Before I begin, I would like to give all of you a little bit of background information. For the past three years, I have noticed that when summer ends and autumn rolls around, I tend to get a bit depressed. Perhaps the word “depressed” is a bit extreme, but I cannot think of any other word to describe this…feeling…I get during this time of year. It’s a very strange feeling like something is missing, unfulfilled, and it’s quite unpleasant and overwhelming. And, while trying to avoid feeling this way, I try to bury myself in my work and forget the world. I haven’t really found a definite reason why this happens to me, but at the end of this article, I will propose a theory.
Three years ago, I moved from Edison, New Jersey, to Warren. I was in fifth grade, and moved shortly before school started. Since everyone else in my classes had known each other for years, it was very awkward being new. Perhaps the changes were too overwhelming? Perhaps that’s why I felt something was missing? Anyway, the main reason why I was so upset was that since I was new, everyone tried far too hard to “help” me. As someone who has always been ahead of others my age, I resented their “help”, being arrogant. In any case, I was an atheist back then, and of course the Holy Spirit was not yet in me.
Two years ago, I started middle school. I don’t really remember the details of that time, but perhaps the spiritual struggle had already begun at the time. Either way, the feeling of emptiness reached its peak at the end of summer or the beginning of fall, and then I managed to push away this “feeling” once I got used to all these new changes. At this point, I was starting to believe in God but still was an agnostic.
During this time last year, I had recently read a book about New Age theories and was doubting my new belief in the Christian God – at this point I had decided that God was real and that Christianity was real, but I was uninformed and didn’t know much about the faith. I wanted to go to church but my parents didn’t believe in God. So what was I supposed to do? As I started to notice my sinfulness, I became worried that if I didn’t make my faith “official” I was going to Hell.
No, the so-called depression was certainly not due to drastic and overwhelming lifestyle changes. It was due to the fact that I was trying to be happy but didn’t know what – orwho, rather – could and would make me really happy. And that, obviously, is God.
Our society tells us to do what we feel is right for ourselves, and to do whatever makes us happy. The Catholic faith is counter-cultural, and secular society thinks we lead restricted, boring lives and aren’t getting any pleasure from life. However, the opposite it true. Society’s definition of “happiness” is the superficial definition. True joy is more than temporary pleasure. When a lot of people nowadays think about what makes them feel good, they think of things like money, getting new clothes, living in a big house, buying a new fancy car, etc. But these are worldly pleasures that won’t last – and time and time again, as we try to make ourselves happy with worldly things, the excitement soon fades.
What we, as Christians, think of as “happiness” may seem strange to secular society. We believe that happiness comes from God (and seriously, never try to live your life without God or you’ll end up in my past situations!). The real peace and joy that comes from God alone will survive any troubles that life sends us while we are on earth, and we will experience its fullness in Heaven.
Many people think that God created commandments to place restrictions on us. However, this could not be farther from the truth and the opposite is actually correct. Jesus became man and died on the Cross to free us from our sins. Likewise, God does not wish to place too many restrictions on us, but to set us free not only from sin, but from society’s judgement. When we focus on God and His love, we see ourselves the way He sees us, not the way society views (and judges) us. Are we really so insecure as to rely on society to tell us what to do? Remember that society’s judgement, especially with morality, is not necessarily correct (although there are “universal principles” that we call common sense; for example, murdering people and robbing banks are just wrong). Once we stop worrying about what other human beings think of us, but what God, our creator, thinks of us as one of His children, we can truly be set free and really be the person we are. We should be the person God intended for us to be, not the person society has formed from its own incorrect judgements.
So that had been my problem all these years; I was seeking happiness on my own, without God. But when we really stop and reflect, we will realize how empty our own pleasures are; they only seem to be meaningful while we are still on this earth. But we were not created to live in this world for all of eternity, and I’ve realized this at last as something I didn’t know for the past three years. As Saint Thérèse of Lisieux said: “The world’s thy ship and not thy home.”