I’m sure you have all heard the expression, “hopping mad,” but at my house, my little seven-year-old guy has got “hopping happy” down to an art!
The thing I admire most about his expression of joy, is that it doesn’t take much to bring on the hopping. We are going to read a book together? Hop, hop, hop. Biscuits with dinner? We get to play with play-doh? Another cucumber from our garden? And off he goes bounce, bouncing away.
As an adult and parent, I don’t generally do too much jumping with joy myself. Unfortunately I have a tendency to let the cares in my life weigh me down too much to feel light enough to hop. However, as a follower of Jesus, this is not the way I have to live.
Jesus’ first recorded sermon, in fact, is all about how to be blessed, or happy. In what we call the Beatitudes, He lists all kinds of ways we can truly be hoppin’ happy. The tricky thing is when we look at His list, some of the circumstances do not immediately look “happy” to us. Wait a minute, how can I be happy when I mourn? Also, most people do not want to be counted among the meek or poor in spirit. But when we look deeper and begin to really understand how God’s ways work, we can see how the happiness unfolds.
A therapist friend of mine was recently explaining to me how in order to truly heal from past hurts, it is crucial that people allow themselves to really grieve them. She said if we do not let ourselves get to the yucky, deep down pain, it can be like a physical wound that just heals over but festers underneath. So all of a sudden, “Happy are those who mourn, for they will be comforted,” began to make sense to me.
Honestly, I struggle with the idea that God might actually want me to be happy. I was brought up with the teaching that He didn’t necessarily want happiness for me, but rather joy. And my understanding of the kind of joy those teaching me meant, was a grit-your-teeth and hang onto God’s teachings by your fingernails, but you are going to be thankful for your circumstances no matter what! Definitely not a lot of hopping in that teaching.
The closer I have walked with God though, the more understanding I have of the happiness He wants me to have in Him. He does not want me hanging on by sheer grit. He wants me to rest in Him, in fact, to delight in Him! I have walked through some excruciatingly difficult things in my life, but I am learning more and more how to give my burdens to God, even to the point that every now and then I feel a little hop in my step!
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6