E23: This is the single determining factor of your happiness
PODCAST: Nothing has the power to change our happiness except our own reactions. Do you believe it?
What do you think the factors for happiness are? The truth is that there is really only one factor that can decide your level of happiness in life, which is how you react to the things that happen to you. Do you believe this? Join Julia and Kathy today as Julia tells a personal story that proves the truth of this statement. By the grace of God, it’s possible not to let any situation or circumstance rob us of our joy.
Transcript: “Living the Gospel” podcast, Episode 23: This is the single determining factor of your happiness
This is ActiveChristianity’s “Living the Gospel” podcast. Join us as we explore different aspects of the gospel according to the Bible, and how we can put this into practice in daily life.
Julia: Hi everyone, and welcome to another episode of “Living the Gospel!” I’m Julia.
Kathy: And I’m Kathy.
Julia: So, this week actually, I had a bit of an experience that is the inspiration for what we wanted to talk about today. So, I work in IT, and it’s not exciting; I have a fantastic job, but the days pass by pretty peacefully and uneventfully. So, I was driving home from work this week, I was on call, so I had my work cellphone with me, and I was thinking to myself that, you know, my whole goal in life is to become like Jesus, obviously. But I feel like … obviously we know that in order to do that, you need to go through temptations and overcome them, and that’s how we get the virtues. We’ve sort of talked about that before, and that’s kind of the crux of the gospel. But I was thinking to myself, my life is so smooth, I feel like I don’t really have any trials almost. Like, it’s kind of the opposite of the complaint that you’d think you have, but … So, I was just thinking, “How on earth am I going to get transformed into the image of Jesus without any trials or situations?” So, then I got home, and not half an hour later, one of my work colleagues, who I don’t know very well actually, he works remotely, he called me with a concern that he easily could have called me with during business hours. And then proceeded to just downright patronize me. Like, he talked to me like I was stupid. And I got off the call with him, and immediately something so ugly just reared its head in my nature. Like, I was so, so tempted to be offended! Like, “Who does he think he is, that he can talk to me like I’m a child? Does he not know how capable I am?” And all these things that come up. And right there was my opportunity to be transformed from the way I am by nature. And then it just came to me – and I did, I got the victory – and then for the next, roughly, day or so, every time I thought about it again, my blood started to boil again, you know? But every single time I – “No, I can humble myself, and I can realize, who am I that I think there is a certain way that I need to be treated”?
Kathy: You have to recognize those little opportunities like that.
Kathy: It’s not going to always come in this big moment of huge pressure and overwhelming trial. But there are little moments of things like that. Where it’s like, “OK! Here is where I need to use this opportunity!”
Julia: And that’s the grace of God, because He doesn’t pile it on; He gives us exactly as much as we need to be transformed in the situations.
Kathy: And it’s when we’re faithful in those little things then that, when the huge things do come, and sometimes they do in life, when they do come, then we’re able to bear them because of learning to bear these small situations, right?
Kathy: Sorry, it’s a little bit off the topic of what we’re talking about today, but …
Julia: Well, it’s all on the topic of becoming like Jesus, so … But so, I was just thinking too, along that vein, how easily, had I not taken the situation in the right way, multiple times, because like I said, it came back to me over and over, how it could have actually wrecked my day. Like, I could have stewed in it, and been offended, and all these different things, but then it just … What I became so thankful for, is the fact that none of these things – the way I’m treated, the way circumstances come at me – not a single one of these things has the power to take away my joy. So, then I was thinking about this, about the way that I react. We have an article on the website, right Kathy, that is called “This is the single determining factor of your happiness.” And it’s kind of an abridged version of an article that was written in 1957, and I actually remember a dear family friend of ours who is a woman in her 80s, I want to say …?
Kathy: Yeah, I think she’s in her 80s now.
Julia: Yeah, I was talking to her once and she was telling me about how she grew up with this desire for Jesus since she was a little, little girl, and her whole growing up life she felt like she was looking for something and couldn’t quite find it. She just knew she loved Jesus but didn’t know what kind of life that could lead her to, and then she came across this article, which in its original form is titled “Reactions.” And she was in her early 20s at the time, and she read this article, and she said it was like a light went on for her. She finally had the answer that she had been looking for. And this whole thing, like if we could almost just read a tiny little bit of it here.
Kathy: Yeah, let’s do it.
Julia: I’ll just start off here. It says: “Have you ever thought of the fact that you yourself are the only person who has power over your reactions in life? Not only that, but the way you react to the things that you meet in life will determine the degree of your happiness or unhappiness. Your reaction, and only your reaction, is the determining factor.”
Kathy: That’s very interesting. Like, that is a completely unique way of looking at things.
Julia: It really is. The fact that I’ve been able to read this and have this handed to me, I feel like it’s such a grace. As people, by nature, we’re so trapped in this misunderstanding that it’s what others do, and the situations around me that can take away my joy and my happiness. And that’s miserable, because then the power is completely out of my own hands!
Kathy: But how does James say it? He says, “You are tempted when you are drawn away by your own lusts and desires.” It’s not that I’m tempted because so-and-so has done this to me, and because someone treated me wrong, or because this situation happened, and I couldn’t do anything about it. But he says we’re tempted when we’re drawn away by our own passions and desires, right?
Julia: I mean, it can sound like, “Ugh, I have all these ugly things in me,” but it’s so freeing, because that means that I completely have the ability to get rid of those things and to become happy, by getting victory over them. If it was up to the way other people were treating me, I would have no control over my own joy and peace in life. And that would be horrible!
Kathy: Right. To have no choice but to be unhappy because of my situations or the things that happen to me. That would be so hopeless.
Julia: It would be like having a leash around your neck and just having to be led wherever you are led. Whereas instead, I have complete control over it. For example, this week, with that situation, I could have had my day ruined, and then the subsequent day as well, because like I said, every time I thought about it, it was a temptation again to be offended. But just by deciding to take it in a good way, then it actually became a situation that brought me joy and peace, because nothing brings more joy in life than getting victory over sin.
Kathy: And that’s in contrast to what happens if you do, for example get, like, if you had given in to getting offended, in that story, with the guy from work, it would not have made you feel good, right?
Julia: Of course not.
Kathy: You just get miserable, and all these heavy thoughts, and you start to go over and over it in your head, and it just becomes this huge, actually, burden on you, right?
Julia: And actually, it just kind of came to me while you were saying that, that the problem, the common denominator in all of these situations if you don’t get the victory, if you feel offended, if you are unthankful, it’s all pride. And pride is incredibly lonely.
Kathy: And it’s heavy!
Julia: It’s heavy.
Kathy: Right? Well, I just thought too now about, Jesus says, “Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” And that rest is from that burden of pride and having to live according to my own feelings and having to give in to these things, these passions and desires from my flesh. That’s a huge burden. And Jesus says, “Come to Me, you who are burdened with this, and I will give you rest.” And then He says, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart.” And that, taking His yoke on us, that is that, to get victory over these things, and it is, I think He says it like that, that it’s a yoke, because as Peter says, we have to suffer in the flesh to overcome these things, right? Like, you have to give up something, and it takes a battle to overcome. Like you said, you had to go through this battle to overcome getting offended.
Julia: Over and over again.
Kathy: But His burden is light, He says, because it leads to getting peace and rest and joy! Instead of misery and heaviness, right?
Julia: Totally. It’s just, like you said, it’s all in these little situations. And they’re actually so critical. Like, here’s another couple paragraphs from this article here: “If Jesus had reacted differently – if He had, for example, been righteous in everything but had been absolutely unwilling to suffer injustice – then there would not be an atonement or salvation at all. He, the Just One, would have remained together with His Righteous Father, and all of us would be lost. How unspeakably wonderful that He chose to respond in the loving way that He did! You, too, by suffering unjustly, can win other souls whom you would not otherwise be able to win. To quarrel about your rights, to insist on them, or to sue your fellow man is an extremely foolish and dangerous way of life. Instead, you can react in each situation of life in such a way that it enables you to keep your joy, regardless of how things or people are.” Like, it’s just a totally different mindset.
Kathy: Well, and again, going back to what is written about Jesus, it says about Him, “Who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.” (1 Peter 2:23.) So that’s the way that we need to have it too. There’s nothing that we need to do to preserve our own honor, or judge the situation according to our own reasoning, and how we see things from our human perspective, but if we let God’s judgment come over us, then something happens in our lives; a change takes place, right?
Julia: Right. Well, and even like, this paragraph that I just read here, the way it talks about Jesus, if He had been righteous in everything but unwilling to suffer injustice. And that actually, that can seem reasonable. When people are treating you poorly. Like, for example, in my situation, I could say, objectively speaking, that guy was being a bit of a jerk to me, right? But what does it matter? Yes, somebody may have mistreated me, and it may be obvious that they are in the wrong, but actually, that can only affect their happiness.
Kathy: And the thing is, you actually can’t do anything at all about how other people are. And like, the thing is, by nature, as humans, we’re very quick to be righteous on our own behalves, right?
Julia: Oh, for sure.
Kathy: That guy should know that he can’t treat people like that, right? Like, that’s how we naturally think.
Julia: “I need to straighten this out!” You know?
Kathy: Yeah, and you think almost that, “Oh, it’s righteous that he should know that that’s not how you deal …” Right? But you could just end up in a big argument with this guy …
Julia: But it’s just another facet of my pride coming through.
Kathy: Yeah, and you’re not going to convince him. You’re not going to convince this guy to change the way he is. I mean, you might, who knows, but that’s not the point. Like, you are only actually completely guaranteed to be able to do something about your own behavior.
Julia: And that again, is liberty. It’s freedom. Just that this poor person, who has perhaps treated me badly, has now made themselves unhappy because of it. Because that’s just simply a law of life, that when, you know, whatever the case, he’s not going to become happy because of mistreating somebody else. But I, by being given a possibility for victory and making use of it, have become happy. So we take all these situations in life, whether it’s other people or whether it’s outward circumstances, and by using the gospel, and using these tools to get victory, we take these situations, by God’s grace, and turn them around so that they go from being something bad to being something that leads to our eternal gain. It’s unbelievable!
Kathy: It is unbelievable. And to think that we have that capability, but only through grace, and only if I’m willing to humble myself.
Kathy: God gives grace to the humble, right? So, if I am willing to lose all these things, my honor and my pride and my self-righteousness, if I’m willing to lose all of that, then I gain the kingdom of heaven within me, actually.
Julia: And I always think, when I look back on this moment in … 20 years pops to mind, but one year, one month, one week. You know, if I gave in and let myself get offended and I look back on it, am I going to be like, “Oh yeah, that was the right thing to do. I gained a lot from that!” Or, am I going to look back and think, “Great, I used it right!” And I actually, I don’t know if I’m going to say this right, but everything in the natural – you form habits. And you take these little situations, and you start to react to them in the right way, and you’re forming habits of doing that. So, like you said, when these bigger situations come along, you’re already in the habit of humbling yourself and going that route, instead of right away becoming bitter and upset and offended. So, it just means that as you get … as you continue on the path of life, and you get older, maybe, you’re walking down this path, you’ve formed these deep ruts, almost, of humbling yourself and getting victory. And it just becomes, not a big decision every time, but just a matter of course.
Kathy: I would actually encourage all of our listeners to go onto ActiveChristianity.org and read this article for yourself, because it is a game-changer to be able to take this truth and apply it in your own life. It changes everything.
Julia: Yup. It does.
Kathy: And we’ll put a link for this article in the episode description today, so all you have to do is go in and click on it.
Julia: Yes, you won’t regret it!
Kathy: You won’t regret it. And maybe we could just finish up by reading the last paragraph of the article.
Julia: Oh, yeah yeah yeah. Let me get it here. It ends with this: “May this indisputable, all-encompassing, indescribably effective truth always be clear and living for us. Namely, that my reaction is the single determining factor in my happiness.”
Kathy: I don’t think there’s anything we could say to wrap it up better than that …
Kathy: … so we’ll sign out for now.
Julia: Yup. Thanks for listening everyone!
Kathy: And we’ll see you next time.
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