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Fight for Your Happiness Part 2


By Pastor Phillip Howle
web posted May 21, 2015

RELIGION – We will continue looking at happiness this week as I share some insights from “The Happy Christian: Ten Ways to Be a Joyful Believer in a Gloomy World” by David Murray.  I’ll get going with some news for you, some of your happiness is already determined. Cleary for my wife, each day is pure bliss as she gets to live with me! But Murray notes that “Scientists also discovered that each of us has a baseline happiness that is difficult to change.

Just as we all have a baseline weight that we tend to gravitate toward regardless of our efforts at dieting or muscle building, our parents have bequeathed us a happiness set point in our genes that we tend to return to no matter how many setbacks or triumphs we experience. Research has indicated that our genes explain about 50 percent of our happiness or lack of it.”( S. Lyubomirsky, “Pursuing Happiness: The Architecture of Sustainable Change,” Review of General Psychology 9 (2005):111–31.)

If therefore, 50% is determined, you might say with my other 50% I am going to get a better job, nicer truck, better friends, and lose some weight. That will maximize my happiness right? Wrong! Actually the same study above shows that “improvements in life circumstances or situations account for only about 10 percent of our happiness.” In other words the emotional return on the investment is minuscule for all the effort in chasing the above events. These positive events create some happiness, but it’s usually minimal and brief.

So we are left with about 40% of our happiness being ours to improve. So what makes up the last 40%?  These same scientists tell us it’s our daily choices about what we think about and do. This makes good sense. We change our view and thoughts about what we face in life.

David Murray lists some unhealthy thought patterns that we all have probably faced at one point in our lives or another.
Black-or-White Thinking: In my life I will at times think in extreme, black-or-white categories. If someone complains at church, I will look at my wife and say “everyone hates me!” But it in reality it is just one person whose complaint was actually valid. 
Generalizing: This is when something happens badly one time and we think it will occur over and over.  The kid who strikes in baseball.

Filtering: This is picking the little bad out of a pile of good. Your meal out was great, but your glass ran low on ice and all you can talk about is how bad the service was!
Transforming: This is turning a positive experience into a bad one. This is when you run into an old friend and they say “you look good” and you walk away thinking, “I wonder what they want from me?”

Mind Reading: This is when you think you know someone’s thoughts. Someone does not speak at church, and you know they are thinking bad thoughts about you and trying to avoid you. The reality is they just did not have a chance to speak, feel bad about it, and love you dearly!

Perfecting: This is when you just can’t be pleased. Your own performance is not good enough and others never meet your standards either.
 
Telescoping: This is when you look back at the past failures and sins and live in regret instead of turning the scope forward to look at all God has in store for your life.
These are nasty patterns that we get into! These patterns literally create paths in our brains to act and think like this. But the good news is that with grace enabled directive change, the old paths can be replaced with new healthy Godly thought patterns. Romans 12:2 promises us this “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Murray offers a pretty simple six step process to work through mentally when you face adversity.
1. STEP 1: What are the facts?
2. STEP 2: What am I thinking about these facts?
3. STEP 3: What am I feeling?
4. STEP 4: Can I change the facts?
5. STEP 5: Can I change my thoughts about the facts?
6. STEP 6: What am I feeling now?

So think through a possible situation in my life with me. Let’s say that a person was scheduled to have a major surgery at Palmetto Baptist Hospital at 6:00 a.m. in Columbia. One of the responsibilities and joys I have as a pastor is to be able to pray with that person and offer them comfort before they go into to have surgery. But let’s say that the surgery was cancelled the day before. They did not tell me, so I drive to Columbia and I am there at 5:45 and they are not there. This would be a three hour waste of time and resources that a simple call would have saved me from making.

1. STEP 1: What are the facts? I am in Columbia early in the morning. I got up early, prayed for this person on the ride up, and listened to an audio book. I have a ride home, to call a friend, pray, or listen to the audio book.

2. STEP 2: What am I thinking about these facts? I am not happy that I got up earlier than normal and drove two hours for what seemingly amounted to nothing.

3. STEP 3: What am I feeling? I am initially worried, why was the surgery cancelled? Then I get frustrated as they did not call me. I am saying one call or text. I feel a little disrespected.

4. STEP 4: Can I change the facts? No, the facts are what they are. I cannot make the person have surgery and I can’t magically be back in Edgefield.

5. STEP 5: Can I change my thoughts about the facts? Yes, I can choose to meditate on God’s perfect timing. I can think back to certain events in my life. I can chose to enjoy my hours productively. I may even drive to West Columbia to visit a Great Aunt I have not seen in a while.

6. STEP 6: What am I feeling now? Glad that everything is OK with the person who forgot to call. I feel bad that person who forgot to contact feels bad about forgetting. I enjoy my time with my Great Aunt. I am happy that I spent time reflecting on God’s timing.  I feel bad that I was so selfish with my time and that I got bothered.

Murray summarizes these steps as
• How did I get into this mood? Facts, thoughts, and feelings.
• How do I get out of this mood? Facts, thoughts, and feelings.

This is what we said last week in the two verses we should be working on memorizing: 2 Corinthains 10:5 “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” and Prov 23:7 “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

So resolve this week to fight for your happiness! Work on outing off unproductive and harmful thought patterns and replacing them with thoughts that help to process life and bring your closer to Jesus!

Pastor Phillip





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