I’ll never forget the lesson I learned on my first trip to Mexico as a youth pastor. I slept on a wooden bench which sat on a dirt floor in a back room of a church on top of a mountain in a village with no running water. We took baths in the river each day and the pastor would walk for miles to preach to his people. I brought nearly thirty teenagers from, let’s be honest here… an affluent church in Sense of HumorIndiana. None of us lived in these conditions at home but we were sure immersed in it now! And I noticed the youth from the village… and the differences between us. The local youth came to church services early… sang loud… smiled big… and dressed nice. It was convicting to us all. They were so happy and seemed to have something we didn’t. I remember spending a lot of time that week trying to figure it all out and to be honest… trying to keep our teens, well… uh… happy.

Over the years I’ve met others who seem to have this “happiness thing” figured out a lot better than others. Here is what I see in happy people…

It’s hard to be happy when you don’t have peace. Peace comes when your conscience is clear and you know you are “right with God and right with others.” To be at peace you need to do some “soul-searching” and be honest about where you are in your relationships. Did you lose your peace along the way when you chose to hold on to something hurtful or maybe just choose to do life your way instead of God’s way?

It’s really hard to be thankful for what you think you deserve. If your perspective is that you deserve so much more than you have… you are going to really struggle to be happy. But when you put it in perspective… there is always so much to be thankful for and in that place of gratitude you will find so much joy.

Hurt people hurt people. Think about that for a moment. There are so many things in life that “offend” and it is not always an easy task to completely forgive others… but you just won’t find true happiness while living in bitterness… you must accept this truth. In Psalm 51:10 David asked God to “renew a right spirit within him.” If you are really struggling with anger and bitterness toward someone who hurt you… please start the journey today toward forgiveness. Your happiness depends on it!

Those kids in Mexico taught me a lot. The smiles, the laughter, the genuine joy of God in their heart was amazing. During one “testimony time” with our youth group I’ll never forget one of our teenage boys putting it this way when he said, “I’ve met people that helped me see that I am so rich materially, but so poor spiritually… and they are so poor materially… yet so rich spiritually.” So guess what? You may be richer than you think… but you won’t be happy without peace, perspective and forgiveness.

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