#FEARLESS365 is a yearlong study of God’s commandment to us to live without fear. For 365 days, we will focus on one scripture and volunteers from all over the world will share their personal thoughts and what God has shared with them on the specific verse. For more info… go here.
And he said, “O man greatly beloved, fear not! Peace be to you; be strong, yes, be strong!” So when he spoke to me I was strengthened, and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.”
Daniel 10:19, NKJV
What comes to mind for me when I read this verse is another, more well-known scripture that says: “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13). In this verse, I think, lies the fundamental key to true happiness – finding joy, contentment and personal satisfaction in each moment, truly living each day one at a time, being grateful for what one has and what one has been given.
Gratitude might indeed be the foundation for all happiness.
For me, I have a challenging occupation that takes up much of my time during the week. This work I do does not nourish my soul, and in fact often times, does just the opposite. It is still what I envisioned it to be when I started out – a noble profession and not a bad way to spend one’s working years – but there is a very real dark, stressful and spirit-zapping side to it, as well, he said, half-a-head of gray hair and 40 extra pounds later.
So, instead of being a rewarding and fulfilling way to spend 45-50 hours a week, it has become mostly just a job, a way to earn a fairly good paycheck and pay the bills. And I struggle with that; with the feeling that this thing I do has no real value – at least, to me – and does not satisfy that need I have to do something with my life that seems important.
In Philippians, Paul is trying to tell his friends that God wants them to be happy, at peace, no matter their situation, by trusting and reaching out to Him.
I did not grow up learning about unconditional love, and have always measured my self-worth by my accomplishments; by what I do. When I was a kid, it was by my accomplishments in sports. Later, it was by my accomplishments at college and at work.
There was a well-known golf instructor named Harvey Penick who once told a pair of his protégés something like: “You are who you are; you ain’t what you do!”
I never understood that difference, and sometimes I still have a hard time with the idea.
The God I believe in wants everyone to be happy. Why would He create a bunch of people and send them here to be miserable? I don’t think that’s the way it works.
For me, the ongoing challenge – and I work on it all the time – is to be grateful for what I have.
According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we humans have five basic requirements for happiness and contentment:
Physiological needs – air, water, food, clothing, shelter.
Safety needs – physical and economic safety.
Love and belonging – friendship, intimacy, family.
Esteem – to feel valued and accepted by others.
Self-actualization – realizing one’s actual or desired potential.
The most basic of my needs – physiological – are in good shape, along with safety needs. I am nowhere near financially secure, and I have a certain amount of envy for people I know who are, but I am also better off financially than I have ever been. As far as love and belonging, I think I can check that box, as well.
It is the next two needs where the ground gets a little shakier, but there are parts of my life that also help meet my esteem and self-actualization needs. This satisfaction comes via my creative side – mostly my writing, through which I am best able to express myself and quite often, touch someone else’s life, even if in a small way.
So, in truth, even though the water is fairly shallow in my esteem and self-actualization tanks, the well is not dry.
For the past six months, I have started a new morning routine to try and change my default way of thinking from negative to positive. To develop an attitude of gratitude. So far, it’s working pretty well, and part of it is following along with the idea presented by Paul in Philippians.
John H. Clark III is a teacher, author, and newspaper columnist who lives in Central Texas. He has walked the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in northern Spain, twice! This is a 500-mile backpacking adventure that began 1,200 years ago as a tribute to St. James the Apostle, whose remains are said to be entombed inside the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela.