So far we’ve seen that we have a lot control over how happy we are. Much of it has to do with choosing to think positively. Some of us wonder, of course, “But what about all the problems? Do we just ignore them?” If we go about life ignoring our problems, often they get bigger, don’t they? So how do we deal with the negatives? Well, that’s what we will consider today. The title of this presentation is called Being Happy – Part 5 – Solutions.

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Bill here for LifeResource Ministries.

Today we’re going to continue our series on Happiness. So far we’ve seen that we have a lot control over how happy we are. Much of it has to do with choosing to think positively. Some of us wonder, of course, “But what about all the problems? Do we just ignore them?” If we go about life ignoring our problems, often they get bigger, don’t they? So how do we deal with the negatives? Well, that’s what we will consider today. The title of this presentation is called Being Happy – Part 5 – Solutions. The point here is, that even though we’ve talked about positive psychology and about focusing on positive things, we also need to face our challenges and deal with the tough issues. It’s not one or the other. It’s both.

How can we be happy when bad things are hanging over our head though? It makes sense to do what we can, doesn’t it? I see so many Christians who are waiting for God to fix their problems, when they haven’t done all they can do yet. In the meantime, they suffer on – the quality of their life diminished; their growth impeded. I don’t think God works that way. He’s willing to help, but He wants us to work, too. But then there will always be things we can’t do much about. What do we do with those? Well, let’s think about all of that today.

What can we do? Well, one thing is, we can proactively work on problems rather than just fretting about them. Take some steps.

I used to be a volunteer facilitator at the Children’s Grief Center of New Mexico. I went to a luncheon for emeritus board members yesterday. There was a lady there who works as the manager of the Grief Center. She told us about all the good things they’re doing, but then she painted another picture. They were losing their funding from many sources and for reasons that were diverse and none of which were anybody’s fault. She pointed out that she couldn’t even show us a video, because one of the laptops they have was too old to have enough power to do the job. Someone in the group asked about grants, and she said, “We know about every grant we could be eligible for and we have applied for all of them.” So it was a bleak picture and we know, because we run a non-profit, too, it’s hard to find money to do the things that need to be done. But then she said, “There’s one thing we haven’t done much of and that’s working directly with the people who have benefited from what we do here.” And then she referenced the scripture and used it in a way I’d never thought about. She said – and by the way, that’s not a religious organization and I’m not sure she even knew she was quoting a scripture – but she said, “Freely you have received, freely give” – meaning give back in the context she was using it. She said, “We’re asking people that have benefited from the groups in the Center to talk to people and spread the word that about us. And we’re asking those folks that have benefited, also, to donate, since they have been the recipients of the generosity of other people.” She talked for quite a while about all the plans they had to reach people one at a time – very proactive – not giving up, not getting discouraged, working hard to solve the financial issues they have – very impressive.

Most of the people that I meet – who come to my office – are like that, too. That’s why they’ve come after all. They have a problem and they’re taking steps to resolve it. But others, whom I usually don’t meet, have what could be called a state of learned helplessness. They’re paralyzed by it. They’re hoping something will happen without any effort on their part – you know, expecting a miracle. You know, there’s a saying about what it means when you’re doing the same thing and expecting different results. They’re expecting help from others when could do it themselves. They believe they can’t solve their own problems. Some of them, who are Christian, think that God is a magical, enabling fairy, when He’s really an all-wise God who expects us to do what we can. Some of them tend to run away from hard work, like facing their feelings. And then some are willing to settle for misery when they could be happier. Guess which group is the happiest. Well, it’s the proactive group, of course. So I love to work with these people, because their attitude about problems is one of the most important aspects of problem solving.

So why are these folks happier? Well, because it feels so good to know you’re taking steps to solve an issue that makes you unhappy. I’ll give you an example. During a first EMDR session, a boy came to my office some time ago. He was fourteen. His mother had brought him. His father had died the year before from a drug overdose. They’d been divorced for quite a while, so he spent time with his dad apart from his mother. He’d spent a lot of time watching his dad cycle on down through his addiction problem. And he would talk to his father, even as a little child, but could do nothing about his father’s behavior. Those of you who know, or are related to, addicts know the helplessness and the anger that he felt, don’t you? So his anger was getting out of control. He was going off on his mother, sometimes his friends at school, even some of the teachers. And because he was a good boy, he was embarrassed and discouraged about his behavior and, also, depressed. And he couldn’t seem to get a handle on it. So we talked about it and I explained that since his problem stemmed from things that had happened to him, rather than from a brain that wasn’t working right, he could get over all of that. He was willing to work at it, too. So he came back the next week and he told me he felt much better. And he asked me, “Why do I feel better already?” And I said, “Well, we always feel good when we find the courage to face down a scary problem. And that’s what you did when you walked in here. We haven’t started to work on the issue yet, but you feel better just knowing you’re doing something about it.” And I see this in most of the people that I work with. Just taking the first steps feels so good. It’s like lifting a burden at last – finally starting to get on top of it.

So that’s the first thing we can do when we have a problem that keeps us up at night. Instead of sitting back and letting the problem overwhelm us, or becoming anxious about it, or depressed, we can go proactive and start taking action. It’s amazing what happens when we just take a step or two.

I met a man once who was having problems with his anger. Both his parents were alcoholics and they abused him and his siblings a lot. He started processing the anger in therapy and quickly got some relief from it. And he was very happy about that, but that’s not all that happened. He was a construction worker, doing commercial work for a big company, and when he had some time off, he would become extremely anxious. He wasn’t thinking about that when he came in. He was just focused on his anger. Now he also grew up in extreme poverty. He told me once that when he was ten, he would steal steaks at the grocery store just to have something to eat. But to get rid of the anger, we had to process the poverty he experienced, as well as the abuse, because that was partly causing his anger. And when we did that, he anxiety about being unemployed diminished as well. That was one of the things driving his anxiety. It was the fear of being poor again. But you know, that’s not the only benefit. Once he was not so angry and anxious, he no longer had to drink and smoke to find relief. Wow! But that’s not all. Once he stopped drinking and smoking, he felt so good that he started going back to church and found a commitment to Jesus Christ there. But that’s not all. Once he stopped getting drunk and flying off the handle at his estranged teenaged daughters, they started drawing close to him again.

You know, Paul said, “All things work together for good to those who love God.” When we start taking some positive proactive steps to solve our own problems, good things happen that we weren’t even expecting.

There is a roadblock to proactivity, however. And that’s self-deception. What am I talking about? Christians think they’re supposed to be perfect, so they pretend they are. I’ll give you an example. I met a Christian man once who was drinking a twelve-pack of beer every evening and didn’t consider himself to have an alcohol problem. He just wouldn’t face it. He knew Christians weren’t supposed to drink, so he was going to pretend that his amount wasn’t too much. He did have a high tolerance, so he didn’t get completely wasted on it, but that’s too much – too much for his liver and he did do a lot of dumb things while he was drinking that much. But he just wouldn’t face it. And he will never resolve that issue until he sees it as a problem. What would everyone think if he started going to AA meetings? That was kind of in the back of his mind.

We try to tell ourselves that the church would judge us and we don’t want that. But the fact is that we’re afraid to face other Christians with our problems – to admit that we have them – to face the reality of life. Most of the addicts I’ve met are addicts because they believe they can’t do anything about their problem, except to escape through self-medication. They don’t realize their addiction is self-medication – an attempt to find relief from terrible feelings. If they will find help facing those feelings, they won’t need to use drugs or alcohol anymore. They don’t know that the feelings they run from were caused by others, usually when they were young and unable to defend themselves against it. I don’t judge them for the problem they have. And while they might not understand where their problem comes from, God does, and He wants to help. He loves them and He gives them time to work things out. But they have to be willing to take the first step. They just need to do all this without our judgment. Sometimes it’s so hard to be a Christian without judgment, isn’t it?

Let’s move now to something else that can make us happier in the solutions arena. I want you to read a scripture with me. It’s something the apostle Paul wrote in Hebrews 5:11.

Hebrews 5:11 – About this, we have much to say, and it’s hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing – he says. For though by this time, you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food. So he’s really get on these folks about their spiritual immaturity and how they’re not really willing to look into God’s word. And then he says: For everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child – an infant. But solid food is for the mature – now he’s going to explain the difference between spiritual immaturity and maturity – for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to discern good from evil. Did you know that that’s the difference between spiritual maturity [and immaturity]? Why do you think that’s true? Well, because they’re always mixed together and we have to sort them out if we’re going to avoid evil.

I know some people that are so immature they avoid good and think evil is good. And that’s not good! You know, I’ve told the story of the zen master. Right? Every time the boy would tell the zen master good things and what the people in the community would say – he would just say, “We’ll see.” Same with the bad things. “It’s so great your father gave you a new horse,” all his friends told him. And he went to the zen master and the zen master said, “Well, we’ll see.” “Oh, it’s so terrible you fell off the horse and broke your leg!” “Well, we’ll see.” Right? Telling good from evil is difficult. It wasn’t so bad when the army came through and conscripted all the boys who were able-bodied, because they left him behind.

And it’s like this when the blessings and trials that happen to us. Sometimes the biggest blessings come out of the trials we have. And sometimes, something we think is a blessing turns into a problem later. So proactivity – when we start working on our problems, it helps us to grow. It helps us to learn good from evil. And all kinds of good things start to happen. When we dig into our problems, we see a lot more than at first. And we have to sort it all out. And, in the process, we learn.

In know this woman whose daughter died suddenly – very traumatic – the guilt, the missing her, the hallucinations, the flashbacks, the chronic back pain. And this woman also grew up in an abusive family and had, consequently, suffered a blow to her sense of self when she was very small. And when she grew up she allowed others to run over her, especially men. She would go out on dates with guys she met online. And they would always try to manipulate her into bed. And she always felt guilty to standing up for herself – not just on dates, but with her mother, with her friends, at work, pretty much everywhere. Well, in the course of her therapy over losing her daughter, which was a very bad thing, she had to come to grips with herself. She always thought of herself as not very worthwhile and not lovable. When she suffered her extreme loss, however, people she didn’t even know enveloped her in a cloud of support and love. She learned from that that she was lovable. She stopped letting other people run over her, consequently, and that was at work, on dates, her mother, etc. Because she stood up for herself to her mother, her mother finally went into therapy and got rid of the damage that had been done to her. Now things are really getting better and they’re starting to get along. So, from a terrible loss, this woman has come into a new and healthier sense of herself.

You ask about the pain of losing her daughter. Well, she explained it like this – you know, it’s really interesting how much I learn from my clients…. I never thought to explain EMDR and the effects of it as clearly as she did. She was talking to a friend and her friend asked her what it was like. And she said, “Have you ever stubbed your toe really badly?” And her friend said, “Yes.” And she said, “Can you remember how bad it hurt?” And she said, “Yes.” “Does it hurt now?” “No.” “Well, that’s what EMDR does. You remember how bad it hurt, but it doesn’t hurt anymore.”

You know, life is like that. Sometimes we don’t know why things happen, but we can know, with God, it will all turn out for the best somehow.

Another thing that we can do is to turn our needs over to God. In Philippians 4:5:

Philippians 4:5 – The Lord is at hand. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God , which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Do you remember the parable of the sower? Jesus told it to show us different responses to a calling. And He likened it to seed sown in people. One kind is snatched away by the devil before it can ever take root. One kind is sown on rocky soil. And it is received with joy at first, but it springs up quickly, and because there are no strong roots, it dies at the first sign of trouble and persecution. But then there’s the third kind in Mark 4:18.

Mark 4:18 – And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires of other things enter in and choke the word and it proves unfruitful.

So one of the things there is anxiety, right? Worrying about things. The problems of this life overwhelm us – or even the blessings. Winning the lottery could take a person out of their relationship with God. So it looks like a blessing, but it’s really not. So the problems of life, when they overwhelm us, we say, “Well, that could never happen to me.” Let me tell you, we are all overwhelmable. Every human has a limit. But, if we rely on God, then we can do all things through Christ, who is in us. That’s not just a platitude. That’s a promise!

Those are three of the responses. Let’s look at the fourth response.

V-20 – But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it, and bear fruit thirty-fold, and sixty-fold, and a hundred-fold.

So there you go. There’s that group that them put their trust in God and they go after their problems and proactively solve them, and the equip themselves to do the work of God as they solve their problems. And so they’re productive Christians.

Another thing that’s really important is to differentiate between what we can do and what we can’t. So let’s think about that. We will all be a lot happier if we can tell the difference between what we can do and what we can’t. If you try to solve problems that you can’t solve, then you’re going to be really frustrated.

I knew a lady once who got straight A’s in college, and she saw herself as having children who would be academically as successful as she was. And she had three children – all of them very bright – but the oldest child was overwhelmed by an experience she had her first time away from home and got depressed. Her grades plummeted. It got so bad that her GPA was in danger of dropping below the line needed to get into a good school, and her mother was really upset about it. She tried everything with her daughter, but nothing worked. And she became extremely anxious as a result, and wound up in my office. And I asked her if she’d ever seen the movie, Rudy. And she told me had, but she didn’t remember the priest’s answer to Rudy when he asked him if he was ever going to get into Notre Dame. The priest said – in answer to that question – “In thirty years of theological study, I’ve learned two things. There is a God and I’m not Him.” And this lady looked at me, and her eyes got wide, and she said, “Do you mean to tell me I’m not God?” “Exactly so,” I said. She thought a little bit about it, and then a little smile crept onto her face, and she said, “What a relief!” She had other things to work on, but she stopped trying to control her daughter. And she felt so much better for it. And guess what? Once she quite badgering her daughter, her daughter started straightening out. I think there was probably just some resistance there.

So what do we do with the stuff we don’t have control over? Well, as with the stuff that we can do something about, we ask God to take care of it, and then we don’t worry about it so much. We just keep working on the things we can do something about. If we don’t worry about the stuff we can’t do anything about, then that gives us more time to think about the stuff we can control. It gives us more time to work on things we have something to do with.

Now, you know, there’s a big clue here, right? God wants us to control ourselves and not others. So really important – a big clue as to where to start working.

Alright, so that’s enough for today. We’ll pick this up in two weeks. If you want to catch up on the series, you can find it on our website or on this YouTube channel – addresses to follow. [ and LifeResource Videos]