Comer: Happiness is a choice all need to make no matter what
My favorite talks in church are the ones in which the speaker draws on personal experiences to provide instruction on whatever gospel subject they are discussing. In those moments, I find my focus completely fixed on the message and I realize how similar the speaker is to me, attempting to navigate mortality and overcome trials just like me.
Just as I appreciate talks in church that display vulnerability, I appreciate songs that do that as well, and I heard one this past week. The song is by Nathan Feuerstein, more commonly known by the name NF, and is called “Happy.”
“Happy” seems to fit well with NF’s stated songwriting objectives. Explaining his music in a 2016 interview with Idolator, NF said, “I talk about my life, I talk about my faith. I talk about positive things that I’ve dealt with that have taught me things and I talk about negative things that I’m dealing with. I wouldn’t describe myself as (a Christian rapper), but I am a Christian.”
There’s so much in the song “Happy” that could be expounded upon, but I’d like to focus on what seems to be the overall point: misery can become comfortable, so much so that being happy can actually become unimaginable. Addressing God throughout the song, he sings:
“Yeah, been this way so long, it feels like something’s off
When I’m not depressed
I got some issues that I won’t address
I got some baggage I ain’t opened yet
I got some demons I should put to rest
I got some traumas that I can’t forget
I got some phone calls I been avoidin’
Some family members I don’t really connect with
Some things I said I wish I woulda not let slip
Some hurtful words that never shoulda left my lips
Some bridges burned, I’m not ready to rebuild yet
Some insecurities I haven’t dealt with, yes
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a lonely soul
And the last to admit I need a hand to hold
Headed down a dangerous road
Strange, I know
But I feel most at home when I’m
Livin’ in my agony
Watching my self-esteem
Go up in flames acting
Like I don’t
Care what anyone else thinks
When I know truthfully
That that’s the furthest thing
From how I
Feel but I’m too proud to open up and ask ya
To pick me up and pull me out this hole I’m trapped in
The truth is, I need help, but I just can’t imagine
Who I’d be if I was happy”
It’s one of those concepts that’s difficult to fathom, but when you stop and think about it, you realize that it’s true. There are moments in our lives when we almost seem to want to be miserable. It’s like we don’t want to be happy. We’re upset about something, and rather than forcing ourselves to overcome whatever it is and be happy, we stay upset. It’s like we feel like we have this right to be upset and because we have that right we don’t want to ruin it by picking ourselves up. It really is an odd thought process because it’s completely destructive, but it’s hard to avoid sometimes.
I had a moment like that just this week. I recently traded in my car because the transmission faltered and the repair would have cost more than the vehicle was worth. I initially took the car into the dealership to figure out what was wrong with it, and upon learning what the issue was, I decided to trade it in. But I made it clear that before they did whatever they were ultimately going to do with the vehicle, I wanted an opportunity to gather my things from it. Unfortunately, the dealership sold it to a wholesaler and nobody informed me.
Suddenly, the car, and everything I had inside, was gone. The person at the dealership informed me about this oversight and apologized profusely. Much that was inside the vehicle could be thrown away without bothering me, but there were some items that I definitely wanted to keep, so he said the dealership would replace those items free of charge to me. Sadly, there were two items that the dealership could not replace: two headbands, a black and a pink one, which I had hung from the rearview mirror.
Those were extremely precious to me because they were given to my wife by the nursing home she resided in during her final week here on earth. I hung them on my rearview mirror immediately after leaving the nursing home after she passed away and had kept them there ever since, which has now been almost four and a half years. They cannot be replaced. I didn’t even think of the headbands until I picked my sons up from school after getting my new vehicle and my oldest son asked me if they were inside. We were walking to the car at the moment, and I just suddenly stopped as a wave of sorrow completely engulfed me.
It was in that moment that I knew they weren’t and I would never be able to get them back. For the rest of the day, I felt extremely despondent. It felt in a way that I had lost my wife all over again. At some point in the evening, it struck me that I needed to figure out a way to overcome this. Yes, I had a right to be upset, and anyone would be, but how long was I going to let this feeling of sadness persist? It struck me that no matter how much I felt justified in feeling the way I felt, Satan wanted me to continue feeling that way. He wanted me to continue to dwell on it and refuse to feel happiness. After that I just felt conflicted. I didn’t want to give Satan that power over me and that gratification, but I wanted to feel miserable. Because I felt I had the right to feel the way I did, I didn’t want it to be ruined.
I truly don’t think it’s a coincidence that I heard NF’s song the very next morning given the state I was in. As I listened to the lyrics, I realized that though happiness may be hard, it is a choice that we make, and we have to make it over and over again, regardless of what we’re going through. We cannot allow ourselves to become comfortable in misery. Every moment that is spent refusing to be happy just makes it harder to ultimately become happy. Every moment that is spent agonizing over whatever miserable thing happened just makes it harder to overcome that misery. People sometimes make note to me how remarkable they think it is that I’m able to have any sort of optimistic or cheerful attitude given what I’ve gone through. Mostly I just think, “Well, what choice do I have?” Truthfully, the only other choice is to embrace misery and bitterness. I’ve decided that I’d rather choose happiness.
“Don’t know what’s around the bend
Don’t know what my future is
But I can’t keep on livin’ in
Livin’ in my agony”
May we all be able to make that same choice.
Contact Ryan Comer at firstname.lastname@example.org.