Don’t be Catholic to be “Happy”

I was doing everything I was supposed to be. After prayer and discernment, I felt God telling me to go back to college, so I went. I was going to Mass every Sunday, Confession regularly, attending all my classes, and praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Everything seemed to line up but I wasn’t happy. As my semester progressed, my frustration built. I felt so let down by God as He called me to a place where I felt so unhappy and alone. Not only was I angry at God, but also myself. What if it was my fault?

I dragged myself to adoration, the last place I wanted to be. It was like confronting a significant other after a one-sided fight followed by bitter distance, and I knew I was at fault. I felt hurt by God and I was ashamed to tell Him this as if it was an emotion I wasn’t allowed to have towards Him. As I poured my heart out to Him for the first time in months, I felt both comforted and convicted. The words echoed, “Your emotion does not determine my glory.” I knew in that moment that God had not, in fact, let me down. But because of my unhappiness, I fed into the lie that it was God’s fault.

It’s Not a Walk in the Park

Matthew 16:24 says, “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’” In this verse, there is this sense of heaviness. Jesus indicated that in order to follow what is true and redemptive, it won’t be easy. There is a weight in having to deny ourselves, our desires, and our own plans. We submit everything we have to the Lord, communicating our absolute gift of self. However, these desires and selfish plans that we put down before Him are what hold the true weight and burden in our lives, and we receive freedom in letting them go. Then, as an exchange for what we lay before Him, Jesus calls us to take up our cross.

A cross is not light or easy to carry. It is bulky, heavy, and cumbersome. Literally speaking, a cross usually weighs between 100-300 lbs. Therefore, when Jesus says in order to follow Him we must take up our crosses, this is not a simple and cheerful chore anyone is willing to do. This is a journey that will take time, energy, and most importantly, suffering. This sounds scary because, in all honesty, it is. The crucifixion was gruesome, bloody, and agonizing. As we are called to live like Christ, we adopt the stations of the cross to our entire life.

So if there is a heaviness in the things we hold onto and heaviness in the cross, what is the point in this exchange? The difference is that there is a meaningful and authentic purpose in the cross. Being Catholic requires much more sacrifice than we often realize. In fact, when looking at the lives of the saints it is shocking to see some of the things God calls them to, yet they are fulfilled by Him. If the saints were focused purely on pursuing happiness through the Lord, they would not be saints. Instead, they pursued the Lord with their entire being, thus bringing purpose to their sufferings and their joys.

Does God Want Me to be Happy?

In order to understand God’s pure desires for humanity, we have to go back to the beginning before sin entered the world. When God created Adam and Eve, he didn’t put them in the most mediocre or average place in the world, He gave them the Garden of Eden. He gave them companionship with each other, animals of vast variety, and most importantly, an intimate relationship with Himself. God not only wanted a personal relationship with them, but He wanted them to experience true beauty and life at the fullest. When Adam and Eve looked to fulfill themselves from the tree of knowledge, they sought temporary happiness over divine purpose.

When we look to the Lord to satisfy our desire for happiness, we can become addicted to the gifts God gives, spiritual highs, the Catholic title, etc. We fall into this false mentality that God’s plan for us is what will bring us the most happiness. But the truth is that we are not meant to desire God’s plan because it makes us happy. Rather, we are made to follow God’s plan because it brings about fulfillment.

As we sink deeper into God’s plan and His call to virtue and holiness, we find a deep, unwavering fulfillment, not dependent on a passing emotion like happiness or unhappiness. God did not need us, but because He deeply wanted us, He made us for Him. When we live for His will only, fleeting happiness ceases to be the priority, but rather a gift. His plan for our life brings us closer to His heart. In the abandonment to His will and devotion to His love, we find our purpose, simply because that is what we were made for. Happiness cannot be something we chase, but rather a recognized gift from the Father. God wants His beloved to be happy, but more importantly, sanctified so that we can be with Him for eternity.