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Every morning I wake up with a sense of futility, which usually fades throughout the day. Others may experience this on a different schedule. But we all have those moments when the constant effort of living and working seems futile. We’re often too close to the things that matter most, and we may not discern our own progress. Worse, if we don’t keep a proper spiritual perspective, we may not have any progress to discern. Moods come and go, of course, but our less elastic moods also put us in touch with a reality which underlies all of human life: Life just isn’t good enough to completely satisfy our deepest yearning, a yearning we find it naturally impossible to name.
We soon learn to put the zing back into life in countless little ways: getting together with friends, buying new clothes, celebrating special occasions, taking a day off work or going on a trip, perhaps even drinking too much or slipping into other stupid habits. As Christians we know that insofar as we do these things to feel more satisfied, they are all simply distractions—though not all necessarily unhealthy ones—and we recognize that to keep the need for distraction within legitimate bounds, we must also frequent the sacraments and grow in prayer. We find, within limits, that prayer and works of mercy both strengthen us and bring a deeper satisfaction. Yet we remain natural creatures who also need natural changes of pace, and natural forms of recreation and delight.
Now, if even we who are Christian experience and deal with life in this way, how much more must those without Faith struggle to balance the stresses and uncertainties of life with their thirst for meaning and fulfillment! This ought to be a great point in common between Christians and all others. But Christians, who understand suffering and trust God, respond to the human experience not frenetically or through excess, but with integrity, balance, discrimination, purity and purpose. Though buffeted like others in a thousand ways each day, we remain fundamentally at peace. When we are living rightly, we appear to others to be fixed points, even beacons, in the rough seas of life. Thus will others wonder at us, turn to look, and ask us questions.
For this reason, we must avoid standing off, acting superior, passing judgment. We must instead live as if we thirst for those questions. “We also are men, of like nature with you,” cried St. Paul, and so we are. But we “bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God” (Acts 14:15).