Welcome Are you familiar with the term “grasping at straws?” When I looked up the meaning of this American idiom, I found several different explanations. The one that seemed most pertinent to me was “to make a futile attempt at something.” Today I’m going to share from my own life experiences in what I call “grasping at happiness straws.” And it’s a two-for-Tuesday, so I have two smoothie recipes to share. Note-I may receive a small compensation from advertisers or affiliate links found on this post. For further information, please see my terms and disclosure page.
Food For Thought The sermon at church on Sunday was titled “What Do You Want?” Without hesitation the first thing that came to my mind was “to be happy.” I’m not sure why I think I might be so important as to think my happiness should come before the needs and wants of others. The struggle I have comes from knowing I have so much to be happy about, yet the feelings of happiness seem to elude me. Not always, but enough to impact my life and qualify as a disorder. I pondered this on our way home and the idea came to me that it’s a matter of TRUST. Do I trust God with my happiness? I apparently do not, because I am continuing to grasp at these “happiness straws,” which, upon reflection, I’ve been doing my whole life.
When I was a teenager, I thought I would find happiness if I had a boyfriend, if I lost weight, if my parents had more money, if I were more popular. I was grasping at straws and didn’t even know it. In college, I thought I would be happy if, again, I had a boyfriend, lost weight, made perfect grades, landed the right job, attended the right church. More straws, more grasping, and at age 21 I received my diagnosis of depression. Into young adulthood, I was still seeking that happiness in ways that were superficial, all connected to my looks, career, and relationships. As the saying so often goes, no one else is responsible for my happiness, only me. I can know this and still struggle. I want my joy and happiness to come from knowing my God and Savior and by working for the good of others, but I’m still grasping at these happiness straws. If I quit my job I’ll be happy. If I build up a successful website, I’ll be happy. If I have another baby, I’ll be happy (completely unfair to my daughter!). If I lose weight and wear smaller sizes I’ll be happy. If I move to Tennessee or North Carolina, I’ll be happy. Will I, really? I have spent so much of my life grasping at these happiness straws, that I’m beginning to think the problem is with me, not my circumstances. NO Kidding! Of course the problem is with me!
Here are the key points I came up with when thinking about my struggle to find, or feel, happiness. First, I hear repeatedly that happiness is a CHOICE, and for the most part, I agree with this. There are some people that seem to be happy all of the time, even when life’s circumstances are anything but joyous. And some appear to have every reason to be happy, yet they are miserable. Different personalities experience different degrees of happiness and respond to events in life in different ways. Part of what makes this true, is brain chemistry and the body’s release of hormones. This physiology occurs in every body, with microscopic differences all the way to major disorders. I have minor disorders affecting my brain chemistry and my hormones, so some of my happiness issues result from a physiological condition outside of my control. However, since I know I have these difficulties, and do not resign myself to them, I can CHOOSE to seek help and ways to improve my happiness, including prayer and seeking God’s word and wisdom. If you would like to read more about this, check out some of the articles on my Mental Health board on Pinterest. My second point is that unhappiness does not equal ungratefulness. I am extremely thankful for so many blessings I have in my life. I’m thankful for my body and its physical abilities, even though I may not love how I look. I am thankful for my home and what we have, even though I desire to live in a different location. And when I was teaching, I tried very hard to be thankful for having a job and an income, until the level of stress out-weighed my desire to continue that job. So, just because I (or anyone else) say I’m not happy, does not mean I am not counting my blessing and thanking God for them every day. Finally, I’m going to return to an idea from the beginning of this post…trust. While I claim to have faith and trust in God, I am not exhibiting behaviors that show I put my full trust in God regarding my happiness. I’m very good at praying for things that might MAKE me happy, but what I need to be praying for is for God to help me be happy, regardless of my circumstances and brain chemistry. Instead of grasping at straws of happiness, I need to grasp God’s hand and trust that where he leads, guides, and provides, I will find all the happiness I need.
Today’s Scriptures When working on these thoughts about happiness, I started by reading Ecclesiastes. I like when I read this, because the teacher says things that have crossed my mind before, and I know I’m not alone. The writer is grasping at happiness straws, too–wisdom, pleasure, work–but finds them all meaningless. In Ecclesiastes 2:10 he states, “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure,” and still considered them all meaningless and left him feeling empty and unhappy. But when we read chapter 3, we know there is a time for everything, including weeping and laughing (v. 4). It’s the same as saying a time for sadness and a time for happiness. But remember when I said I have to trust God with my happiness? Ecclesiastes 5:19-20 confirms this idea for me: “Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work-this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.” I can continue to pray and entrust God with my happiness and He can keep me occupied with a gladness of heart.
I can also appreciate that I’m not the first person to cry out to God in despair, seeking his compassion in times of unhappiness. Jeremiah certainly had a lot to be unhappy about when he wrote Lamentations, but he remembered the Lord’s promises, even in his unhappiness. Consider his words written in Lamentations 3:21-26: “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘the Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’ The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord,” Sometimes I just have to wait for the next morning, start over fresh and new, and I’m happier.
Finally, I seek wisdom in Philippians chapter 4, where Paul provides great insights on being content, even happy, no matter the circumstances, even imprisonment! I certainly hope I never end up in prison, but I still need these lessons on being happy, content, and thankful. Luckily, there are some directions in verses 4-9: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” And then, in verse 12-13, he lets us in on his “secret” of being content in any circumstance: “…I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
Today’s Prayer My wonderful and loving Father, I pray that I will trust You with my happiness. I pray that I will trust Your way and Your plan and accept them as enough. Lord, I am so thankful for what you do for me and my family. I just ask that when I have feelings of sadness, simply because I’m grasping at happiness straws of things I think will bring me happiness, that You will intervene to remind me that all You do for me is enough. I pray that I may be happy and content with Your provision and grace. And I pray that others that may also feel this way, that along with me, they may learn to trust You with their happiness. Let us each remember that what You provide for us is always better than what we may think we need to bring us happiness in our world. I pray these words in Your Son’s Holy Name, Amen.
Today’s Recipes Instead of grasping at straws for happiness, let’s just grasp straws to drink some tasty smoothies. Today, I have two recipes that I’ll call smoothies, but you may call them shakes or frozen yogurt or healthy ice cream…whatever, I just hope you call them yummy! And, honestly, you’re going to want a spoon for these delicious treats, anyway! And if you don’t prefer these fruit flavors, you can follow the same template, swapping in the frozen fruit and yogurt flavors of your choice. Note: I use nonfat milk, nonfat yogurt, and no added sugar frozen fruits. My calorie counts are based off of these ingredients.
Chocolate Covered Cherry Smoothie (serves 2-240 calories per serving)
In smoothie maker or blender, puree’ 2 cups frozen cherries, 1/2 frozen ripe banana, 1 6-ounce carton Greek cherry yogurt, and 1/4 cup milk (I use real dairy, but you can also use almond milk) until desired consistency. Stir in 1/4 cup mini-chocolate chips. Pour into 2 glasses and serve with straws and/or spoons.
Peach Cobbler Smoothie (serves 2-220 calories per serving)
In smoothie maker or blender, puree’ 2 cups frozen peach slices, 1/2 frozen ripe banana, 1 6-ounce carton Greek peach yogurt, and 1/4 cup milk (see note above) until desired consistency. Crumble half a cinnamon graham cracker in the bottom of two glasses. Divide peach smoothie mix between the two glasses. Top each smoothie with an additional cinnamon graham cracker half, crumbled. Serve with spoons…graham crackers don’t go through straws!
Time Saver and Budget Friendly!!! When bananas start to get too brown to eat on their own, peel and place in zip-top bag. Place these in the freezer to be added to breads, muffins, or smoothies!
Products that may be useful for this post (links verified on 9/5/17 at 12:20 pm CDT):