Beware the phrase “And then I’ll be happy.” As a young adult, I’m offered nearly every source of happiness this world has to offer. If I want to make a good living, I can seek a substantial career. If I want to project an impressive image, I can adjust my appearance. If I’m feeling bored, or lonely, or worthless, I can rely on a party, or pornography, or pills to satisfy my ache.
As long as I do these things, then I’ll be happy.
So says the world.
Not everything the world offers us is bad; a secure job and a healthy lifestyle are certainly things we should encourage ourselves and others to pursue. But the world’s favorite thing to offer us is, as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI reminds us, luxury—which is not always a good thing. “The world offers you comfort,” he urges, “but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” There is Something greater than any fashion accessory or alcoholic drink, and It is the humblest yet richest, most simple yet most complex Thing on Earth: the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. In Him we discover authentic joy. He created us, saved us, and is forevermore making Himself present to us. This bond with Christ is so intimate that nothing else can satisfy our desire for joy as deeply as He does.
Of the eight attributes of God from St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, there is one in particular that contains the key to our happiness. God’s immutability—that is, His unchanging nature—guarantees that we will always be able to rely on God as a source of joy. Matt Fradd summarizes our educated friend’s logic simply:
“If a thing changes it changes for better or for worse. If God was mutable, therefore, his changing would make him better or worse. If it made him better, then he wasn’t perfect to begin with. If it made him worse, then he isn’t perfect now.”
We know that God is good and perfect. (St. Thomas would agree to this, too.) Combining our faith in God’s goodness and perfection with our faith in His immutability should impart the knowledge that His wellspring of joy, or anything else good and perfect for that matter, will never run dry. I mention this immortal theory not to complicate our understanding of joy, but to simply emphasize that God is joy, everlasting joy. Whatever else the world might offer us—money, popularity, success, comfort—is so trivial and fleeting compared to eternal happiness with God. These things might provide us with a brief imitation of joy, but why would we waste our precious time in this life settling for that?
The pursuit of happiness is also often correlated to the pursuit of self-worth. As humans, it seems like joy is unattainable unless we’ve “found our purpose” or have “made something of ourselves.” Jesus is the answer to any question we pose about our dignity. The more we pray, especially in His Presence, the more Christ reveals Himself to us. And the more He reveals Himself to us, the more He reveals ourselves to us. The Creator of the universe wants us to be happy so much that He humbles Himself enough to dwell in our midst as a small, simple, vulnerable piece of bread. How’s that for self-worth?
Make no mistake, we were made for the greatness that Pope Benedict speaks of. God promises us a joyful life, but just as with His love and His peace, we are responsible for recognizing true joy, adopting it, and discarding the counterfeits offered by the world. And then, I can promise, we will be happy.
About Lindsay Gray
Little sister, faithful daughter, fortunate granddaughter. College nerd. Future author. Disney enthusiast. Pope Francis fanatic. Above all these: child of the King.