Now that seems like an odd question to ask, doesn’t it? We all want to be happy and we all have an idea in our minds of what we would like. We assume what we would like will make us happy. Sometimes it will.
But too often we pray with an attachment to the idea of what we want. It could be a spouse or children, a better job, more money, a bigger house, or even better health. It’s hard to imagine being happy without that thing we so deeply desire. So, we persevere in prayer begging God and as time goes by we may become frustrated or even bitter. As we pursue what we want, we may find ourselves miserable in the process. Convinced as we are that what we are praying for is absolutely essential for our happiness, we don’t realize that we’ve made some decisions that are sabotaging us actually being happy.
In the great spiritual classic Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence the author counsels us to pray like this: Lord either give me this thing I so ardently desire so I will be happy, or make me so happy without it that I will no longer desire it, for it doesn’t matter how I’m happy.
Sit with that for a moment. That thing you are begging God for, are you willing to let it go if indeed you could be happier without it? Maybe you’re praying for your children’s conversion, or for the restoration of health for your child. Or perhaps you’re in dire financial straits and you can’t imagine how you will make ends meet without more money. All legitimate things for which to pray. There’s nothing selfish about your motivations. In fact, scripture tells us to make our desires known to God and pray for what we need and want. There are certain things we know God wants, like the conversion of our loved ones. But sometimes God makes us wait a long time and we need to find a way to be happy as we continue to pray and wait.
In the final analysis, our happiness is really God’s top priority. He created us for heaven where we will be supremely and eternally happy. He orchestrates everything to maximize our chances of getting there. When He holds back from giving us what we want, when we want it, it’s always for a higher purpose and our greater good.
More than anything in the world, God wants a relationship with us. And any healthy relationship is built on trust. We need to trust that He knows best and that His timing is best. We do need to pray fervently and perseveringly but always with a healthy detachment.
Without realizing it, when we set our happiness on whatever it is we’re praying for, we’re making a decision to be unhappy until we receive it. Make a decision to be happy each day, in every circumstance. Continue to pray but give God room to work. Praying for peace and happiness no matter what His answer is ensures your ultimate goal of happiness. After all, it doesn’t matter how you’re happy, once you’re happy. It’s something to think about….
Allison is also the Founder and President of www.CatholicTherapists.com, a nationwide network of dedicated Catholic therapists.
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