July 24, 2014

Chasing Happiness

"Two evils have my people done: they have forsaken me, the source of living waters;
They have dug themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that hold no water." 
Read today's liturgical readings here.

When I was a small girl, I would play with water in the bathroom by trying to transfer the water from the pail to the water dipper by cupping the water into my hands. Not even halfway and all the water has spilled; even so, I'd still keep doing it. Silly, no? I wanted to tell my young self, "That's a futile exercise! Use something else other than your hands."

I find myself smiling at this memory and feeling sheepish just thinking how I did the same as an adult except that it's no longer water but happiness and material things. I believe that happiness is a fundamental thing that man is drawn to; our nature dislikes discomfort and we are drawn to what is pleasurable and comfortable. But what is happiness? Is it the same for everyone? For many, if not all, happiness is finding fulfillment in our lives.

For us Catholics, we find our happiness when we fulfill our mission in this earthly journey, that is to know, love and serve God. Sounds like a simple formula for happiness, right? KNOWING. LOVING. SERVING. But personally, I've found that to do all three is not as easy as it sounds. There's a considerable amount of struggle and I'd be one to say that there are really times that it can feel arduous. And very often, there's a large amount of temptation to turn to the easy, comfortable way out in search of happiness. It's different for many people - it can be drugs, alcohol, food, shopping, money, work (yes!) etc. Frequently, it's really material things and we think it will give us lasting happiness.

But my personal experience has shown me otherwise. I've had struggles with shopping and spending. It certainly wasn't because I had a lot of money (I wish!) but I felt a certain high when I'd get myself different pairs of shoes, lipsticks of various colors, and clothes that I'd eventually get to wear only a few times. The catch is that the high lasts for a very short time. Until the next purchase, they'd say.

 At a certain point, it all felt pointless. Indeed, it was. It hit me hard, though, that all I was doing was buying and nothing else really. I was in search of happiness - one that doesn't fade; I'd feel a tinge of it after a shopping spree but it didn't last long.

It was a wake-up call for me on different levels. In a way, it led me to a deeper hunger to develop my relationship with God. The journey has certainly not been smooth and paved. There's really a certain struggle felt and it really feels like a constant battle. The experience has taught me to look to God and to trust in His grace. So far, what have I learned? There's a different joy in placing oneself in God's hands, in getting to know Him and struggling to live a life pleasing to Him (this last one can be really tough at times). I won't say it's a high; rather, it's a steady stream of joy. It doesn't mean my life is smooth sailing and that I don't have problems but that these challenges are met with strength and courage knowing that you are leaning on the big man up there.

In the end, material things are not evil in themselves. I still enjoy a good round of shopping but I now moderate myself - asking myself why I want to buy something, not buying it immediately, etc. But the happiness that my heart looks to cannot be found in any store. That happiness is held by God and my heart has to constantly meet Him until I get to that day when I will have to meet Him face to face.

I still find myself transferring water through cupped hands at times. Hey, life's a constant struggle to live a good one. But maybe I'm a year older by now and I try to remind myself more often,

'Happiness that's not of Him will slip through your hands very easily; keep the faith and keep your heart's gaze towards Him.'

I pray you find your happiness for in our joy, we get to bless others as well. Be blessed always. 


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