why telling yourself to “just be happy” doesn’t really work

She’s the mother of four.

Their ages are her testimonial to the tired, overwhelming days. 4, 3, 1, and 3 months.

I’m the mother of none.

My empty house is the testimonial to my years of tears and empty longings.

We seem so different on the surface.

She can’t know what it’s like to face infertility every. single. day. She’ll never know what it is like to cry blistering tears over the hundredth negative pregnancy test. She’ll never understand the moods that send a usually sane person into there will never be a baby and I’m so tired of waiting for one so I’m going to turn the spare bedroom into an office and pretend that I never wanted a baby anyway rage.

I’ve never born and birthed four children. I’ve never sat in the middle of three screaming little ones to nurse the baby that has been waiting for twenty minutes, crying in hunger. I’ve never locked myself in the bathroom and cried because there are kids banging on the door and I. just. need. one. second. to. breathe. I’ve never sat up night after night after night with a colicky baby and a four year old with insomnia.  I don’t have four children pulling on me every day, every hour, every moment.

The surface is so different. It’s so easy to stand from the place you’ve experienced and think,

I would give anything to have all those kids hanging on me.

or

I would give anything to have a whole evening just to myself.

But here’s the honest to goodness truth:

We’re the same. This friend and I. We’re exactly the same.

She says,

“I tell myself every day that I should just be happy, but it doesn’t work.”

And I’ve said that same thing and felt that same condemnation for failing at just being content with what I have.

And when I stop in my tracks, in my baby-hunger, in my dwelling on my struggles– and I listen past her longings for a night off of mothering, I hear the same heart-beat.

The same struggles.

We’re all just human after all. So I write back and say, feeling the conviction to my bones that this is my answer too:

Oh, I don’t think we can really make ourselves be happy. I think we just have to surrender the stuff that makes us unhappy. And instead of thinking, “What’s wrong with me that I can’t just be happy with what I have?” (which makes us discouraged) just say, “God, thank you for the things I do have.”

I think it is time that we face this lie head-on. It’s really not about us being happy. It’s not about being tough enough to stuff down how much we struggle and pretend that everything is good.

It’s about surrender.

It always has been.

It’s about me, standing right here in my empty house with barrenness marking my journey, and saying:

God, I thank you.
I thank you for beauty.
For the fellowship of Believers.
For a husband who loves.
For snowflakes plastered against my windows.
For the barn full of animals.
For the friend who stops in for coffee.
For the teenage girl who asks to be discipled.

I thank you for grace, upon grace, upon grace.

Dear ones, there will always be things that make us unhappy. There will always be trials that drag the hope right out of us.  You can walk out of this desert tomorrow, but I guarantee that you’ll stumble into a new one soon after. It’s life. 

I can’t make myself be happy. I can’t even make myself be content. But I can make myself surrender the things that discourage me and thank God for the things that bless me.

contentment @natashametzler

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29 thoughts on “why telling yourself to “just be happy” doesn’t really work

  1. Be-ya-uuuuu-tee-ful, Natasha! Thank you for being so honest about this. It’s refreshing to see the truth out in the open.
    And I REALLY hope you put that beautiful text-picture on facebook. I’m really looking forward to sharing it. *hinthint* 😉

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  2. Convicting & encouraging. Thank you, Natasha, from another woman who has also walked the road of childlessness for well over 10 years.

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  3. Natasha, I had to share this on my fb page…and I was going to say the same thing about that beautiful picture/text. I can’t wait to see it.

    It’s a sad, painful truth, that the grass always looks greener on the other side, but it still has to be cared for, regardless. Surrender…that’s the secret!

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  4. This is just what I needed to hear this morning! May God help me to continue to surrender, to be that “living sacrifice” His Word talks about!
    *I have to admit, I had to chuckle when I read about the “rage” you can fly into…. I can’t even count the times I’ve thought those same things! My poor husband is always a *tad* relieved when the “sane person” comes back! 🙂

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    • Ha! Yes. My husband (after carefully checking to see that I’m stable) often makes joking remarks about my tearing apart the house because “I’m never having kids so why do I even have a bedroom upstairs?” moments.

      🙂

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    • Thank you, Delite, for all your glorious encouragement. I love that you cry tears for me even when my eyes are dry.

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  5. Natasha…this is so very true! I feel so ashamed of the moments I wish I didn’t have to be on top of having a snack ready at 3pm every day or the fact that I can’t just drop things and run to be with a friend. We BOTH struggle with being content…so sinfully human of us…and it makes me so thankful for a Savior who can wash me as white as snow and bond us together as sisters despite the first glance assumption that we don’t have much in common.

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  6. That is so true… even if we got exactly what we wanted, if our hearts were not right with God we’d still be discontent. Crazy, isn’t it? When God shows you that it’s not really about this outward stuff–the earthly trials that seem so pressing right now–but it’s really all about Him. About becoming more like Him and loving Him more. How each trial is designed just right for us–just enough pain to drive us weeping to His feet, enough to show us our complete reliance on Him– and not too much to utterly crush us. Just enough and no more. Oh, He is good.

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  7. “But I can make myself surrender the things that discourage me and thank God for the things that bless me.”

    Amen. It’s amazing how having a thankful heart can change my attitude. True joy and contentedness comes from daily surrender and thanking the Giver of all Gifts

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  8. Great reminder Natasha! God is working on me to surrender this year. I’ve gotten so frustrated that my plans didn’t go my way that I had forgotten to consider what God had planned for me. He’s pointed it out to me and slow by slow I’m learning to surrender all to Him- the things that go my way and the things that don’t. For the first time in my adult life I’m in a season that I didn’t expect and I feel oddly guilty about it. The things that brought me to this place were entirely out of my control and entirely within His control, so then why should I feel guilty? Shouldn’t I feel great joy that the Director and Perfecter of my life has such a great plan for me? That’s how surrender is changing me. It’s the joy of knowing that He works everything together for my good and what I thought I wanted is not nearly so good as what He wants to give me.

    I’ve bookmarked this post so that I can read it again on the hardest days of surrender. Thank you.

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  9. ooooo- contentment is HARD! I constantly find myself working on this one. It’s weird to feel full of gratitude and still have this battle in other ways. Thanks for writing the truth.

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  10. Pingback: Redeeming the Division {rejoicing and grieving together} with giveaway | natashametzler.com

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