"The only happiness here below is to always be content with what Jesus gives us." —St. Therese
This insightful quote of the Little Flower is shown leading off Chapter 23. In this chapter, Olivia is not happy with how her life is going. She is not content.
What does it mean to be truly content? The dictionary from my computer defines the word to mean a state of peaceful happiness. I like how that sounds. I think we all, adults and children alike, would love to be in a state of peaceful happiness.
What does the Little Flower mean when she writes that the only thing that should give us joy here on Earth is to be happy with our God-given blessings? Does she mean that we should never be sad or disappointed? Or that we should never wish for things we can't have?
I certainly don't speak for St. Therese or God. I would never aim to do that! But in my opinion, I think what St. Therese means above is that it's perfectly human to want things we don't have. It is perfectly natural to pine for a different house, a different school, a different way of life, a different teacher, or a different set of friends...even different parents from time to time! Wanting things can be a good thing. It can light a fire under someone who wants to learn something new, or be a better person. It's when wanting things that we don't have interferes with our daily lives that it becomes especially troublesome, like it did for Olivia.
Grownups want things they can't have all of the time, too. Some people I know wish they had better jobs or a nicer car. Some wish they had better relationships with their families and God.
When St. Therese said our only happiness is to be content with what Jesus gives us, I believe she means that we should look at our lives in a positive way, being grateful and thankful to God for all that we have. We may live in a smaller house, but at least it's a home. Many people do not have homes. We may not be good at spelling, but perhaps we excel in social studies or math. We may not have many friends, but at least we have one or two good, nice people who we can hang around with. We may not have the same teacher as our other friends do, but at least we can see them at recess and at lunch.
You see, St. Therese was very wise. She knew that it's all in how you look at things in life. If you wake up and are upset about something and tell yourself it's going to be a bad day, then you quite probably will make yourself have a bad day. Of course, there are serious problems in life that cause very real sadness: death and illness, to name a couple. St. Therese was not perfect, but she tried her best each day (even through death in her family and her own very painful illness) to be content. She tried her best to live in a state of peaceful happiness. That didn't mean that she wasn't deeply sad or in pain; on the contrary. But she tried, in spite of these things, to live out her life while looking at the positive side of things, by being grateful for what she did have.
Sometimes it's so very hard to do. I don't do that all of the time. It's so much easier to lapse into a "woe-is-me" attitude. But God has given us so many wonderful gifts. We couldn't possibly thank Him for them all! But following St. Therese's Little Way, which includes being grateful for the great things in our lives, is a big start.
It takes effort and willpower, but it's much nicer and more pleasant to be in a state of peaceful happiness. It makes God happy, and so I'll do what I can do to get there! Will you join me?
"There are some who take such a gloomy view of things they make them much worse. I always look on the bright side." —St. Therese