The only thing that our soul yearns for more than anything else is to know and experience the Perfect Good. According to Aquinas, the Perfect Good of man, the thing that will give him ultimate happiness, cannot be something which was created. “It is impossible for any created good to constitute man’s happiness. For happiness is the perfect good, which lulls the appetite altogether; else it would not be the last end, if something yet remained to be desired. Now the object . . . of man’s appetite is the universal good. . . . Hence it is evident that naught can lull man’s will, save the universal good. This is to be found, not in any creature, but in God alone.”
Jesus said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Mt 6:33).
Speaking to God, St. Augustine said “Thou has made us for thyself and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.”
“Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.” – C. S. Lewis
There is a void in every person’s life that only God can fill. Nothing on this earth can fill it. How do we know this? From experience. Nobody has ever found anything in this world which completely satisfies their desires. We always want more.
The only way we can be totally satisfied and at rest is when we find the Perfect Good. The perfect good is God. It can be found nowhere else.
So how do we experience ultimate happiness now, in this life?
I do not even pretend to have all the answers for how to come to know God in this life, but let me offer a couple of things from my life that might help you grow in your happiness.
First, spend as much time as you can around people who know who God is, who have godly wisdom, and who follow God’s moral commands. Learn from them how to think and how to act. Watch them and see how they live their lives. In my case, I have one of those people in my own house, and she happens to be married to me. If you’re not that fortunate, then find a mentor. Find someone who you can emulate.
A.W. Tozer said that “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” In order to know who God is, you need to read. You will learn about God much quicker if you read His Words to us. Read as much as you can of the Bible, first and foremost. I know it’s difficult, but there are truckloads of study Bibles and commentaries out there to help you. So you really have no excuse.
Also, read as many books as you can written by great Christians, preferably those that are dead. There is little being written today that can match the lofty insights of Augustine, Aquinas, Lewis, and Tozer. Give them a try and you won’t be disappointed.
Third, live out the commands of God by serving others. Serve your family members, your co-workers, your church family, the poor, the imprisoned, and the outcasts of society.
Even if you read about God, emulate a godly Christian, and serve others in every possible way, you cannot be perfectly happy in this life. Even the greatest saints of the church were not perfectly happy in this life.
For since happiness is a ‘perfect and sufficient good,’ it excludes every evil, and fulfills every desire. But in this life every evil cannot be excluded. For this present life is subject to many unavoidable evils; to ignorance on the part of the intellect; to inordinate affection on the part of the appetite, and to many penalties on the part of the body; . . . Likewise neither can the desire for good be satiated in this life. For man naturally desires the good, which he has, to abide. Now the goods of the present life pass away; since life itself passes away, . . . Wherefore it is impossible to have true Happiness in this life.
But this life is not all there is. Aquinas argues that it is only in the next life that we reach perfect happiness, because that is when we see God face to face. This is the Beatific Vision, which means the “blessed vision.” John describes the Beatific Vision this way: “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn 3:2).
The Beatific Vision brings direct knowledge of God and perfect love of God, who is the ultimate good. This, my friends, is true happiness. The rest we seek, the fulfillment of all of our desires, the state of perfect good will finally be reached.
“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Co 13:12).
Let me summarize all we’ve learned about happiness. If you focus on God, then you will very likely gain great wisdom and virtue, the goods of the soul. If you focus on God, you will receive pleasure along the way. If you focus on God, you will receive a perfect body at the resurrection. If you focus on God, the power you have will be used to achieve great things. If you focus on God, you will spend this life and the next honoring Him, because everything good in you was put there by Him. If you focus on God, you will pile up treasures in heaven.
On the contrary, if you don’t focus on God, you will squander your wealth, seek honor and fame for yourself, abuse your power, waste away your body, regret many of your pleasures, and ultimately lose your soul.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb 12:1-2).