We often hear that long-term happiness does not come from having power, money, positions, and possessions. Joy or Cheerfulness is the immediate consequence of a certain fullness of life.
For the individual, this fullness often consists of the knowledge (that everything works for the good for those who love God, Rom 8: 28). Here are some ways to remain in this knowledge.
1. Remember Often That You Are a Child of God
If our human parents know how to give us good things, how much more will our perfect heavenly father give us? Mt 7:11). Moreover, when our human parents who love us withhold things from us, it is often for our good. (For example, you can’t eat all the candy from Halloween in one day. No, you can’t go to a party until midnight when you are only sixteen).
The same is true of our heavenly father who knows everything. He holds back on certain things for our own good. One day, in heaven, it will become clear to us, and we will be very grateful to him for this care and love.
Therefore, focus more on all the things he has given and is giving you. Your life, hope, relative wealth, relative peace etc. Count your blessings!
Above all, be grateful at the thought of your divine filiation. Because you are a child of God, nothing should trouble you; not even death itself. The more we grow in the knowledge of this divine filiation, the greater our joy will be.
2. Accept that Suffering is Compatible with Cheerfulness
Christ who was crucified for teaching the good news of the gospel accepted suffering to save us.
In fact, suffering is often a test of true love. How far will you go to serve the person you claim to love? If you are scared of a particular suffering, it is ok to ask God to take it away. Mt 26:39. However, if prayer does not remove the suffering, then pray to accept it.
Christ teaches us that, united to him, we too can give a salvific value to our suffering. The knowledge of this fact can be easily turned into joy because we know that our suffering is not meaningless. God uses everything – good and bad – for our own good and the good of the whole world. We only have to accept this reality by faith because it is a mystery. We are not able to see how everything connects/comes to fruition until the end of time.
3. Avoid these Triggers of Sadness
- Self-Centredness: Avoid focusing too often on your needs: what I want, what I don’t have etc. Also avoid comparison with others. Such actions can drive one into sadness. Focus instead on good distractions. Learn a new skill like such as a new language or better still, focus on serving others.
- Sin: Sin without contrition and forgiveness from God can make us sad and angry. The longer we harbour the guilt or fail to acknowledge the wrong we did, the angrier we may become. Sin is a joy stealer. It often begins with attraction and pleasure, but these soon fade away quickly and leave one feeling terrible. Therefore, it is important to go regularly to confession. Reconciliation with God is the beginning and sustainer of joy.
- Lukewarmness: This often consists of living without a clear purpose in life. Avoid lukewarmness by having a vision for your life. Make a general plan about where you wish to be in ten years and take small steps today toward that plan. However, avoid obsessing about your plans and be detached from it (in other words, be flexible and let God lead so that you are open to any changes he wants). Above all, ensure that any plan you make is consistent with God’s plan for you. This can be accomplished by living out his commandments.
- Not Accepting the Cross: The cross often comes to us in the form of difficulties, setbacks, disappointments, failures, sickness etc. Pray for help in these circumstances. It is ok to ask God to resolve the issue, bring healing and so on. However, where such prayers seem unanswered, it is important to pray for the grace of acceptance otherwise acceptance might be impossible to bear. God’s grace of acceptance is powerful. It is the reason why a sick person may smile in silent acceptance. It is also the reason why a poor person may have far more joy than a relatively wealthy one. Pray for God’s grace to remain cheerful no matter what. Afterall, his love for us is unconditional – it remains the same no matter what the circumstances are.
4. Pursue these Remedies Against Sadness.
- Give Yourself Something Good You Like
This could be chocolate, good music, a hot bath, a nice meal, good wine etc. Thomas Aquinas was a champion of this remedy. These good things (used in temperance) could help your body and mind get a boost of joy which you can retain with the following steps.
Let’s be people who smile. A habitual smile spreads and creates a positive atmosphere. If our outlook on life is gloomy and pessimistic, we will be unattractive to others. A pessimistic outlook separates us from people and from God. It also creates new tensions and inevitably leads to a lack of charity.
- Share With Someone You Trust
Open your heart. Give vent to what is oppressing you. Go to your Spiritual Director or ask a Priest after Confession for guidance as needed. You may also ask for recommendations to see a Christian/Catholic therapist as needed.
- A Hot Bath and Enough Sleep
St. Thomas advised, and rightfully so, that a good rest and caring for one’s body can improve one’s state of mind. Normally adults are often advised to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. A hot bath can also be relieving of tensions and stress.
Is someone sad? Let him pray. Is someone cheerful? Let him sing! (Jas 5: 13) These would help one accept a particular disappointment which can be the reason for sadness. Hand over the worry to God in prayer. Let God deal with it because there is nothing he cannot and would not resolve for his children – at his own time. However, trust in him that he has your good in mind and will do what is best for you in every respect
Going with a contrite heart to Confession is one of the most effective ways of recovering our joy, especially if we have lost it through sin or through culpable carelessness in our relationship with God.
“Don’t forget that joy and cheerfulness are a consequence of inner peace, which in turn comes from the struggle waged against oneself; and that, in this personal battle, true peace is inseparable from sincere sorrow for our faults and sins which God forgives in the holy Sacrament of Penance” (Blessed Alvaro, PL, 16 January 1984)
- Forget yourself
This remedy lies in making sure we are not excessively concerned about our own affairs. Think about how to make life better for your neighbor. Small things such as stopping to talk to your neighbour or greeting an elderly person that passes you can accumulate to take your thoughts away from yourself and what you don’t have. Practice this daily and it will become habitual and part of your character.
- Encourage Others
This is related to forgetting yourself. Practice listening more than talking. Practice praying for others in your mind as you listen. These practices will help you become a refreshing oasis for others. In this process, you will find it easier to forget about your own worries because God will accompany you to help all others, and in the process, he will remedy your suffering or supply you the grace to accept it with the joy of a child of God.
Our Lady, Cause of our Joy, pray for us.