Happiness :-)

happy baby

From what I’ve observed, healthy babies, like my 6 month old grandson, are generally happy babies. It seems that we are created to be happy, so why are so why are many adults unhappy?

I recently read a thought-provoking article titled “10 Things to Give up in Exchange for Happiness.” The article wasn’t written from a Christian perspective, but I think everyone, regardless of their beliefs, would probably agree with the author’s following suggestions.

exchange for happinessThey’re good suggestions, but…

According to research, only about 10% of those who make just one New Year’s Resolution will succeed in keeping that resolution. I think the problem with the list is that the author is essentially asking us to make multiple resolutions in our pursuit of happiness. What are the odds?

Even if some strong-willed person succeeded in overcoming every one of these 10 happiness thieves, do you think they’d really be happy? My experience with battling and, to some extent, conquering some of my many character flaws, is that, like to-do lists, it’s never-ending. My almost 18 year battle with ALS has confirmed this. ALS has completely taken away or greatly reduced almost every item on the above list. Let me give you some examples:

1. Give up caring what other people think of you. If you’ve been through a trial that has diminished your physical appearance and/or your abilities (having to use a wheelchair or losing your hair to chemo, etc.), you quickly discover just how image-conscious you are. You either decide to give up caring what others think of you or lock yourself away in a remote cabin in the woods. (I considered the latter, but I knew that Mary and the girls wouldn’t come with me so I reluctantly chose the former). Over the years I’ve become really good, maybe too good, at not caring what people think of me. I laugh to myself when Mary or my caregiver spend time trying to fix my hair and become frustrated if a few hairs won’t cooperate. As they’re fussing with my hair, I’m thinking to myself; I’m completely paralyzed, wheelchair-bound and can’t speak, I don’t think people will be looking at the hair.

2. Give up trying to please everyone. It’s hard to please anyone when you’re completely helpless.

3. Give up participating in gossip. I don’t think that I was ever a gossip (that’s probably what all gossips say), but it’s been so much easier not to gossip or say hurtful and dumb things since ALS stole my voice 17+ years ago. With the help of my new eye-tracking computer, I am still able to blog and email, etc. so I haven’t completely lost my ability to gossip or say dumb and hurtful things (my family and friends can attest to this). But, like most people who’ve been humbled by a difficult trial, gossip has hopefully been replaced by words of hope and encouragement.

8. Give up spending money on what you don’t need in effort to buy happiness. Before ALS, like most people, I spent money on unnecessary things and activities, like taking vacations, eating at nice restaurants and buying sporting equipment, etc. I don’t think that I was “attempting to buy happiness,” I just thought, and still think, that I was enjoying God’s blessings. Since ALS, I cannot go on vacations or go out to eat, and I certainly have no use for things like sporting equipment.

10. Give up control. I really fought thisone, but ALS finally forced me to give into Mary wearing the pants in the family. (I do still control the TV remote most of the time).

The problem I have with the list of “10 Things…” is that it’s advising us to give up emotional highs and weaknesses in exchange for happiness. But happiness is just another emotion, and, like all emotions, happiness is subject to our circumstances. For instance, sadness over the loss of a loved-one or other bad news, immediately destroys any happiness that we might have had.

Joy is much different. For Christians, joy might be hidden for a time, especially -
when we hear bad news or at the onset of a trial, but it’s always there. Hope in God is like a compass that leads us back to joy. And, as Webster’s dictionary defines it, joy is “the source or cause of great happiness.”

Don’t go crazy trying to balance your emotions in a pursuit of happiness; just look to God for hope and you’ll find true and lasting joy and that joy will result in happiness.

What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could ‘be like gods’—could set up on their own as if they had created themselves—be their own masters—invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.
God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”
CS Lewis Mere Christianity


About Bill Sweeney

In 1996, Bill was diagnosed with ALS (“Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) and the doctors told him he had 3-5 years to live. He is now completely paralyzed and unable to speak, but by God’s grace, he’s still alive and through his blog shares a message of hope in Christ - Unshakable Hope!

Posted on June 12, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 157 Comments.

  1. I stumbled across your blog and was scrolling though your page and I am so glad I stopped at this post. What a touching and genuine post. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful knowledge with all who are willing to read what you have to say. You are a true fighter, and I admire you for the battle you have fought over the years–the battle to keep your life and find happiness. I agree that others should not define what it means to be happy because it is totally within one’s own heart that happiness is truly found. Wishing you all the comfort and happiness in the world.

  2. This is such a great post and an insightful, biblical perspective. These kinds of lists that appear all over social media are so trite and I don’t think they help anyone. I think they make defeated people feel more defeated. The truth of the matter is that most people cannot stop doing one of the things on the list let alone all ten! It’s why we need the work of the Spirit in our daily lives. I love the C.S. Lewis quote at the end. It’s one of my favorite. Thanks again for a great perspective. I look forward to reading more as I have time.

  3. Really inspiring post!!! 🙂
    And beautiful grand baby 🙂

  4. You posted: “Don’t go crazy trying to balance your emotions in a pursuit of happiness; just look to God for hope and you’ll find true and lasting joy and that joy will result in happiness”

    Amen, amen! I am glad to have stumbled upon your blog. ♥

  5. Reblogged this on From guestwriters and commented:
    Lots of adults have lost the innocence they had as baby. Many of them also got so spoiled in their life that they can not find happiness any more in the small things of life.

    We should cherish each moment of the day that we can be alive and share our time with others.

  6. I loved reading this today. I have a long way to go. I especially loved the part that said, ” Hope in God is like a compass that leads us back to joy.” I long for that joy. I want to be like that little child that is so happy. Your grandson is so adorable and I can see that he brings you much joy in your life. Thank you for your words and for inspiring me to keep moving forward in the pursuit of joy. Meghan

  7. Your posts are always insightful and inspiring, Bill.

  8. “But happiness is just another emotion, and, like all emotions, happiness is subject to our circumstances. ” So true, Bill! I love how you have made clear that happiness is not the same as joy. Awesome post–I somehow missed it when you posted it. I’m glad I came back to check if I’d missed anything! 🙂

  9. hope your 6 months old grand-son is bringing you bundles of happiness… good to see you again!

  10. Great advice to ponder. I am a bit late but wanted to say thanks for the follow. Have a wonderful week.

  11. Thank you for the follow. I look forward to learning more from you. Thank you for helping to spread hope. You are an incredible encouragement to never give up. To see what you are having to face and you do so with much grace, is amazing. Thank you for making a difference. It is my honor to have you follow me and I want to have more of your words, so here is a follow right back at you. Meghan

  12. Wise and true words. Good post!

  13. Thanks for the follow, my friend. I continue to enjoy what you’ve written. I’ve shared your happiness thoughts with others–very helpful.

  14. Thank you for sharing your life. I am glad you enjoy God’s love. Knowing Him makes life joyful in the bleakest of circumstances. Just knowing our eternal future is splendid adds beauty to life. Blessings to you, Bill…

  15. I loved your distinction between “joy” and “happiness” and that joy grows out of “hope in God”. Reading writings has been a joyful blessing of God to me.

  16. we must hold onto God…

  17. You provide me with “perspective posts.” Thank you!

  18. I wanted to thank you for the like on my blog–and then I read this. I’ve not seen such humble courage like this in a very long time. Being faithful and full of faith. Thanks for your genuine spirit and hope. Thanks for being able to share without excuse. I’m encouraged by your heart. And I’m now following you.

  19. Proud Grandpa! Thank you for your wonderful and honest post! You painted the perfect picture of balance, humor and inspiration with your words! Blessings! 🙂

  20. I am so glad I read this. I appreciate your honesty, and that you shared such helpful thoughts.


  21. Yes, I like that one! (from one of your comments) “Let go and let God.” In my experience, there is no other way! Otherwise happiness can be so fleeting and shortlived. Thank you for your inspiration! As always, your blog lifts me up. Many blessings to you.

  22. Bill – Another great post from you. Only yesterday a recent college graduate I had mentored since her sophomore year in high school and I had a long discussion about happiness. She left today for New York City and what will hopefully be a successful new life. We talked of how happiness doesn’t come from others and how we are each responsible for our own. Of course, we’ve had many long talks about entering the career market with never having held a job before. I have concern for a segment of today’s students graduating from college. A large percentage have never held a job and haven’t a clue of how to act in a responsible manner.
    I believe it’s my responsibility to mentor whenever possible, however I’m seeing I need to add another component to becoming a responsible adult and how happiness, trust and loyalty all play into having a successful life.
    I’m off topic here – and am rambling – feel free to delete.
    I will say, I totally disagree with the insert in your blog of what the other individual defined as her way to happiness.

    • Hi Sheri, thank you for your comments. I’m glad you’re mentoring this girl; I think all young people should have mentors. My wife and I have talked a lot about recent college graduates attitudes about the work force. I know I sound like an old-timer, but, generally speaking, this generation seems to have an unrealistic view about work and finances… I think the way we baby boomers raised our kids is probably to blame 🙂 I do think this is related to the issue of happiness or lack of – people who feel entitled will never know happiness.

  23. Bill
    once again, YOU are MY church♡

  24. Hi Bill. So glad to hear from you again. I confess I missed you! Glad your blog is an addiction I don’t have to conquer.

  25. Dear Bill, how lovely to read your wonderfully inspiring and uplifting post and to see these photos of your darling grandson! How cute is he? Just adorable and so happy! You always get right to the core of what really matters in life and I can’t tell you what a timely reminder your words are, thank you. So much boils down to giving up control of what our self wants isn’t it? If only we would ‘let’ God things would be so much easier, and yes, happier…God bless you my friend, and your loving family always – Sherri 🙂

    • Thank you, Sherri. Life would be much easier if we truly “let go and let God…” There’s obviously something in us, a “sin nature,” that hates that idea. How much happier we would be. I think that’s why most babies are happy – they haven’t yet learned the art of rebellion. In this respect, I was an early bloomer 🙂

  26. You’ve been on my heart this past week. I’ve been praying for you and your family. Once again, you are an encouragement simply by your limited life as I struggle with health issues and the frustration of healing/or not, answers/or not and what does God say in it all. I can honestly say that every time I feel discouraged, I think of you and know God has grace for me too. Thank you. And thank you for the wonderful post. Btw – your grandson is adorable! It’s fun being a grandparent, isn’t it? We just added another granddaughter this past month 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Laura – for your encouraging comments and for your prayers! Yes, being a grandparent is great; much more fun than parenting, don’t you think? 🙂

      • There are joys to both, but maybe a little less heartache for the grandparent. It is wonderful to spend time with the grandkids and then send them home with mom and dad! I’m not young enough to keep up anymore 🙂 Is that adorable baby your first?

        • I know what you mean, Laura. Mary can definitely relate to you not being able to keep up with grandkids; we (she) watched our grandson for 6 days and she was ready for a vacation afterwards 🙂
          Yes, he is our first grandchild.

  27. I had to give up thinking what others think of me when I stopped being able to dye my hair, I have black hair and am going quickly grey. I had a severe allergic reaction to hair dye – it could kill me if I use it again – so its been challenging to still love myself and not worry about justifying it…. but I am getting there!

  28. Bill, thank you for posting this excellent message! I am so humbled and in awe of all that God has taught you through your experience with ALS. Not many of us could go through the battles that you have faced without giving in to despair or giving up hope. You are truly an inspiration to all who face trials of every sort to not give up on life. For no matter how difficult the trial, life is still a precious gift from God, and there is still hope. There is always more to learn, more to give to others no matter how depleted one’s own resources are.
    Thank you for being such a beacon of light in this very dark world. You are God’s precious Encourager to His Body. ~Suzanne 🙂

    • Thank you for your encouraging message, Suzanne. Before a difficult trial, we never think we’d be able to hold up and maintain hope, and we’re right, in our own power we would let despair take over. But it’s in those difficult trials that we find out how powerful God’s grace is – He fights despair for us IF we allow Him to do so.

  29. PS. That is one adorable grandbaby! Happy Father’s Day, Bill.

  30. Hi Bill. Just returned from overseas. Wow so grateful to God for you my brother. Love the pics if your grandchild. Thanks for your encouragement and wisdom.

    • Thank you, Phil. I hope you’ll write more about your trip Friday. I also hope you ate some good food for me while in Paris 🙂 Are you still able to eat okay?
      You will enjoy being a grandpa.
      You’re in my prayers, Phil.

  31. Your joy, expressed by such delightful humor, comes through this post–loud and clear. If you, under the onslaught of ALS, experience hope and joy in God, the rest of us should have no trouble! Thank you, Bill, for your stellar example.

  32. Bill, you are a wonderful source of encouragement and strength and a beautiful witness for our Lord and Saviour. That you take the time to reply to everyone is amazing and shows a real heart of love and compassion. God bless.

  33. Bill,
    Tonight I’m babysitting your beautiful grandson while the two young parents are out having dinner and visiting their favorite coffee bar. I’ve been waiting for days to stop long enough to read your recent blog so tonight has been a great quiet evening to do so. What a gift you have in your writings touching so many of us. Looking forward to being with POPS and Mary soon.

  34. Bill, I know it is a bit warm being summer and all but I want to give you a great big bear hug and squeeze tight. 🙂

    There are words I cannot share right now but your inspiration continues to bless me. Thank you! – Amy

    • Thank you for your comments and the virtual hug, Amy 🙂 I hope it’s not too warm for you to work in your garden.

      • You are welcome. It’s more like my virtual garden too. I’m still recouping from the hospital and having problems changing meds. I’m taking it easy right now. I hope you are able to enjoy this weekend. Happy Father’s Day! 🙂

        • Too bad you’re not able to garden, Amy. My wife has a small vegetable garden and it’s producing so much she’s giving vegetables the neighbors.

          • I wish I was a neighbor – hehe :D. That’s good. I used to garden and it is so satisfying to be able to tend to vegetables–to help things grow until harvest. I miss it.

  35. Bill, I am praying for your complete healing. Bless you.

  36. Beautifully written. Rejoicing with you in the grace of love of our Almighty God. Freeing us from the bondage of sin with it’s eternal death by allowing His only Son Jesus Christ to die that death for us!
    An only hymn is running through my head
    “…what a day of rejoicing that will be
    when we all see Jesus
    we’ll sing and shout for victory.”
    May you be abundantly blessed brother!

  37. Hello my friend and a very Happy Father’s Day to you! As usual you hit a home run with your blog. I’m always so happy to see in my email that you have published another blog. I get the feel with each reading that I’m always right there with you listening to you speak. I truly enjoy and love your spirit. GOD bless you my brother from the crown of your head to the soles of your beautiful feet. You remain encouraged and continue to inspire your current followers and future readers all over this globe.

    Elder Shawn Denise Briscoe

  38. The difference between joy and happiness is one that few people seem willing to discuss. I have felt joy even in the midst of depression. It is completely different than happiness. I loved your post, Bill.

    • You are EXACTLY right, Denise! To non-Christians, “joy in the midst of depression” is a contradiction, but I too have sensed that joy, peace and hope even at my unhappiest times – that’s what keeps us from throwing in the towel.

  39. What a wonderful encouragement Bill! Nothing can replace, nor compare to the joy that’s rooted in our hope in Christ! Amen!

  40. I can’t imagine the time and energy it takes for you to share your wisdom, I appreciate your willingness to make that effort. Your words really make a difference.

  41. Your insight is incredible. The cap at the end by C.S. Lewis is spot on. We pursue happiness apart from God. We look for a temoorary, emotional high that will let is down. Life in Christ offers joy despite our circumstances.

    Thanks for the reminder!

  42. Like you I don’t think there is a recipe for ‘happiness’… Instead living each day to the fullest…exemplifying Christ’s example and directions, and to love God and love thy neighbour…. Diane

  43. Another powerful post! I always find inspiration and challenge in your words. May we all seek joy that only comes from the Lord rather than chasing after the temporary happiness the world has to offer.

  44. It’s always good to see posts from you, not just because of your words, although they are always inspiring and encouraging, but because your posts demonstrate the faith and courage that you talk about. I can only imagine the challenges you are going through but to type an essay this long despite the difficulties – this is a clear testimony of the source of your motivation – your persistent hope and joy in the Lord.

    Bless you!

  45. Hi Bill,
    Thank you for once again simply stating the message that God wants us to hear. There is a reason for 18 years of ALS. I truly believe Gods plan for you is to help others! My friend, you have helped me. May God bless you, your beautiful Mary and your whole family! Xoxo

  46. Thanks once again for your wisdom and sharing with us the gem that God created in you.

  47. Great words of truth, and your grandson is clearly source of His joy! 🙂 Thank you for sharing!

  48. Great Blog. It is hard for me to always be happy when I find my self on overload. So many things to get done and it is harder each year for me to accomplish all I used to do. I no longer make lists because it is to hard to get to the end of the list at the end of the day. Staying happy is far more important so I do what I can and just move on. Polio is making it much harder to be mobile. I spent the morning at my brace shop evaluating my current brace for my left leg. Adjustments were made and are making it better but the suggestion of a new one are needed. Moving on with a new brace will start tomorrow with appointments and my mobility will continue. I am so blessed that I am able to do all that I do. I pray for you each time I receive your wonderful messages for your continued strength. You are one brave man. God Bless you and all that you do.

    • Thank you, Linda. I think it’s hard to be in a constant state of happiness even for those with perfect health and great wealth. It’s especially difficult for people like you and me. Thank you for your prayers.

  49. Bill,

    Your posts are always so encouraging. 🙂
    Thank you for taking the time to share your insights.

    During a difficult and dark time in my life I found I had a greater appreciation for Romans 12:15 “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.”

    There were many brothers and sisters in Christ who wanted to “fix” me by offering me advice, and as things in my life didn’t improve they distanced themselves from me.

    There were very few who had the grace and ability to come along side me and walk out that scripture. I think it takes a very strong believer, someone rooted and grounded in the joy you are speaking of to be able to weep with someone who is weeping.

    To me that is why I need to stay strong in the joy of the Lord, because someone else is out there hurting as badly as I did and they need someone who has enough joy/strength (the joy of the Lord is our strength) to weep with them.

    You are one of those people Bill, whether you realize it or not. I found your blog during that time and I have been blessed ever since by the ministry that God has given you!

    God bless you and your family.

    And I am SO laughing over the remote control issues. 🙂

    Jennifer L. McCrary

    • Thank you so much for your encouraging message, Jennifer! Those that want to “fix us,” mean well, but they usually lack the spiritual and emotional patience that, unfortunately, is only learned by going through a difficult trial (2 Corinthians 1:4).
      As for the TV remote, it’s so difficult for me to use, it actually hurts my fingers, but I keep fighting having to relinquish it 🙂

  50. I laughed about fixing your hair in #1. I find your posts so candid, sensible and uplifting. Your blog is one of the few blogs that I know I am going to glean something meaningful from. Keep writing. Love the posts.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting, Monique.
      I probably shouldn’t give them a hard time about fixing my hair; they might give up and I’ll end up looking like Einstein 🙂

  51. Bill, thank you for another wise and wonderful post. Your sense of humor is always present too and much appreciated. Your words, ‘Hope in God is like a compass that leads us back to joy’ are so very true.

    Blessings ~ Wendy ❀

  52. Thank you so much for this thought provoking post!

  53. Been missing your posts and praying for you. I was so thankful when your blog popped up in my email today. What wonderful insight. I plan to keep this one as a constant reminder of things I need to be done with. I agree with Leah. I need to give up all ten too!

  54. Bill,

    I was happy to hear you still have control of the TV remote. 😉


  55. Hi,

    Thanks for such an inspiring post. I was sitting here at my computer, feeling sorry for myself because I have bad toothache. This post brought me back to my senses and I immediately made a mental list of all the things I am grateful for. I find when I do that, I become happy.

    It’s so good to hear from you. 🙂


  56. Glad to hear your words of wisdom, Bill. Great advice for us all. Praying for you and yours every day. God bless!

  57. I used to think these things would do it…I used to think a lot of things would make me happy. I am most unhappy when I’m trying to control things out of my control…..for me, happiness has been acknowledging that the Lord is in total control and that I can take actions to demonstrate a direction but in the end, I am not that ‘god’ like satan wants me to believe….I am always looking to discover what path my journey takes in order to serve. Since then, even during challenges in my life I have found happiness and positive expectation through faith and spending quiet time just being with God. It’s been a true blessing…this coming from the woman who went the WHOLE route from Feng Shui, Law of Attraction, and sooo much more to now being saved. It’s more bliss and joy than I ever knew could exist and I’m grateful for that every day…..I wish it for everyone. And to make the point…..the above falls in line if you follow Bible-based faith…you don’t act to please others, just the Lord; you don’t worry about your past and it certainly doesn’t define you; you don’t need to remember not to do the above because you’re guided to live as the Lord wants…peace comes. I say this as I’m blessed without having physical pain…..I’m sure that would affect my life a LOT so wishing you perfect health…always!!!! God bless!!!!

    • Hi Cris. Good to hear from you and thank you for your insightful comments. You have obviously had a long spiritual search for happiness. I’m glad that you finally found truth in Christ. God bless.

  58. That is all so true but sometimes we need to be reminded. I jokingly tell people I can’t gossip because I can’t talk. The important things within us, hope, peace and joy. Those things you suggest giving up are nothing in comparison.

  59. Thank you for sharing this, Bill. God is using you greatly to bless others.

  60. I agree with what you say, Bill, it’s joy we should aim for – happiness is transient. The list of 10 things, well, it’s like our Christian walk: a lifelong process of learning to let go of old ways and embrace new ways. Success comes from keeping at it…

    Thank you for these encouraging words and even more so, your courageous (if reluctant) walk with ALS.

  61. You truly always have a Good Word in season. I eagerly look forward to each of your posts. God is using you as a Messenger of His JOY! Many Blessings to you!

  62. I LOVE this blog!! Thank you so much for articulating the difference between (fleeting, circumstance-based) happiness and (permanent, Christ-based) Joy! You’re writing is wonderful! Keep up the great Work!….make it bring you and all who read much JOY!!!

  63. Love what you wrote on happiness versus joy! Your posts are always beautifully written and always inspiring!

  64. Wow! I needed this today! Thanks SOOO much for your honesty and transparency! My husband fell three months ago crushing his heel and breaking his hip (actually the femur). He’s still using crutches and I know he gets discouraged, but there is an end in sight Need I say more? God bless you AND your family as you continue on in the race God has set before you – one that none would choose! 2 Cor. 4:7-11

  65. “Don’t go crazy … in a pursuit …” – these words for me capture so well the fleeting “stuff” we chase, never truly catching, becoming frustrated, then resigned, then the giving up.

    The these different words: “just look … hope … find … true … lasting …” – so gentle.

    God ain’t no pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. He is the rainbow. No chasing required. No craziness required (although it seems to happen anyway!) 🙂

    Thank you for a thought provoking piece.

  66. Your posts are so refreshing. The last line of #1 made me chuckle. I can’t even begin to imagine the time and energy it took to compose and publish your blog posts. I so appreciate the wisdom, insight, effort and love you put into each one.

  67. Wonderful post full of truth. There’s a hole in every human heart that can only be filled by the one who put it there.

  68. I am amazed at your story. Indeed, we may go through fire, but God will be right there, walking with us. God bless you.
    Sent from my BlackBerry wireless device from MTN

  69. Jennifer Stepanski

    Love you, missed hearing from you. Hope all is well. I sent out a reply last night looking for you and this morning you are here~ Thank you for your continued love and support and encouragement! Your wise words and reminders! Always needed and so useful. HOPEing adn BELIEVEing! We’re holding on.

  70. Daddy, I needed this so much today. I need to give up all ten of those things haha. Love you

    Leah Sweeney

  1. Pingback: “Happiness :-)” 8/26/2014 | God's group

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