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“Ask a Priest: What If Everything Seems Pointless?”
Q: I’ve been very upset for a while because I know that once we die and go to heaven all earthly ways are left behind, and none of it will exist in heaven and Scripture tells us to set our minds on things above and not earthly things. So now I don’t really enjoy anything I do, and everything seems pointless because ultimately it won’t matter in heaven. So all the things and activities that I previously enjoyed and the idea of marriage just kind of lost their appeal or enjoyment. I find no joy in being a Christian anymore. I feel really disappointed and depressed like all the time. – J.K.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: If you are feeling disappointed and depressed all the time, that might be a symptom of something else going on in your life.
Disappointment and depression are not the normal states of a Christian. Being a Christian, in fact, should give us a deep-rooted joy. After all, we have faith in Jesus, we know what he has done for us, and we understand what life is about. It lifts our gaze toward the hope of eternal life.
I would qualify that notion that “everything seems pointless.” True, the things of this world will pass away. But that doesn’t mean they are pointless.
Rather, this world as a kind of test run for eternity. What we do or don’t do here will have a huge impact on our eternity.
In this world we have the chance to pray, to sacrifice for souls, to spread the Gospel, to help other people get closer to Jesus, and to help them on their way to heaven. In this world we have the chance to become saints or to turn into tyrants.
In this sense the things of this world, including the opportunities they give us to grow in the virtues, are not pointless.
Moreover, Jesus himself doesn’t want us to just hide away in a cave. Here it might be good to read the parable in Matthew 25:14-30 and to note what happens to the servant with the one talent.
None of this implies that we should become attached to the world. St. Paul expressed the ambivalence of being a Christian nicely: “I am caught between the two. I long to depart this life and be with Christ, [for] that is far better. Yet that I remain [in] the flesh is more necessary for your benefit. And this I know with confidence, that I shall remain and continue in the service of all of you for your progress and joy in the faith” (Philippians 1:23-25).
There we have a nice summary of what a Christian might feel: a desire to leave this world behind and be with Jesus, and yet a tug in the other direction, to stay here and help other souls to grow in their faith.
(For more reading see my colleague Father Bartunek’s Seeking First the Kingdom.)
Be sure of this: You have a mission in life. Jesus didn’t put you here just to wait for the day when you leave this world. He wants you to jump into the arena, to use your talents for the glory of God and the good of others, and to bring his love to the souls you meet.
Living this mission to the full will allow you to begin to experience the joy of eternal life even while you are still here on earth — in fact, that’s why Jesus came to be our Savior: “I came that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
The deeper our friendship with Jesus gets here on earth, the more we experience the lasting happiness that he wants us to experience. Jesus himself designed human life; living it according to his example and teaching leads us to experience more fulfillment in life, not less.
Perhaps it might help to pray about this point and seek out a confessor or spiritual director to guide you. And if that sense of depression lingers, you might consider seeing a counselor, too.
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