The Pursuit of Happiness

Many of us are so worried about living our best lives, but many do not know what is best for them. We often think that as long as we are happy and satisfied for the moment, feeling secured and filled with satisfaction, that would be good enough. We vainly chase after momentary pleasures and addicted to hedonistic happiness, that as soon as we attain something we have worked hard for or liked for a long time, we yearn for something else. This lifestyle has made many people end up pursuing “more” without knowing what they truly have or need.

Sadly, but true, many of us have learned to cope with what hurts us or are problematic in life that we do not even know what we have lost or needed to seek the true purpose in living, especially the essential and everlasting Christocentric joy. We have become so used to the slavery of this world and its hedonism that we are scared of letting go of ourselves and seek what God wants for us. Instead of humbly accepting the true liberation from lesser goods of this world and enslavement to sins, we have become more addicted to temporary satisfaction and pleasures, especially their manifestations through the thirst for power, prestige, and success, and the likes. Like an unhealthy relationship that is based on codependency, we groan, grumble, unsatisfied, bitter, resentful, and tired of this lifestyle, but we have so bought into the false, flashy, and apparent worldly promises that we are scared to let go. Our fears and reservations make us dependent on its power. As a matter of fact, many of us are so scared of the possibilities of another life without what we are so used to! We hate our very own self, of what we have become, that we cannot love ourselves as we are; and because of that self-hatred, we are trying to add “more” layers to hide and tell ourselves to be someone else that is more appealing. We like to lie to ourselves, thinking of ourselves as lovable, appealing, necessary, or attractive than who we truly are.

Many have spent a lot of time trying to be someone else that they never know what it truly means to love themselves in God, the One who created each and every one us out of love. Instead of following the great I AM of God, we have become so occupied about building up our own glories so we can prove to ourselves and tell others that, “Look at what I’ve done! I’ve made it!” We are so worried about our own “I am” that we have created our own hindrances to become what He really wants from us. This vicious cycle enslaved us by greed and its cousins, envy and jealousy. This set of three vices will lead us to look down on others, question their intentions, and dislike them because of what they have or do not have according to our self-made standards. We become worried about how people do not match or live up to our judgments, what we think we deserve and do not have, or what we expect or demand from others and God Himself.

This shallow chase after the happiness lifestyle is dangerous and detrimental in so many ways! It will eventually end up causing us to have too many worldly buildups, personal fears, self-made reservations, control issues, and spiritual calluses around our heart. When we have layered ourselves with so many worldly things, the love of God can no longer penetrate it nor can His grace shine upon our soul because we have put up too many barriers that impede and block His presence. I have seen it happened to many people in my own priestly ministry! They think that the Almighty failed them because He never gave them what they wanted — as they want them — so they rather abandon the “failing God” for something else more appealing, especially something that is attractive or that they have control. Rather than depending on Him, too many people rather spend time hustling and building up for the best (shallow) lives that they want to have! Yet, they ironically are never satisfied nor happy no matter what they do or possess because vanities quickly come and go.

Many reports have been done on the country of Finland and its people. This tiny country near the Baltic Sea consistently ranks as number one or one of the top countries according to the United Nation’s Happiness Report. Ironically though, the Finnish people are not really happy as we think they should be. They are not always happy, jolly, bright, or positive when we think about how happy people should be. They like to be by themselves, serious most of the times, and they all have typical struggles like us. As a matter of fact, they are more reserved than the people in communal cultures like South America and other places. Hence, many reports surprisingly come to the conclusion that the people in Finland are satisfied and content, not necessarily happy! Even though there are different factors that contribute to the cause, their common satisfaction and contentment are the main reasons why the country and its people rank high overall on the annual world’s happiness report.

The One who loves us into being — who knows and formed us out of love — desires our conversion. He constantly gives signs to ask us to return back to Him. However, this requires the continual lesson of contentment and its cousins of simplicity, trust, and childlike faith. We have to trust, as children who look and love their Heavenly Father, knowing that even though we might not understand or know everything, He wills and desires our ultimate and eternal good. The Almighty will make many opportunities and gives us the chances to return and be enriched by His love, but we also have to be attentive and aware of His signs, especially making sure that our hearts are tender enough to feel, recognize, understand, be moved, and in tune with His love.

It is, therefore, very important to remember that conversion is not just a one-time thing, but a continual and integral part of our faith journey. The Church in her wisdom reminds us of this reality through her teachings, especially in asking us to make time to look back, reprioritize, and return to the Lord if we have strayed too far away. It is also important that we do not unrealistically expect too much or put up too many things that impede or affect our relationship with God. It is important that we make time and willingly make the appropriate effort to do it while we still have time — before time itself runs out on us.