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Achieve Happiness and Joy

Suffering can be an objective thing; for example, the sickness, poverty or failures which God positively wants you to suffer. It can also be mostly subjective, the effects which the first type produces in you and which you do not control. These effects are sadness, worry and fear which God only permits. Here what He positively wants is your reaction to them, your control of them.

Be happy then “negatively” by overcoming objective suffering. Convert it into joy. How? By shifting your gaze from the unpleasant aspect, from the ugly face of suffering, and concentrating on the bright side. Mentally you have this power, acquired by the re-education of concentration.

Suffering actually has two sides to it, a pleasant and unpleasant side. The unpleasant side contradicts your tendencies, sensuality, natural inclinations, pride, self-will. Do not fix your attention on this unpleasant side. Suffering has a pleasant side also. In the natural order suffering can be pleasant because it brings an increase of experience, strength, counsel, and patience. But this natural side alone is but small consolation. Hence the difficulty in comforting atheists, but how easy to comfort Christians! Considered in the supernatural order suffering is exceedingly attractive. It is the role which, while on earth, God chose for Himself. It is the livery of Jesus Christ. It is a check which God offers us. If we accept it God signs it and our happiness in Heaven will be proportionate to its value. It is the secret treasure of the Cross, made known to and through the saints. And it is the fruit of devotion to the Heart of Jesus. Supernaturally then we are able to increase this inclination to suffering and find our joy in it. It is integral to Christianity, the apex of virtue, the grandeur of the saints whose joy no human event could disturb.

St. Paul said, “I am filled with joy because of my tribulations.” St. Peter recommended, “Be filled with joy in your sufferings.” The Apostles “left the tribunal joyfully because they had been judged worthy to suffer insults and sorrow for Jesus Christ.”

On the missions, the missionary's greatest consolation after a day of suffering is to repeat before the Tabernacle, “For you, O Lord!”

It is within your power, then, to change objective suffering into joy instead of sorrow.

Subjective Sorrow

In the face of present or imminent disgrace any normal person first feels a sense of dejection and worry. But by considering its attractive aspect he soon controls these feelings and they do not last very long. However, in sick or nervous people such feelings keep coming back and become obsessions. They produce persistent sadness, phobias, or scruples which destroy all peace and joy. These are crosses which God permits, but which He wants you to control. You must then fight and get control of them.

Control of Subjective Sorrow

1. Express your feelings externally in consultation. Make them known as soon as possible to your director or confessor. Tell him of moral acts which burden your conscience, harrowing doubts or indecisions, fears which get control of you. This manifestation with its psychological and supernatural solution will resolve your internal conflict and sorrow.

2. Live in the present. The present is a fount of joy. There are delights which crave to be yours. They are external creation (aesthetic pleasure) and moral beauty. So give them entrance by attending to the present. You should not think about the sorry past which has already slipped from your hands. Leave it to the mercy of God. And think not on the agony of an uncertain future. Leave this to His Providence. The present is a pleasant path which runs between two chasms, the past and the future. Whoever by sadness or scruples falls into the past, or slips by worry into the future, ceases advancing toward his happiness.

3. Live a conscious life. “Age quod agis.” (“Do what you're doing.”) If you work on a conscious level, fear, worry and sadness will find no place to torment you. Thus you will lessen and even suppress the influence of a sad and uncontrolled subconscious. We stand in need of happy people look away from the sinful, bitter and perverse world and turn toward God's world to admire its beauty and perfection.

4. Practice voluntary concentration on other matters. These concentrations may be indifferent in relation to those which the unconscious tries to impose on you. If sadness or worry is besieging you, concentrate on some study or occupation that pleases you. Even better, concentrate on something directly opposed. For instance, against fear or disturbance concentrate on living images of peace, control and energy. In a war you must take the offensive in order to rout the enemy even from his lair in the unconscious.

Cultivate the habit of joy. Your mental make-up is a labyrinthine wood. Your thoughts and acts are men who are tracing a path through it. Where one has passed, the easier it is for the next. So then, if you would win to the heights of joy, you must send joyful thoughts through to open up the trail. Repeat them and reinforce them with acts of satisfaction and optimism until you have enlarged the trail and made it firm through habit. Then almost without noticing it you will find you are always happy.

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5. Practice will acts. Will the contrary feeling; that is, to be animated, tranquil, kind, happy. Talk and work as if you did not feel the opposite feeling (antipathy, worry, fear) or as if you were animated, happy, and so forth.

6. Use suggestion. At night before falling beneath the dominion of the unconscious and in the morning when leaving its control, think with feeling about images of peace, control and joy. Repeat to yourself, “Everything I do can be a step taken nearer to God,” “Every day I am increasing in sanctifying grace,” “Every day I am more happy.”

7. Moderate your desires and aspirations. Keep them within reasonable limits. Seek not for body or soul or anything else a greater security, health or prosperity than God wishes it to have in this world. Thus scruples worry will lessen or disappear.

8. Overcome negative and depressing feelings. Do this by introducing other feelings which are positive, sublime and ennobling, such as love of an ideal, of God, souls, or Heaven. Overcome petty, low and disordered self-love with true love of yourself and your spiritual and eternal good. Before this sublime reality all fears, sadness and phobias fall to earth.

Happiness in this life is not divorced from sacrifice. Our satisfaction increases in the measure that we make those who surround us happy, that we seek the greater glory of God, and in proportion to what we sacrifice to this end.

Positive Happiness

You can have a happiness and joy which is not external and vain but interior, true and well-founded, one which fills your heart with satisfaction. This happiness has four aspects and comes to us through as many channels:

Aesthetic pleasure by which we receive within us the beauty of the external world through conscious sensations, when we contemplate the beauties of nature or of the arts, and especially when we do this in the light and warmth of an ideal.

Intellectual pleasure when by intellectual concentration we possess the truth with certitude, and perfect it or complete it analysis and synthesis.

Volitional satisfaction in power of producing, and in doing, what we value. This type of happiness is the result of exercising a firm and constant will.

Emotional or affective satisfaction at feeling one's own kindness irradiating others, and the kindness of others being diffused in oneself through the elevation and equanimity of our feelings.

Your human capital is twofold: your faculties and the time for making them produce. You can have no true satisfaction if you see your capital diminishing each day yet bringing you no return. Nor can you have any satisfaction if you feel your time passing in useless amusements or occupations. You ought not to feel that each passing moment is lost or less profitable. You should feel that it is a source of your own and your neighbor’s well-being, and a fruitful seed of an immortal and happy life in Heaven.

To bring about this satisfaction and sense of fulfillment the “life” element should also be present in a vigorous functioning of your intellect and will. Then you will find in your mental concept of happiness the characteristics of unity and totality.

The scholar who makes a discovery has great intellectual pleasure. The mother who is always loving and showing her love for her child is very happy even in the midst of work and sufferings. If that pleasure of the scholar were not disturbed by other ideas and distractions and were prolonged by new and more brilliant findings, and if that of the mother had as its object not a mortal child with all its imperfections but one which would never be separated from her and had all possible good qualities, then we would have true, complete mental happiness. Before it, all merely bodily happiness would grow pale, fade and pass away. You could sum it up in these words: fullness and unity of your mind and feelings.

Now let us see how this happiness, though limited in this world, yet unlimited, secure and eternal in the next, is in a II real and true sense near at hand. With re-education of control presupposed, apply your understanding to knowing not some small part of the truth but all the truth, infinite truth, truth in itself, God. Each day you can discover new horizons without ever exhausting this infinite fountain of truth and beauty. This is the joy of spiritual persons at receiving in prayer those supernatural lights which we call divine consolations. These eclipse all worldly happiness and cannot even be imagined by those who have not experienced them.

Dedicate your will and feelings to loving the infinitely lovable good, God. Strive to realize that He is not far off from you, but close by in all created things. In these He is at your service and gives you joy. Try to possess Him in the Eucharist, human in body as you yourself. And enjoy a holy intimacy with Him, present as He is within you through Sanctifying Grace.

A youth leader once said, “At first in prayer I used to look toward Heaven but ever since I realized that God was within me, I look toward myself and feel great joy.” Tears came to his eyes and were joined to those of his listeners. He was happy at loving and feeling God within himself. That is why the great mystics who felt the presence of God in this world speak so many marvels about this little-known happiness.

St. John of the Cross insists that the devil admitted to him that if he had a body and if, in order to see God, he would have to climb a pole studded with thorns and needles, he would not hesitate to do this for ten thousand years in exchange for enjoying the sight of God for a single minute.

Some Thought on Changing Sorrow into Joy

Passing over the threshing floor the southwest wind raises eddies of dust. But sweeping to flower gardens it raises a cloud of perfumes. So does the wind of suffering act differently in different souls.

The Divine Heart of infinite happiness is “bound with thorns” If you feel the touch of thorns in your heart it is a sign that God is reaching out His heart to you, a sign of the embrace of Infinite Happiness. But happiness will enter into you only through your wounds. God left a trail of blood at His passage through the world; no longer can there be doubt which is the path to glory, the road to permanent happiness.

Acceptance of sorrow is a contract for work made with God. You agree to construct some great thing with Him. You are the workman who does not see the plans. God is the architect with sublime and magnificent designs.

Nothing great is accomplished without suffering and humiliation, and everything is possible by using these means. We must be friendly with suffering. It is a selfless and faithful friend who reminds us of true goals. Souls are instructed by word of mouth but are saved by sacrifice.

Some Thoughts on Happiness and Joy

Happiness is a noble, peaceful and recollected lady who dwells in the hidden fortress of the soul. She knows and tastes its treasures. Frequently she shows herself at the windows of the face and wreathes it with a smile. She clothes the face thus with the brilliance of rational being. This is something about which neither animals nor the most beautiful flowers can boast.

When the polished, peaceful mirror of consciousness reflects a ray of the sun, some good possessed or soon to come, its spontaneous reflection is joy, a smile. If the sun of Infinite Good shines directly upon it, it will reflect happiness.

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Life should be a perpetual joy, the joy of living for God, of serving Him in one's neighbor, of saving souls, the austere joy found in suffering. There is the joy of living in a present of infinite value, joy for a past entrusted to the Divine Mercy, joy for a future assured by His Paternal Providence. Have joy in work, and if this is beyond your powers, then have joy in prayer. If even this seems impossible for you, then have joy at least in suffering in Christ and for the sake of Heaven.

The apostle who takes doctrine and example and together with those sows smiles, and then waters these with prayers and sacrifices, will win many souls. Joy is the sun of souls. It enlightens those who possess it and enlivens as many as receive its rays.

The exercise of Christian charity is the best way to make yourself joyful. And this is your most effective contribution to the happiness of others. Smiling eyes scatter more rays of joy than precious diamonds. Through joy you will better perform your duties. And your burdens will be lighter. It will be your consolation in solitude, and your best introduction to society. You will be the more sought after, the more trusted and better appreciated.

The vicious, degenerate or low person may come on the stage of life as a loud and vulgar jester. But he is almost never sincerely happy. Almost never can he wholly forget what weighs upon his conscience. Evil is a cold hand which freezes smiles. But a frank and hearty smile is almost always an indication of a noble and pure heart. The virtue that smiles is the more beautiful, and often the most heroic.

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