I am often sad.
I once met an atheist who said that if I was sad, why did I remain a Christian?
My reply was simple: “I am a Christian, because it is true, not because it solves all my problems.”
Christianity is not, on the whole, very cheerful in the short term. Like hearing your favorite football team is in a “rebuilding” year, it promises future victory, but guarantees short term failure.
If your religion didn’t make you initially uncomfortable, then it will not help you. A religion that comforts before it changes you and me is not the religion we need. If you are satisfied with yourself, then you did not need a new religion in any case.
We seek God, because we want something more. We seek God, because we love something or someone so much that we long to love that thing or person better. God promises to give us the absolute romance we are missing, but giving it to us requires, demands, and insists on pointing out the flaws that have made us small, petty, and hateful.
Great lovers are formed by first admitting that they are not so great and learning to be better.
Acknowledging our failures is hard. We are taught to look on the “bright side of life,” while the Bible and the church know looking on the bright side shows the shadow in which we live.
If I love, then I long to love better, nobody has to tell me this it is my natural longing. The bad news from the church is that I cannot love better, because all my loves are disordered and infected by sin.
I want badly, because some of my wants are bad.
Jesus loves the beloved more than I do and wants to help me love as I should. He promises that Saint Thomas was right: there are higher goods and values than the ones I have seen . . . dimly.
But all this means that the good news that I can love better can only be heard in the context that I love badly. As a Christian I come to Jesus to love better only to discover that much of what I call love is a selfishness in drag.
Jesus is a good enough doctor to tell me the truth and this has the result of making my problems appear to get worse. Jesus calls my “love” less than Love and offers transform my “love” to love.
The only problem is that I have to die.
This death is not figurative, I actually have to die to my desires. There is no desire that is licit for its own sake. Humans are not allowed to “focus on the family,” we are called to focus on the God.
Out of this focus will come a better love for family.
Christianity has made me happier, but often by making me much sadder. Giving up sin is much easier, than letting go of what I believe to be my “love.” It is hard enough to see I am selfish, but imagine how hard it is to know that much of my love is merely lust in a rented tuxedo.
The good news is that Jesus takes me “just as I am” and does not require perfection form the start. Take me Jesus, pain and all, I come.