Fr. James Searby at St. Charles Borromeo in Arlington recently gave a talk called "Conquering the Quarter Life Crisis," which you can listen to here. I recommend listening to the whole thing, it's only about half an hour.
When I listened to the talk it actually appeared more to me to be a meditation on the general timeless human condition of searching for one's meaning and purpose, no matter your age, as opposed to solely the crisis that hits us in our twenties.
There are lots of good pieces to the talk, but one element in particular I want to think about is the idea of earthly good vs. eternal good. It is as in Matthew 6:19-21: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." I remind myself of this notion when I begin to feel envious of what others have (particularly materially) or that I'm not where I'm "supposed" to be professionally or otherwise. As if such a thing exists. Instead I should be asking myself, Am I serving God and doing good for others? That's it. That's all I need to ask myself. Ah, but on earth, these are not the questions we are programmed to ask.
Fr. Searby says we must phrase it this way: "What must I do to inherit eternal life, not what must I do to be happy on earth?" But the things that fall under the "what makes me happy on earth column" seem so immediate, and those under the "eternal life" column so remote, that it's as if I have to rewire my brain. I don't know if it ever gets easier, or at least that one's vigilance can ever let up, through the course of all of life.
His solution is, "Don't do the things that wound you. Get rid of them, whatever they might be," because, "We can be creators of our own darkness." This is so utterly true, and I need look no further than the fact that some mornings I wake up sad - in my beautiful bed, in my wonderful apartment, before going to the best job I ever had in one of the most exciting cities on the planet. Creators of our own darkness, indeed.
It takes no great investigation to see that I have everything I need, and more, materially speaking, in this life. And of course the other side of that is that I have everything spiritually, too, if I am willing to accept it. The thing that gets me is how hard it can be to deny oneself things. My ego says, "I deserve a vacation, a designer handbag and brunch every weekend" but the part of me that seeks eternal life, and true meaning, says, but it still won't make you happy.
What am I getting at it? I suppose just that this struggle has been loud in me recently. I want always to do God's will, yet truly find it one of the most challenging things to humble myself to accept his will (which, by the way, does not include vacations, designer anything or even really brunch these days). So, accept it. Do away with the things that will bring darkness - with envy for things, with the pride of knowledge, with vanity over one's appearance, in order to get closer to Christ. Oh, but it is so much easier said than done.
So we return to the topic of true faith, because to get along in life, and to really believe that treasure in heaven is the only real treasure that matters, one must have faith. Everything on earth tells us that earth is it, the final stopping point in this universe, the highest and most important place to exist. Money, power and position are what matter and any thought of a great beyond is perhaps an afterthought. So to believe in what is not immediately visible - which may be invisible for much of one's life - is a tall order. But trust and do good all the same, and in that manner one must persist, building up virtues and love to present to Our Lord when it is time. I believe this, yes. I just wish it were easier. But then, that's not the point of life. And perhaps even in living this struggle to choose correctly, we get closer to God.