I used to believe the search for happiness was a superficial pursuit, that happiness and holiness were mutually exclusive. But now I understand they go hand in hand. This work of seeking authentic happiness is important, and it is holy. Deep joy and a happy life are not dependent upon our day-to-day life events, and they are not superficial. As we seek the Lord and delight in all that He has for us (no matter our circumstances), we not only change, but we begin to change everyone who comes in contact with us.
I collected all my favorite and most helpful insights, research, and truths as a road map for you as you embark on the important work of choosing happiness in your life.
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Don’t Let Pride Poison Your Happiness
In the months following the release of Breaking Busy, I was floored by how well it was received and all the incredibly nice things people had to say about the book. The whole experience was like something out of a dream. The fact that I had written and published a book was crazy enough, and then to learn that so many people were finding the book helpful and encouraging was more than I could have ever expected.
But, like anything else, the book wasn’t for everyone, and not everyone thought it was absolutely amazing. And to be perfectly transparent, the criticism got to me. It really got to me. I swung from feeling completely humbled that someone read—and was helped by—my book, to feeling threatened and humiliated when someone didn’t like my work.
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"Pride sits on our shoulder and tells us we should have more."
After the thrill of positive reviews, the criticisms stoked my pride and absolutely poisoned my happiness. So when someone left me a negative review, Pride said, “Alli, those people apparently don’t realize how much the book could help them. Clearly they don’t get it.”
Pride whispers lies that we deserve something better, that we are above other people, and, worst of all, that we are owed their praise. Pride sits on our shoulder and tells us we should have more. And let me tell you, my pride got the best of me that time around!
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"Pride poisons our ability to know the happiness that comes from being content."
But in His gentleness, the Lord spoke this truth over me from Proverbs 11:2: “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” It was humbling for me to admit that pride had gotten the best of me. But recognizing it, and then asking the Lord to help me be humble, actually helped me learn to be content whether the reviews were good or bad.
Pride poisons our ability to know the happiness that comes from being content. But humility is the soil where happiness grows. It allows us to be filled with gratitude at the wonder of God’s goodness in our lives.
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Can you imagine what it would’ve been like in the garden of Eden? Picture for a moment how incredible your quiet time would be if it consisted of actually walking with God in the cool of the day. Not only that, but your world would have been completely at peace and lacking nothing—always getting to enjoy the best of the best.
If we were to experience true happiness from living with God in the garden, you think it’d be pretty easy not to do the one thing God said would ruin it, right?
But we know that’s not how the story ended. The Serpent convinced Adam and Eve of the most basic and insidious lie: God’s rules keep us from being happy.
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"God’s commandments are actually designed to keep us happy."
By twisting the words of God, the Serpent persuaded our ancient grandparents to believe that God was keeping true happiness from them.
The Enemy isn’t all that creative and hasn’t changed his tactics on us. He still uses the same, tired argument that God’s rules are meant to rob us of our happiness because we buy it so readily. By stroking our egos, he convinces us that we know how to make ourselves happy far better than our Maker does.
God’s commandments are actually designed to keep us happy. Proverbs tells us, “Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord” (16:20).
When we learn to faithfully follow the instructions God has given us in His Word, we will find that our lives end up looking a lot more like the garden He intended for us.
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Starting Your Day With Joy (Happiness Insurance)
My best days are the ones when I wake up ready to spend time with Jesus, because I know that when I do, I’m starting my day off with joy.
On the days when I don’t start my morning with Him, it shows. When we are together, He reminds me who I am, what He’s created me for, and the love He’s shown to me and others. Without that time, it isn’t long until my happy-meter runs down to zero. That’s because God created us so that we would find our happiness in Him and Him alone!
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"When we start our day with Jesus, we’re starting it with the very source of all happiness."
For me to be truly happy, no matter what unpredictable things are happening in my world, I have to take the time to sit with Jesus, the source of all happiness.
So often we’re like the woman at the well, looking for our happiness in so many other places, even though the very source of happiness is sitting right in front of us. In those moments, Jesus looks at us with grace in His eyes and says, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10).
When we start our day with Jesus, we’re starting it with the very source of all happiness.
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God’s Plan, Not My Plan
As a business coach and strategist, I love developing plans. Plans are the chocolate to my peanut butter. They are the icing to my cake. They are the pepperoni to my pizza. (Have you noticed all my analogies are food related?) My point is: I love plans. (And snacks.)
Once I map out a plan, I’m not a fan of anyone telling me to change my direction. I’m very decisive like that. But God, in His infinite wisdom and desire to keep me humble, has taken so many of my brilliant plans and rerouted them in a completely different direction.
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"His plans are always infinitely better than my own."
I once built a news website that I quickly realized I had no desire to run.
I built an app that no one ever even wanted.
Friend, I have stories and stories of my failed entrepreneurial ideas!
There have been times when I have fought God on these plans tooth and nail (which is Southern for “kicking and screaming”). And you know how I felt when I was resisting His leading? Miserable.
I have had to learn to turn over the reins and the strategic plans of my life to God. And in the process, I have learned that although His ways are not my ways, His plans are always infinitely better than my own.
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"Only God can fill the deepest desires of our hearts."
Only God knows what will truly make us happy. Only God can fill the deepest desires of our hearts. His Word reminds us, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” (Romans 11:33). You can trust Him to direct, plan, and lead your life. That is where real happiness comes from.
Excerpted from The Year of Living Happy: Finding Contentment and Connection in a Crazy World, Zondervan. 2018.
Alli Worthington is the author of Fierce Faith, Breaking Busy and The Year of Living Happy. She's a speaker and business coach. Her goal is to help women live the life they were created to live. She lives outside Nashville with her husband, Mark, their five sons, and the only golden retriever who refuses to retrieve. Alli spends way too much time on Instagram at @AlliWorthington and you can find out all about her at AlliWorthington.com.
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Originally published Tuesday, 02 October 2018.