When did it become politically incorrect to be happy? Or is it just a social media thing? Maybe it's just me. I feel like the issue has been simmering on a back burner for some time, but the barrage of "studies" over the past couple of years looking into the effects of Facebook usage on depression seem to have turned up the heat. I'm not a big fan of studies trying to prove something that is pretty much impossible to measure scientifically. Experience has taught me that studies can be found to prove or disprove just about anything. Just pick your side. You're probably right. How do you measure something as subjective as happiness anyway?
Almost daily, I see people being slammed for posting too many "happy" statements on their status. Several friends have found themselves removed from groups because their optimism made the rest of the group feel unhappy and dissatisfied. After all, no one can be happy all the time. That's not real. And if you really are that happy all the time, then what's wrong with me? Of course, the opposite is also true. Posting too many Negative Nellie comments can result in social media solitary confinement.
During scripture study this morning I noticed this little nugget of wisdom: 2 Nephi 10:20. "...let us remember him and lay aside our sins, and not hang down our heads, for we are not cast off; nevertheless we have been driven out of the land of our inheritance; but we have been led to a better land."
What a great reminder for me to choose to be grateful despite my circumstances. When things are hard, I can remember the Lord and His promises. I can choose to lay aside negative thinking and look forward, knowing that the Lord is preparing me for a better place - ultimately eternal life. Even in the present moment I can be aware that enduring things well takes me closer to where I want to be a minute or an hour from now, tomorrow, or ten years in the future.
Footnotes from that scripture led me on a delightful scripture chain all about cheerfulness.
Matt. 9:2 - "Be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee."
Matt. 14:27 - "Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid."
Doctrine and Covenants (D&C) 61:36 - "And now verily I say unto you, and what I say unto one I say unto all, be of good cheer, little children; for I am in your midst, and I have not forsaken you."
D&C 78:17-18 - "...ye have not as yet understood how great blessings the Father hath in his own hands and prepared for you; And you cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours."
This passage reminded me of Laman and Lemuel and Nephi's description of how they murmured because "they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them" (1Nephi 2:12). Pondering on this scripture teaches me that when I find myself complaining and feeling negative about stuff, I have lost the bigger picture. I have forgotten the Lord and the great plan of salvation - the great plan of happiness. When I remember to turn my will over to the Lord and follow His counsel as given through the scriptures and His holy prophets, I can catch sight of light and joy again. Verse 19 of that same section makes this principle even more clear for me:
And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious.
Who doesn't want to be glorious?! When I complain, I am not being grateful. Perhaps I should switch things up a bit and when someone asks, "How are you?" I can say, "I am grateful. Thank you!" Plus, there's this promise in John 16:33 -
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
I know that my little part of the world could always use a little more peace.
Another epiphany for me during this study on cheerfulness showed me the importance of actively expressing my gratitude and joy.
Psalm 100 (A Psalm of Praise) - verse 2 specifically, but take a minute to read the whole passage. You'll be glad you did.
Serve the Lord with gladness; come before his presence with singing.
And last but not least there's this:
D&C 68:6 - Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you; and ye shall bear record of me, even Jesus Christ, that I am the Son of the living God, that I was, that I am, and that I am to come.
My choice to be cheerful, even when I may not be feeling happy, plays a huge part in the way I keep my covenant to be a witness of Jesus Christ. Wait. Maybe that's a better way to discuss it - the difference between being happy and being cheerful. Because, you know, it isn't possible to feel happy every minute of every day. Life is messy. It's full of "pebbles in my shoe" moments. We were created to feel emotion. Loss, pain, and heartache are all a part of the package. But, oh, what a glorious package it is. I can acknowledge hard things without complaining about them. I can be of good cheer, even when I'm not feeling happy. And I can share my joy through my writing, whether it be on Facebook or Twitter or right here on this blog. Because I do know Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God. The Savior lived, suffered, and died for me. He conquered death and lives today. He made all things possible - including the ability to be of good cheer.
Life is magnificent.