HOW TO FEEL FANTASTIC (EVEN) AS A CHRISTIAN!
Whether we take faith in Christ seriously or not too seriously, its possible to be either happy or miserable. I must confess that much of my Christian life I have been living in an emotion of sadness or discontent, but folks, this is not the way God wants it.
Perhaps one reason for this is the lack of clear teaching on how to be happy as a Christian. I can't remember ever hearing any sermons on it.
Some Christians teach that it is almost WRONG to want to be happy.
So what if you have faith in Christ, yet you are actually quite unhappy, or even depressed?
Some people will tell you the solution is just to "lighten up", "go see a movie", "pamper yourself" and basically not to be so intense. These kind of strategies might give a bit of temporary relief to some people, but I wonder if this is the advice God would give. If it is, why isn't something as important as this explicitly taught in the Bible somewhere?
Actually, the Bible teaches us how to be happy. It happens not through zealous pursuit of God alone "wanting more of God" or obedience to a subset of His commandments though. I mean you can pray in tongues 10 hours a day and speak the Word of God and still not be happy! I know, I've tried it. It doesn't happen through operating the gifts of the Holy Spiritm though its good to operate in them. I've been there too!
There is one particular commandment given in the Bible though, which is universal in its scope as far as the way we live our lives is concerned, which I believe doesn't receive NEARLY enough emphasis in our teaching. I believe if people knew the POWER of OBEDIENCE to THIS ONE COMMAND, it would create a veritable internal revolution, and the springs of joy would break forth everywhere throughout the Body of Christ worldwide, for the glory of God.
And what is this command?
It is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rejoice always. Pray continually. In everything GIVE THANKS, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
This short passage is the most greatly under-utilized and under appreciated practical passage for successful and happy Christian living found ANYWHERE in the Bible.
As you and I learn to apply this, and JUST DO IT, amazing results are going to follow!
Because, a grateful person is a happy person. A supremely grateful person is supremely happy. God wants us, for our own good and because it is the RIGHT thing to do, to develop a habit of CONSTANT gratitude and regular verbal thanksgiving towards Himself.
After all, He is the giver of every good gift.
Dr Glenn Nowell has developed a systematic approach to how to develop a life of thanksgiving. This approach has successfully transformed many hopelessly miserable people and even Dr Glenn's own life and marriage. It has also helped fine Christian people to experience the overflowing abundant life that Christ promised. You can read more about his approach here where I give you a summary of what to do, and here, which is Dr Glenn's own website.
This things of GIVING THANKS is a command of God. Once we understand this, there is actually NO EXCUSE for not doing it "IN ALL THINGS". We are going to have to retrain our brains to behave differently, and this change of behavior is going to release GOD'S BLESSING, correct chemical imbalances and stimulate our FAITH in such a way that God will be pleased, and we will be very happy as well.
Many people, myself included, have wondered how God could reasonably ask us to "Rejoice always". I would get sad just thinking about the lost condition of people everywhere and the judgement to come. And I think there can be times when we feel this way, but its not where we should LIVE. We were not designed to carry the cares of the world and the people of it upon our shoulders. Its good to understand by experience a little of how God feels, but God doesn't want us, His little children, to be always overburdened by the crushing weight of the sins of the world and the judgement to come. That burden is for God alone and in one sense He has already taken it on through Christ on the cross.
God doesn't command us to worry all day long about souls – we could not bear that – but He DOES command us to rejoice always.
REJOICING IS AN ACTION, NOT A FEELING
Please note that God does not begin by telling us "have joyful feelings always". Feelings are not under our direct control. But our thoughts and actions ought to be. If they are not, we need deliverance from evil spirits. But to the extent we can indeed control our thoughts and actions, we need to use our will to do our part. And then, we are going to see how the Holy Spirit will work in us.
One way to move into joy is to give thanks more and more. You can learn how to do this and you can train yourself in it. This is a rational approach. Another way, which may seem silly at first, is to do the actions of rejoicing. You'll be amazed about this. Even if you feel a bit sad, try jumping up and down, waving your hands in the air, and praising the Lord with your mouth. Go on! It might seem a bit ridiculous to you, but for the purpose of the exercise TRY IT, and then ask yourself if you don't feel immediately just a little better!
Almost everyone WILL actually feel just a little bit better. Your mind may say this is stupid, its ridiculous. But in one sense your brain doesn't know this. Your brain will start to release some endorphins, some seratonin in response to joyful activities. It just can't help itself! It might be only a little, but it will be noticeable.
Even people in the world who talk about NLP and stuff like this understand this principle to some extent. They know that what you DO with your body affects the internal states of your mind.
This is why people who go to megachurches where there is loud and exuberant praise can get a real buzz out of participating in it and a real feel-good factor even though they have not really determined to go and live a clean and holy life for God! Just the ACTION of rejoicing will release feel-good chemicals in the brain. But sitting around scowling and criticizing won't. Moping around and telling everyone how bad you feel or how bad your situation is CERTAINLY WON'T.
Its kind of crazy to keep choosing to do things that we know don't work in giving us happy lives. Sometimes I wonder if we prefer being miserable! Perhaps we feel it is safer to be on familiar territory.
Let's Get This Straight
God actually COMMANDS us to rejoice. But if that seems a little harsh to you, work your way up to it by training yourself to CONSTANTLY GIVE THANKS. You will eventually start to FEEL GRATEFUL, and then you might start to FEEL LIKE REJOICING. But whether you feel like it or not, no one is going to FORCE you to rejoice. This is a choice God command us to make, but He doesn't make it for us.
We can rejoice BEFORE we feel like rejoicing. This is not hypocritical. This is a legitimate choice! What is amazing is that if we make this choice consistently, and put into practice other important areas of the Christian life and ministry as described on this website and in other places, we are likely to start to FEEL FANTASTIC.