Bible Society of South Africa

Happiness – you have a choice! - 27 November 2023

By Ewald Schmidt

Bible text(s)

12So I realized that all we can do is to be happy and do the best we can while we are still alive.

Ecclesiastes 3:12GNBOpen in Bible reader

Life has never been easy and comfortable all the time. From the time when Adam and Eve were evicted from paradise, the earth has produced its thorns and thistles. From that time on, man has earned his bread by the sweat of his brow. And from the very beginning of human history, relationships among people have been challenging. Jealousy and hatred have gained a foothold on this earth. Mankind steals from one another and hurt each other through ugly words and deeds. The Bible has so many examples of human suffering, caused by the conduct of other people. We have experienced this ourselves; we were not spared. In the Bible, there is a whole book of lamentations and a lot of psalms describe the suffering that man endures in this world. If we look at our own story, we each have our own tales of suffering, of things happening to us that we have no control over. We do not always have a choice in the things happening to us and it is easy to get depressed over everything that goes wrong in our lives.

There is a better alternative! It is time to start thinking in a new way. It might be true that we do not have control of the things happening to us. However, we always have a choice about how we are going to respond to the challenges. This is the whole point of the Swiss Jewish psychologist, Viktor Frankl’s book, “Man’s search for meaning”. He wrote it after his own horrific experiences in the Nazi concentration camps of World War II, where he lost his whole family to the genocide. He says, in his book, that you do not have a choice in what happens to you. But, you always have control over the way you think and react to it. You can choose to let it make you negative and destroy you, or you can take control over your thoughts and reactions, and walk out victorious on the other side with your head held high.

The whole book of Ecclesiastes wrestles with human suffering in difficult times. In these times, today’s verse stands out as a beacon of hope. You can choose to be happy, regardless of the circumstances in your life. Paul commanded, in Philippians 4:4, to always rejoice in the Lord. No man can steal this joy from you. We can choose to live with gratitude, even if it feels as if life gives us too little. Gratitude is a choice to be mindful of the small blessings in your life, every day. Right now, while you read these words, you are able to see. You are awake and not in a coma, somewhere in a hospital. I hope you are blessed with a warm meal today and a roof over your head. May you have friends and family that value your presence in their lives.

If we always complain about the things we do not have, we will never be happy. If we find joy in the small things and celebrate those with gratitude, a joyful, happy life will surely follow. Then, our lives become a blessing to the people around us.

Prayer: Lord, you are so good to me! Thank you for all the blessings that I receive every day. Help me to focus on your love and grace when I go through challenging times. Please provide my daily bread in times of need. Amen

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