Thursday, December 28, 2017

We need stories about what genuine happiness is

This well-known New Year’s Prayer could serve as a framework (or pattern, or outline) for a memoir.

I hope you’ll consider using it for writing your memoir, or your next memoir.

New Year’s Prayer

May God make your year a happy one!
Not by shielding you from all sorrows and pain,
But by strengthening you to bear it, as it comes;
Not by making your paths easy,
But by making you sturdy to travel any path;
Not by taking hardships from you,
But by taking fear from your heart;
Not by granting you unbroken sunshine,
But by keeping your face bright, even in the shadows;
Not by making your life always pleasant,
But by showing you when people and their causes need you most,
and by making you anxious to be there to help.
God’s love, peace, hope and joy to you for the year ahead.
~ Author unknown; adapted by Debra Mooney

Read the poem again, pondering each point. What experiences have you had, or have you witnessed in others, that illustrate the following:

Happiness came not necessarily from being free of sorrow and pain, but from God strengthening you to bear the grief and hurt that came to you. What Bible verses come to mind?

In 2 Corinthians 1:3-10, Paul tells us that “the God of all comfort . . . comforts us in all our troubles….” He tells of his “hardships . . . suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God….” (See also 2 Chronicles 16:9; Psalm 119:28; Isaiah 41:10; Ephesians 3:16.)

Happiness came not necessarily by making your paths (your life) easy, but because God enabled you to travel down potentially hazardous “paths” with strength and sturdiness, despite blows, overwhelming challenges, and unwelcome surprises. (See Psalm 40:2, “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” Also see Psalm 56:13, 66:9, 73:2, 119:105.)

Happiness came not necessarily because God took hardships from you, but because—rather than cowering in fear—you trusted Him and moved forward, facing the fear. (See Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Also see Psalm 56:3-4, Proverbs 3:21-26; Matthew 8:26, 10:29-31; John 14:27.)

Happiness came not because God gave you only days of “unbroken sunshine” (days and years with no hindrances, no hardships, no sadness, no loss) but because God put hope and joy in your heart despite experiences or people that were contrary, despite troubles, despite unkindness, despite sorrows. (See Habakkuk 3:17-18, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” See also Psalm 40:2-3, 42:5, 62:5-6; 96:1-4, Psalm 146; Jeremiah 29:11-13; Romans 12:12, 15:13.)

Happiness came not because God always made your life pleasant (see above for references) or because you focused on making your life pleasant, but because you did what God urges and desires: that we love others. (See Mark 12:28-31 when one of the teachers of the law asked Jesus which commandment was most important. “‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this . . . “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these.’” Such service to others is a result of loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Such service is the overflow of our hearts. See also Romans 12:13; Galatians 6:7-10.)

Your stories are important. Think of them within the context of what Peter Mommsen said: “If we are going to live with courage and joy and integrity, we need honest, true-to-life stories to show us how.” Your stories can do that!

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