Tell me, does this sound familiar?
Groggily, you wake up each morning. You reach over to swipe off your alarm and end up spending
fifteen five minutes checking your notifications. Eventually, you make it to work. You work. A lot. When you’re done working, you grab dinner on the way home and start the mental battle between your favorite drama and your favorite sitcom. Which one will you watch?
You commit to only watching an episode, but suddenly five hours have passed and it is time for bed.
Now, this is a bit extreme, but if any part of this sounds familiar you may be like me. You may get caught up too often in temporal happiness. What is temporal happiness and why is it so hard to shake?
What is Temporal Happiness?
Temporal means worldly or secular. Temporal happiness encompasses the positive feelings we find from doing secular things. It can include activities that are good and natural when balanced with the spiritual, as well as dangerous sins acting as a cruel counterfeit.
In the Church, we understand that temporal happiness is fleeting and ultimately unfulfilling when compared to the healing of the Atonement and the peace of gospel living. However, we often find ourselves confused. I ask myself:
Why am I so easily distracted by temporal things when I know the promised blessings of God?
Wrestling With the Natural Man
The answer, for me at least, came as I began to understand the natural man. The natural man, described in the scriptures as an enemy to God, is an essential part of who we are and we need to understand it if we are to overcome it. The natural man is designed for self-preservation, for longevity, and for happiness. There is a sense of craving and hunger associated with our natural attitudes; society and culture do a good job and encouraging these feelings.
The natural man doesn’t want to experience pain, regret, guilt, or sorrow. The natural man wants to be happy. It is also willing to do whatever it takes to achieve and maintain this state, regardless of covenants or commandments. The natural man wants happiness now. Right now. In the gospel, things take time. The happiness (better described as peace and joy) that comes from following God isn’t always immediate; in fact, we may have to wait (and wait) for it to fully be realized in our lives.
Show how can we choose it, when so much of us is screaming to pick something that will work right now?
How to Embrace Gospel Happiness
Christ said those who hunger and thirst after righteousness are blessed. We need to feed our natural hungers with the Bread of Life and Living Water. We all want peace and joy. Our ability to find lasting happiness through Jesus Christ comes down to choosing daily the things that matter most. It may take time and we definitely won’t be perfect at it, but we need to believe God will bless us and then act like we believe. If someone were to take a look at how you live your life, would they see someone who believes they are divine, someone who has made promises with God, someone who understands what eternal opportunities are theirs if they work for it?
We may not enjoy reading our scriptures as much as watching hours of television, but we can make the conscious choice to do it anyways. We may want to dull the pain, check out, and let it go, but Christ has promised everything will be for our good if we will turn to him. We need to live our lives, act as best we can to do good every day in patience, and give our time to God. Of course, we need to seek the balance: we can find spirituality in the secular and the secular in the spiritual. But focusing on Christ and doing good will help infuse everything in our lives with purpose and meaning.
It may not be clear at first, or even for a long time, but slowly we will begin to see the fruits of seeking after true happiness.