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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Searching for Happiness

What is happiness? 

I have been thinking about this for months, and just now am I finally able to write it in a way that explains exactly (almost) how I feel. 

If you were to ask a million people “What makes you happy?” my guess is that each person would have a different answer.  Yes, there may be themes, but each answer would be different.  For example, I love music.  Listening to good music and playing music makes me feel happy.  Food is one of the main things that makes Jordan happy.  You wouldn’t believe how many times after eating something that he likes that he’ll say, “Why does food make me this happy?”

I did a Google search on “happiness” and countless links were pulled up.  Scientific explanations of emotions, Coca-cola ads, and how-to-be-happy lists were some of the results, just to name a few. 

I did a similar search of happiness on LDS.org.  It is a website that has links for scriptures, hundreds of General Conference talks, family history websites, and hymn collections.  I kind of love this website, and it gave me something to compare to my Google search.  This second search was of the scriptures, such as the Bible, Book of Mormon, and modern revelation called The Doctrines and Covenants.  The results from this search were a complete opposite from the Google search in that the results followed one theme. 

Righteousness (keeping the commandments, doing good things, etc.) equals happiness. 

It seemed almost overly simple.  Scriptures said that righteousness was happiness, but the internet had no one source, no one answer for what can make someone happy. 

It’s uncannily similar to a lie found in the plant world.

If I were to ask you what plant food is, what would you say?  Most people would say that fertilizer is plant food.  Go to any Wal-Mart and you can find some “Plant Food” for specific plants like roses or just generic fertilizer for many kinds of plants.  It’s true, balanced fertilizer is important for healthy plant growth.  Too much or too little of certain elements can lead to illness or plant death, so you’ve got to be careful.

But it’s not food.  It’s a lie. 

Sunlight is plant food.  Through photosynthesis, plants convert the energy from sunlight into sugar, which goes on to provide energy for plant growth and energy storage in things like fruit, tubers and storage roots.  That’s kind of why plants are so cool.  Just sayin’.  Fertilizer can be synthetic or organic, but its goal is to supply several different elements to the plant that are critical for plant growth.  If you took two of the same plants and planted them in the same soil but only gave one fertilizer, it would grow larger and greener than the plant without fertilizer.  However, if you took those two plants and planted them in the same soil and gave them the same amount of water and an equal amount of a balanced fertilizer but covered one of the plants with a black cloth, it would die and the other would live.  Sunlight is plant food, not fertilizer.  Fact. 

So, what does this have to do with happiness?  Just as the fertilizer companies or marketing teams came up with a way to sell more fertilizer based on a seemingly harmless lie, we have been feed a lie by popular culture for so long (like, since the world began people have been denying the true source of happiness) that many people don’t know where to look for happiness. 

Many of the things that I found in my Google search were good.  They fit the description of what would be our “fertilizer”.  When our minds, bodies, and spirits are taken care of, we are able to grow and do amazing things.  Music helps me to relax, and food helps Jordan to feel content and happy, especially if it’s really yummy food.  Too much – such as spending all my time finding new music and artists – or too little – green vegetables – can have negative effects on our health and joy.  These good things need to be balanced, and that balance will be different for each individual.  But they don’t bring lasting happiness. 

Righteousness equals happiness.  Why? 

Because the commandments are guidelines and rules to help us build a relationship with God. 

Sometimes commandments are seen as chains, holding us back from true freedom.  That is a lie.  The Ten Commandments point out important things to do and help us avoid serious sins that hurt not just ourselves but those around us as well.  In modern revelation called the Word of Wisdom, we are commanded to avoid consuming tea, coffee, alcohol and drugs, because addictions – no matter how small – limit our ability to make good choices. 

And every time we follow one of the commandments, God sends us the blessings He has promised for that obedience.  The more we follow His commandments, the more blessings He sends.  He will not force us to follow Him, but He blesses us beyond measure when we do.  

The source of true happiness is in developing a relationship with God.  He LOVES you!  He is all powerful, all knowing, and His goal is to help you come back to live with Him.  The happiness that comes from Him can carry you through any sorrow, any trial, because it isn’t based on instant gratification but is based in hope for better days, despite the pain of today. 

I know this is true.  I know it.  My life has been incredible, and I have been blessed with family and friends who have changed my life.  I have had immense trials and heartache as well.  I have had times where I felt the only person I had to talk to was God.  And I can promise you that He hears your prayers!

As a senior in high school, I struggled to balance so many different kinds of stress and responsibilities.  Especially during the winter, when the sun would set early and the stars were bright early in the evening, I would sit on my bed and watch the stars while I prayed.  Even years after, looking at those constellations brings back memories of the peace that I felt while I prayed, an emotion that could not have come from myself at that time. 

More recently, I have felt happiness from God that could have come in no other way.  My dream for life is to be married to a man that I love (check) and to have a family that loves the Lord.  In July, to my complete shock and extreme joy, I learned that I was pregnant.  I knew that while I was “sick”, I didn’t want to tell anyone because I didn’t want to face them if I miscarried.  But Jordan and I talked a lot about it and I realized that if I did miscarry, I would want my family to know so that I would have their support and love.  And their excitement through the journey if miscarriage didn’t happen!  I was so excited. 

On my Mom’s birthday, my body started to reject the baby growing inside it.  The next week was the most emotionally and physically painful I have ever known as I begged God to let me carry the child, then to realize that it was too late.  I cannot express to you the fear and grief that I felt and am still feeling. 

The week before classes started again for fall semester, Jordan and I went with his family to Lake Powell.  Though my body and spirit felt so weak, a week away from the real world seemed like a good plan.  Each day, we would ride the boat out to a new spot in the lake then set up a picnic area and play all day.  My favorite part of the day was when we would ride out in the morning and the water was so calm as we rode past the towering cliffs.  That was my favorite because I could pray all I wanted, and I could feel God’s answers and love for me. And in one of the hardest moments of my life, I was able to have moments of pure happiness and peace. 

For me, the beauty of that lake wasn’t so much the water or the boats on it.  It was the majestic cliffs whose beauty came from how they were broken.  Years of erosion and cataclysmic events had shaped the landscape into one of the most beautiful places in the world.    

He is doing that with me, right now.  If I let Him, God will use these moments when I am breaking to shape me into someone much more beautiful than I was before.  Sometimes its years of little things that shape us.  And sometimes it’s one event that seems to be too much to handle.  But with God, “in his strength I can do all things” (Alma 26:12).  I’ve realized that even though I have had my heart broken many times, God was there every time.  I may not have had my prayers answered in the way I was expecting, but He was there.  He will be there if you ask Him to be with you.  

I would not be who I am today if it weren’t for the relationship that I built with my Father in Heaven in those hard times and in the times of peace.  He has carried me through the storms that I have faced, and I have seen His hand in my times of joy and wonder. 

When you are feeling unhappy, look up.  Pray.  Ask Him if He is there.  And then listen.  Because the relationship that you can build with God is more powerful, more wonderful than any piece of music or any new meal or whatever it is that brings you “happiness” in this mixed up, confused world.