God's Desire For Us

By Mary Jo Loebig, O.C.D. 

The first time I met him was the day he experienced a rather big disappointment. Even that day, in the face of disappointment, his face radiated peace and serenity. Somehow, Max always seemed to be happy with a joy that emanated from deep down. This was a source of wonderment to me. I learned that he even gave classes on how to be happy. Just seeing him made me want to know how he managed to be this way. To be honest, I guess I wanted to know his secret.

I did wonder, though, what a class on happiness might look like. What would be the course of study, and what would be the questions on a test? Quite frankly, to me, classes on happiness seemed much like setting up a Peace Academy or giving a certificate on How to Forgive, both of which have been done.

The word happy comes from “hap,” or happening. So, somehow happiness is connected with what happens to us. Still, there is a strong sense that happiness has its origins from within. This was evident with Max. He seemed to know something that others did not know. John of the Cross writes that we experience God from without because we have first experienced God within. We are made that way.


Can We Prepare?

But, what comes before happiness? Can we prepare for it? Albert Camus talks about the conditions for happiness. He speaks of life in the open air, the love of another human being and freedom from all ambition.1 To these conditions, we might add: Don’t force anything, (the corn turns gold all by itself), let go of defenses, and let green fields be where they are. Regarding the latter, if I were actually in those green fields far off and were looking back at where I presently am, the field in which I stand very likely would appear to be very attractive. Another way to prepare for happiness is to trace the patterns of happiness in one’s life. Usually, there is a common thread in our happiness events.


We Get It All Back

In the story of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Richard Bach tells us that if we really love something, we should let it go. If it is really ours, it will return.2 Sometimes it returns changed. Maybe it seems like this because we ourselves have changed. St. John of the Cross talks about all the things we may be asked to give up in going up the mountain of Carmel. At times, I may even be asked to give up what seems to be the pearl of great price. St. Francis of Assisi gave away his New Testament in an effort to be faithful to the Gospel. It is difficult to be encumbered and happy at the same time. Many times, the desired happiness is just on the other side of the narrow way. John of the Cross also alludes to the fact that something happens at the top of the mountain, a real encounter with God, perhaps, or even with life itself. At any rate, coming down the mountain, we get it all back.

Mine are the heavens, he writes. Everything is mine because Christ is mine and all for me.3 This is much like the wanderings described by T.S. Eliot where one arrives back where one began and sees the situation for the first time. To see things as they really are opens the door to happiness. This seeing includes the belief that good is eventually victorious.


Are there impediments to happiness? It seems like there are. Quietly, we tell ourselves that we would sell all for happiness. Still, we place obstacles in its way. As an example, most of us start with not wanting to accept what is. We want another reality. We want things to be different. Yet, paradoxically, where we find ourselves is the place where happiness will emerge, and probably even mysticism. In addition, we want other people to be different from the way we find them to be. To rejoice in their uniqueness and to see them as a manifestation of God seems unreal. We even resist praying for such a grace. In actuality, we come upon happiness while working through our resistances.

Staying in a situation of impasse prevents happiness from emerging within us. Incidentally, impasse is just a fancy word for feeling that we are stuck. Usually, this is not something we bring on ourselves. But, we are not to remain there. In situations like this, we feel that we have tried everything, and that nothing will be able to resolve the issue at hand. The current writer has coined an expression that is effective, if one has the courage, strength and creativity to do what it says. (Very likely, some saint said this differently a long time ago.) “When you don’t know what to do, do something different.” This approach brings about a shift of energy within us, which in turn changes the energy in our environment.


Happiness And Peace

According to Edward Schillebeeckx, O.P., salvation, happiness, and inner peace are all very much related.4 In fact, it seems like happiness stems from peace. Furthermore, God’s continuing desire is that all people here on earth will be happy. Even trees, birds and bushes are meant to be happy in their own way. The familiar Peace Pilgrim, who did not want her name known, promoted a like message that continues to live on. Walking miles across the land, with little provisions, she told all those she met to bring their lives into harmony with life’s over-all plan and to do all the good things they believed in. Sometimes, peace catches us. At other times, we actually manage to catch a little peace ourselves. Children call this “catching a woody.” Eight-year old Megan caught a woody. Her mother put it on paper. “Do you know what love is?” she asked. “To me, it’s when I am swimming in cold water and suddenly hit a warm spot.”5 As I see it, catching happiness is very much like catching a woody. For this to happen, one needs only to remain open and free, and to believe that happiness is what God really wants for us, no matter what things may look like on the surface.


1Quoted in John Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, Little, Boston: Brown and Company,1980, p.882:12.

2Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, New York: The Macmillan Company.

3The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, Trans., Kieran Kavavaugh, O.C.D., Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D.,Washington, D.C.: Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1979, p. 669.

4Edward Schillebeeckx, Church, The Human Story of God, New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1991, p.122

5Angeles Arrien, Signs of Life, Sonoma, California: Arcus Publishing Company, 1992, p.69.