The Antidote to Misery
The Antidote to Misery|
Abraham Lincoln once said that people are about as happy as they make up their mind to be. After spending this week on the Mississippi Queen River Boat, I believe that statement more than ever. If happiness had anything to do with external conditions, everyone on this boat would be happy.
The Mississippi Queen provides the utopia vacation. Rooms are cleaned twice day, soft music plays in the rooms, they serve sumptuous food and beverages continuously, entertainment delights throughout the day, the ports provide a glimpse into the Old South, and the staff is available at a moments notice. If you can’t walk up a hill, the staff will push you in a wheelchair. They open doors for you, go out of their way to provide for special needs, provide a daily paper, and will even mail your cards without charge. A week on the Mississippi Queen is nothing short of pampering, relaxation, and entertainment. True, it is slower than the typical pace of American life, but if you give in to the leisurely roll of river, take a deep breath and slow down, the creator of river will fill your soul.
So why do I see unhappy people? I accidentally bumped into a woman while carrying my breakfast to my table. Neither of us was hurt in the slightest but since it was partially my fault, I apologized immediately. She looked at me and snapped, “Didn’t you see me?”
“No ma’am,” I responded quickly. “It was an accident and I’m so sorry.” She gave her husband a look that said I was an idiot and the two of them walked away muttering. I watched them during the day and noticed they were unhappy with everyone and everything. Disgust with life had permanently etched scowl lines into their aged faces.
A woman on an elevator threw a temper tantrum about how crowded the elevator was. “I was on here first,” she screamed. “Why are all of you crowding in here like the Chinese. That may be the way they do it in China but we are not in China,” she continued to scream as she pushed her way through the crowd and got off the elevator. As I stood with her waiting on the next elevator, she continued to complain. I have no idea what the reference to the Chinese meant but it was clear she was unhappy with Americans.
I’ve heard complaints about the food, rooms, wait staff, wait time for food, tours, boat activity on the river, lack of boat activity on the river, music (too much or too little,) dancing, musicians, temperature (too hot or cold,) weather (too hot, humid, rainy, or cold,) and the schedule (too busy or too slow.)
I’ve come to the conclusion that if you are not happy on the Mississippi Queen, you’re probably not happy anywhere. When people walk through their days noticing what is wrong instead of what is right, what is wrong in life grows and finds its way even to the utopia vacation. The opposite is also true. If we continually rejoice, our enjoyment of life increases.
Another expression says pain is inevitable but misery is optional. I suspect the people I’ve heard complaining have walked through life complaining about everything. As I’ve looked around at the faces and attitude of some, I’ve come to the conclusion that many have wasted their life being miserable about things that were meant for their delight.
The Bible contains the antidote for misery and the secret to happiness. Most think the secret to happiness is a perfect life. If that were true, everyone aboard the Mississippi Queen would be happy. No, the antidote to misery and the secret to happiness is to rejoice in the Lord always, no matter what.
The word rejoice is in the Bible 151 times. 1 Thessalonians 5:16 says to rejoice always.” (NASU)
Just in case we didn’t get it, Philippians 4:4-5 says it twice: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. NASU
According to the Bible, we are to rejoice when chains bind us or we are in jail. We are to rejoice when we are barren, poor, weak, or rich. We are to rejoice when loved ones die and are born. We are to rejoice when we are hungry or food is plentiful. We are even supposed to rejoice when we have to wait for an answer.
Many on this boat have learned this secret formula. A smiling petite woman in her 80’s shared the story of the loss of husband after 66 years of marriage. The last 5 years of his life, she spent caring for him as Alzheimer’s stole him from her, brain cell by brain cell. “I’m so sorry you lost your husband,” I said. “You must miss him.”
“I was blessed to have him 66 years,” was her response.
“Still, the last 5 years must have been hard,” I said.
“I didn’t have it as bad as some,” she said. “With him, the disease made him sweeter. He didn’t get real bad until the end. When my back got so bad that I couldn’t take care of him, a friend immediately found him a space in a Godly home that only took 4 patients. He lived only 2 more weeks. God took care of us,” She said with eyes glowing from the happiness of knowing she is to rejoice in all things. She was enjoying her cruise.
I had the pleasure of getting to know a Godly couple who has loved God together for the entire 26 years of their marriage. Her husband bought her a piece of colorful costume jewelry in the shape of a steamboat. She wore it proudly. “Isn’t he the best husband in the word,” she said. When a waiter brought her food, she thanked him. “I know you think this is just a job for you. To us, taking this trip is wonderful. We are enjoying every minute of it.”
“The food is wonderful,” many remarked. They bragged on the service, the shore excursions, the riverbanks, and the music. “I look forward to the calliope playing when we take off,” someone remarked excitedly. “I’ve never been anywhere that had better music,” many said. These people discovered the secret to enjoying their vacation. They are rejoicing in all things.