the preferred manner of traveling.

Walking in the Spirit is the preferred manner of traveling. Click To Tweet

“This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

“Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:11).

Please tell me what you’ve learned about choosing joy in hard places. And I’d appreciate your sharing this with your friends.

© Dianne Barker 2020

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