Jesus warned us that we would encounter trouble in this life. Our fallen world contains much that can cause suffering and depression. But hope is also real, and when we embrace the hope that God offers and make the choices He leads us to make, we can enjoy happiness despite our current circumstances.

Here are some ways you can choose to be happy:

  • Realize that you do have the power to choose whether to be happy or unhappy. Don't believe the lie that you can't change. No matter how severe your depression, it is treatable. Nothing is impossible with God's help. Although it will be difficult to do so at first, consider what you might be getting out of choosing to remain unhappy (for instance, it might be a way to avoid risks or a way to manipulate others).

  • Pray! Openly and honestly communicate your thoughts and feelings to God, then offer them to Him. Ask Him to transform you so that you can begin to think and act in positive ways. Tell God that you want to live for Him, and ask Him to reveal specific ways He wants you to grow into happiness.

  • If you're depressed, get a medical checkup to determine whether you need medication as part of your treatment plan. Sometimes depression is caused partly or completely by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Also, go talk with a professional counselor who can help you determine what issues you should deal with in order to find peace and contentment in your mental life.

  • Spend some time every day reading the Bible, meditating on it, and applying it to your life.

  • Forgive others rather than holding grudges.

  • Schedule regular times to be with your family members and friends, building more intimate relationships with them.

  • Establish and maintain a meaningful daily routine that includes a good balance of different activities (work, recreation, etc.).

  • Strive to serve others. Help someone out each week through an act of kindness.

  • Stop condemning yourself. Instead, remind yourself regularly of all your accomplishments.

  • Take time to think about all your blessings, and regularly thank God for them.

  • Understand that your actions will determine your feelings, not vice versa. For example, if you choose to act in love toward your spouse, you will discover that the love you feel for him or her will grow.

  • When trying to change a certain habit, develop a specific plan of action for how you hope to incorporate that change into your daily life.

  • Develop some new interests and activities to pursue.

  • Stop trying to be perfect. Accept your imperfections and rely on God's grace for your strength. Lower your expectations of yourself to realistic levels and seek to grow closer to God.

  • Recognize and deal with your anger and anxiety.

  • Pursue healing from addictions that hold you in bondage.

  • Know that God loves you unconditionally, and accept the love He offers you as His valuable child. Then let that love motivate you to grow in holiness as your response to God's gift.

Adapted from Happiness is a Choice: Symptoms, Causes, and Cures of Depression, copyright 1994 by Frank B. Minirth and Paul D. Meier. Published by Spire, a division of Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, Mich., www.bakerbooks.com, 1-800-877-2665.

Frank Minirth, M.D., and Paul Meier, M.D., have established the nationwide system of Minirth-Meier Clinics for people suffering from depression and other disorders.

Do you sometimes struggle to give up negative attitudes and behaviors? What might you be getting out of hanging on to them? How do you strive to think and act in positive ways in your life? How does doing so help you be happy even when you encounter negative circumstances? Visit Crosswalk's forums to discuss this topic by clicking on the link below.