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Are You Happy?

“Are you happy?” my husband asked.

I thought about it, hesitating to answer. I guess the fact that I couldn’t say right away suggested that the answer was no.

Later, while lying in bed that night, I asked him, “When do you think I lost my happiness?”

He answered, “When your dad died.”

My father passed away a year ago in January. In all honesty, we started losing him a year before that. Watching him quickly age and lose his will to live made 2022 the toughest year of my life. Then, one evening in the new year 2023, I helped my mom put my dad to bed after dinner, kissed him good-night, and shut the bedroom door. Before I said goodbye to my mom at the front door, we could hear him snoring. Dad didn’t wake up the next morning.

Taking care of my grieving mother who has been diagnosed with dementia on top of her other ailments hasn’t made this past year any easier. The heartache, frustrations, and sorrow are oh so real.

How can I find happiness amid my sadness? I can’t.

Happiness and sadness are feelings, and they are opposites. It is nearly impossible to have opposite feelings at the same time. Since feelings come and go, one can feel happy one moment and sad the next.

How do I get off the emotional roller coaster? In this season of sadness, what can I do to prevent myself from becoming a sour-faced Christian?

I need to cultivate joy. Joy is not an emotion but a fruit of the Holy Spirit; therefore, it can be experienced even in the midst of great difficulties and sadness. As a fruit of the Holy Spirit, joy blossoms with the virtue of gratitude. Thus, it is important to recognize the blessings God sends daily.

Some blessings are big – having a loving, faithful husband and nine wonderful, God-loving children. Some blessings are small but greatly appreciated – a hot shower, a warm bed, and a good cup of coffee. There are blessings that are taken for granted – like having five senses and all that they enable me to see, hear, taste, smell and feel. I don’t overlook the blessing of being born in America where I can freely practice my Catholic faith. “From His fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace” (John 1:16). Truly, His gifts are constant.

The prophet Nehemiah says, “Rejoicing in the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10b). So, when I am feeling sad, I should take a moment and rejoice in all the many blessings God has given me. Then, I will be strengthened to face my trials and the difficulties they pose.

I realize now that it is ok to feel sad. The capability to feel emotions is another gift from God. It is part of what makes us human. God does not, however, want us to get stuck in our emotions. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can experience joy in all circumstances. We can feel sad and still rejoice.

After all, Good Friday always leads to Easter Sunday. Suffering brings about glory. And sadness turns into joy.

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