A few years ago while on a trip to Gatlinburg, TN, my wife and I walked downtown to the shopping district. While Lynne visited the stores that are designed to separate a woman from her money, I did what any real man would do: I sat outside the stores on benches and rockers, watched people, and kept her Diet Coke secure.
At one store Lynne took longer than even 40 years of history together seemed to warrant, so I checked my man-card at the door and went inside to see if she was okay. Having verified that she was still alive (“I’ve hit a jackpot,” were her actual words of verification), the placards section caught my attention as I started out of the store . Looking around to see if any man outside was watching me, I paused for a minute to see what was new in the arena of homespun wisdom. One placard in particular caught my attention:
“Don’t put the keys to your happiness in someone else’s pocket.”
While making my way back to the rockers outside the store, I couldn’t get that phrase out of my mind. As I quickly evaluated my life I realized that many times I had violated that wisdom. Sometimes it happened when I banked my happiness on whether or not I received a much desired word of approval or praise regarding work that I had done. At other times it occurred when I let a word of criticism or someone’s unreal expectations get under my skin. I had let others’ failure to meet my expectations or to keep a promise rob me of my joy. On each occasion I had put the keys to my happiness in someone else’s pocket.
At that moment of my personal reflection the Holy Spirit took charge of my thoughts. In effect He said, “Jerry, if you want to take charge of your own happiness, live your life by the Beatitudes (see Matthew 5:1-12).” Remembering that the word “blessed” also means “happy”, this is what I concluded the Spirit was trying to teach me. Instead of my happiness being dependent upon the accumulation of things or the way others treat me or speak to me, I should take control of my happiness by how I live: as I acknowledge my need for God, as I experience God’s comfort in the midst of life’s sorrows, as I humbly walk through life minus an entitlement mindset, as I hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness rather than for the thrill of sin, as I bestow mercy rather than judgment, as I seek to live a pure life and live at peace with others, and as I endure hardships with a perseverance that is fueled by strong faith.
Today as I have reflected further on that experience in Gatlinburg, I realize that when Jesus spoke those words, He reinforced the wisdom regarding the key to happiness spoken by the Psalmist in Psalm 1:1-3.
“How blessed [happy] is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.”
Do you want to keep the keys to your happiness in your own pockets? Beatitude living – happy living- is a great place to start.
About the Author
Jerry Long is a retired minister [38 years] living in metro Greenville, SC. He and his wife Lynne have two daughters and three grandchildren. He holds degrees from Clemson University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.