“There’s happiness right where we are. God is daring us to stalk it. Sometimes it shows up small. But it’s important that we look, because some days the looking will save us.”—Jennifer Dukes Lee, The Happiness Dare
It’s early morning. I’m sitting at the cancer center receiving three bags of IV medicine that prepare my body for the chemotherapy to follow. Steroids, Phenergan and Benadryl along with a hefty dose of oral Tylenol pave the way for a long infusion of Rituxin. This is the first of four infusions, one a week for the next four weeks. I’ve just come through another grueling round of five plamapheresis treatments. Every time we say I can’t do it again. The access to my main ventricle is more and more dangerous. We had to go in the left side through my jugular and tuck the catheter under my clavicle and cross my heart under the skin to get it placed this time. It was even more painful than usual. The consensus between all my doctors is the Rituxin worked at suppressing the autoimmune attacks for a longer period than ever before. After this aggressive month long push I will continue to receive chemo infusions every six weeks indefinitely. I feel hopeful about the new plan.
Most cancer center infusion rooms are similar. This one has over thirty recliners lined up in rows. There is a fireplace and a large TV. When you come in early, like I do, you get to pick your spot first. Slowly the room begins to fill with patients in various stages of cancer. This particular oncologist is known as a cowboy. He does research trials on drugs in various stages of approval. Most of these patients have been told there is nothing else available in their fight, and they come here. This huge room is scattered with people, young and old, who are committed to fighting and holding on. Many of them say their lives have been prolonged years because of their chemo and care here. Still, it is not a “happy” place.
My friend Jennifer Dukes Lee gave birth to a new book today. She named it The Happiness Dare. I love Jennifer’s writing, both her last book Love Idol and her blog. Still, I have to admit I’m just not in a place to play the glad game. When her book showed up on my doorstep the week before last, I resisted the cheerful blue cover with the yellow candy font. The last thing I wanted to be challenged about was happiness. Really? How could I find happiness in all this never ending hard?
Over the last ten years of unrelenting trial in our family’s life, I’ve wrestled with God’s asking me to “Count it all joy.” Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. I understand the suffering of this short life cannot be compared to the eternal glory waiting. This is my ultimate hope. I’m not sure I’ve ever fully believed happiness is something God wants for me. The Happiness Dare blows this wide open, and it begins with Jesus.
“Jesus’ most famous sermon happened in the region of Galilee on a mount. Envision the crowds gathering to hear what the Nazarene has to say. Find a patch of grass or a comfortable rock on the hillside and listen as Jesus begins to speak.
The first word out of His mouth is not holy. It is not joyful. It is happy.
“Happy are those who…”
The word for happy in the Scriptures is Greek makarios. Some translations use the English word blessed whenever makarious appears in the New Testament, But other translators—keenly away that makarios comes from the word makar (which means happy or blessed)—translate the word to happiness instead.
It’s on that mount Jesus opens a profoundly important door into the happiness we can have in Him.”
Jennifer goes on to address the rub in the Christian tradition between joy and happiness. Mix in holy, and the waters are even muddier.
“Happiness isn’t the opposite of holy. It’s part of what makes you holy.
Happiness isn’t the opposite of joy. It’s a part of Chris-inspired joy, expressed within you.
Happiness isn’t selfish, or stupid, or wrong or ridiculous.
When we seek it, we are more, not less, like Jesus.
Our happiness is hemmed directly into the heart of joy. How many truly joyful people do you know who are pinched-faced Christians? If you have to dig a mile deep to find a person’s smile, is that really joy? Or has the misery disguised itself as deep Christian joy?”
Does joy in Jesus abide and happiness come and go with our circumstances? I’m ever grateful Jennifer began her book with the theology behind her dare to be happy. I had to read chapter two several times before I could move on. I realized along with her I have never bothered to ask God for happiness. Ever.
“Maybe I had never asked because I didn’t think I deserved happiness. Maybe I’d heard too many sermons telling me that I’d be far better off aiming for the more durable virtue of joy. If I prayed for happiness, I feared I might sound like a woman who believed in a prosperity gospel, which promises happiness through prosperity and success. But I didn’t believe that kind of gospel at all. I didn’t want happiness at the expense of holiness. I wanted happiness as a part of being a human created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”
I exhaled. I got down on my knees, and I dared to ask God to make me happy. Happy here in this chair with chemo slowly dripping, even knowing how utterly sick I will feel tonight and tomorrow. Happy understanding this road is one of healing but always fighting and never fully healed here on earth. Happy learning an unimaginable new surgery is needed for my Danica. Happy opening the mailbox to find the crushing medical bills I know I can’t pay. Happy watching my Delaney and my Dan experience all this as if it was happening to them. I’m seeking and asking for enduring happiness. Will you take the dare with me?
“Takers of the Happiness Dare learn that God not only cares about our happiness, He encourages us to go after it. The Happiness Dare is a challenge to enter into a holy pursuit of happiness, to boycott cynicism, to wring delight out of our ordinary days, and to hunt for happiness even when it’s hard to see…Dare to believe that our happiness actually matters to God.”
Friends, this book is good. Jennifer takes you through finding happiness in earthly pleasure through the good gifts of God. She encourages you to taste heavenly joy even now in His kingdom on earth. She lovingly takes your heart and hand to explore your unique happiness wiring or happiness personality style. (Not a big surprise mine is The Giver) She ends her book specifically addressing happiness in times of pain, loss and grief and our ultimate desire for eternal happiness in heaven. Without these chapters punctuating her dare I still might have felt this book didn’t apply to me. But it does. It is for you too!
“Let’s do this. Let’s frighten the critics and baffle the cynics.
Be like Jesus.
Take the dare.”
“I have told you this to make you completely happy as I am.”—John 15:11 CEV
Gifts are a crazy loud love language (and now I know a happiness personality) of mine. I’m so excited to invite you to join me in celebrating the launch of Jennifer’s book with a giveaway! The winner will a copy of The Happiness Dare
Here’s how to enter:
1. Share this post on social media to give your friends a chance to win this amazing book.
2. Please leave a comment here about a big or small way you’ve found happiness by really seeking it out.
3. Totally optional but highly recommended is to head over to Jennifer’s place and subscribe to her blog Jennifer Dukes Lee. SIGN UP TO TAKE THE DARE and read her post today with all kinds of fun giveaways. I had the honor of meeting Jennifer at The High Calling retreat in November, 2014 and have been truly blessed by her writing and her friendship.
A winner will be randomly chosen from all the entries on Sunday night, August 7th, and announced Monday morning!