When I discovered that Tricia Goyer has adopted seven children—and she also cares for her 92-year-old grandmother—I knew she was someone I could trust when it came to the subject of happiness. Tricia will be the first to tell you that  “happy” described in God’s Word is different than what the world thinks. In fact, the word happy is also translated blessed, and the root is “to be straight.” To be truly happy is to get our hearts “straight” or “right” in the Lord. More than anything Tricia longs for us to understand that true happiness starts with knowing how much we are loved by the Lord and walking with Him daily, just as she was taught during these powerful moments in her life. It’s a grace to welcome Tricia to the farm’s table today…

Guest post by Tricia Goyer

I was honored to care for my grandfather during the last months of his life, when he was eighty-three. He lost his first wife and child while he was serving in World War II. After marrying again, Papa had three daughters and worked at a factory until he retired in his sixties; only after all that did he become a Christian. He and my grandma lived in a mobile home, and they cared for their family well.

After giving his heart to Jesus, Papa gave up drinking and settled into a simple life of fishing, cutting wood for his stove, visiting family, and mowing his neighbors’ lawns just to help out. I don’t remember Papa ever standing in front of the church to speak, and when he sang the hymns and worship songs, I’d strain to hear his voice.

Yet I do remember him sitting down every morning with a cup of coffee and his Bible. I also remember him praying for each family member by name, “Dear Jesus, be with Tricia today. Keep her safe. Be with her at school. Help her on any schoolwork or tests she has today.” Tears fill my eyes even now, remembering that.

Papa never went on a mission trip, and I’m not sure if he ever read the Bible all the way through. He loved cowboy movies, his small garden patch, his family, and Jesus. And that was enough. How do I know? Because on his last conscious day, Papa saw Jesus.

My grandma had been praying with him, and Papa started talking about the beautiful flowers he saw and their aromas. He spoke of the beautiful birds and the lion.

“Oh, if I were an artist, I’d paint that lion,” he said. Then he lifted his hands and started praising Jesus. Papa told us he saw Jesus there, arms outstretched to him. Never a demonstrative person, the only time I ever saw my Papa with his arms raised and tears on his face was the day Jesus showed up to welcome him home.

“God desires for us to change, but actual change comes from internal transformation, not external manipulation.”

Think about the sermons you’ve sat through. Well-meaning pastors and Bible teachers want us to do what is right. They explain the rules of the Bible. They warn us of judgment for doing wrong. They mix encouragement with threats. They provide “promises” of the good that will come when we obey, and they pile on the guilt when we don’t.

As well-meaning as they are, as numerous as these messages are, we start to believe that our Christian walk is more about what we do than who we are a sinner saved by grace and a child of God.

When I start to feel that I’m not doing enough, I think of Papa. He gave his heart to Jesus and loved those closest to him. That’s all that matters when you really come down to it. The elaborate way that Jesus welcomed Papa into Heaven reminds me of that.

“A happy heart that’s in the process of being transformed by Jesus changes our view of our circumstances, not the other way around.”

God desires for us to change, but actual change comes from internal transformation, not external manipulation.

Every commitment to “do things differently” lasts a few hours (or at most a few days). If we attempt to change by our own will, we will always fail.

Actual change — heart-happy change — comes from the inside out. The closer I grow to Jesus, the more I allow him to “do His good work” within me. I am different because of my love for Him and my willingness to let Him do a good work in my heart. Only this kind of change will last.

A happy heart that’s in the process of being transformed by Jesus changes our view of our circumstances, not the other way around.

Faith is Not a Formula

Since I talked about Papa, I need to share about Grandma—who still lives with me—too. She is ninety-two and the perfect example of heart happiness. Her work each day consists of eating, napping, and watching black-and-white cowboy movies. Yet, she is genuinely heart happy.

Grandma is thankful for those who care for her. She praises God for “the day that the Lord has made.” She communes with God in song. I know because I hear her at 3 a.m., singing to Jesus. Grandma still has a sense of humor, too. When a nurse or therapist comes to visit, she always claims she’s twenty-nine and pretends to be upset when they object. Grandma also loves to show off her “dancing,” holding on to her walker and swaying her hips. She still has excellent sway after all these years. If Grandma based her happiness on what she could accomplish, she’d be the saddest person on earth. But she’s not. She loves Jesus, and she knows that Jesus loves her.

“There’s a difference between knowing the rules of Christianity and personally connecting with Jesus.”

There’s a difference between knowing the rules of Christianity and personally connecting with Jesus. The Pharisees were a religious group of men who made following God’s laws their life’s work—but when God walked among them, they missed Him. I understand this.

One day, I was in the middle of my very ritualistic morning Bible reading when I felt God tap my heart. “You spend a lot of time learning about Me. Are you ready to connect with Me?” He said. The answer was yes.

I put aside my study guide and simply sat. I closed my eyes and leaned my head against the back of the couch. I pondered my journey with Jesus. I thought of the little girl who’d heard about His love in Sunday School and who whispered prayers to Him in her dark bedroom, feeling His love in return. I remembered being the teen who attempted to find love to fill the chasm within her heart and instead finding herself pregnant and abandoned. And then, when she surrendered, discovered Jesus loved her no matter the state she found herself in.

As I thought about all these things, my chest warmed, and a quiet peace fell over me like a soft blanket. Knowing that Jesus stood at His father’s side yet also reached down to me at that moment caused fresh tears of joy to spring to my eyes. The worries of the day fell away from the forefront of my mind as my soul reminded me that Jesus created me for Himself, not for all the things I could do for Him.

That day started the same as a thousand other days, yet it shifted my outlook. It was similar to pulling back a curtain to allow in the sunshine. I’d been able to see just fine before, but pushing aside the “work” of spending time with Jesus allowed new light to flood in.

Work stress. Financial fallout. Family problems. Caring for kids. COVID. Today’s fast-paced world has plenty of chaos to offer all of us, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Under circumstances like these, it’s easy to misplace our joy and peace—but we don’t have to.

Author Tricia Goyer understands what it’s like to be pulled in a dozen different directions with the longing and intention to do all things well. A busy homeschooling mom of ten children—several of whom are still in the house—caregiver to her nonagenarian grandmother, speaker, and blogger, she also knows what it feels like to fall short. But through her years of trial and error, she’s found uncomplicated but effective practices for nourishing the soul—and that is of utmost importance, because everything stems from the heart.

Heart Happy: Staying Centered in God’s Love through Chaotic Circumstances will inspire you to stay tethered to the Lover of your soul. By taking time to make your heart happy in the Lord, you’ll grow closer to the Heavenly Father, fostering true transformation from the inside out. Peace and joy can be yours—no matter what life dishes up.

[ Our humble thanks to Salem Books for their partnership in today’s devotion ]