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Be Conformed or Transformed: Romans 12:2

Mallory Smyth

I love God. I have a good life. Still, for some reason, I lack joy and find it hard to be happy.

Have you had a thought like this one? I have.

If you can relate, take comfort (or don’t), because we are part of the majority. The news website Axios released a study titled “U.S. hits new low in World Happiness Report.” In 2023, the United States ranked as the 15th happiest country in the world. Only one year later, our country dropped to 23rd, with countries like Kuwait, Lithuania, and Slovenia self-reporting to be happier.[1]

Our society undoubtedly has overarching problems, and each of us faces serious challenges in our lives. But problems and challenges are not new, and while they may look different than those faced by previous generations, they are not worse. Also, despite facing many issues, the United States is still the richest nation in the world, with access to the latest technology and comfort that money can buy. So why then are we, including Christians, having a harder and harder time flourishing as humans?

Ancient wisdom offers us some insight. 

The Catholic Church teaches that God created humans to live in a flourishing relationship with Him, but through sin, we rejected that relationship, which brought about devastating consequences. 

Romans 1:21–24 explains sin’s effects: “[Humanity] became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves.” 

Sin wounds our minds and distorts our desires. It prevents us from seeing and understanding the world as God does while luring us to use our bodies for pleasure and selfish gain. Sin is a major obstacle to happiness. 

If this were the end of the story, we would be utterly hopeless—slaves to sin with no way out. But Jesus’ death and resurrection brought about redemption and changed our destiny. No longer must we be ruled by a darkened mind, or disordered desires. 1 Corinthians 2:16 says that we can have “the mind of Christ.” Colossians 1:27 proclaims the incredible news that Christ lives in us! So then, why do these amazing truths and proclamations of the Scriptures often seem like mere words while the reality of that happiness appears to remain on a downward spiral?

It’s because we still live in a broken world, and we each have a choice. Will we sit in the brokenness or aim for something higher?

In Romans 12:1–2, St. Paul offers us this choice, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Over the last week, I meditated upon this verse and answered two questions. How am I treating my body? What media do I consume? Here are some of my answers: 

To what am I giving my body? Right now, I am 8 months pregnant, and while I have submitted my body to God’s plan and the development of my baby, the submission has been begrudging. I spend much of my time looking at clothing with waistlines, desperately wishing I was in a different season of life. The effect? Major discontent and a developing hatred for my body as it does exactly what it is supposed to do to form a new life.

What kind of media is forming my mind? Honestly? Before Lent, it was mainly the news and the opinions of political pundits that told me just how scared I should be and how our society is going to hell in a handbasket. 

With answers like that, is it any wonder I have not been able to grab hold of God’s joy? My daily habits do much more to conform me to the patterns of this world instead of transforming me into who God wants me to be. 

Dear sister, Jesus’ invitation to you is not passive; it’s active. He calls you to submit your entire being and your daily habits to Him. If you and I want to become women capable of living out God’s joy and happiness, we must allow Him, not the world, to shape our minds, bodies, and souls.

So, here are a few questions for you to ponder:

How do you treat your body? 

  • Are you trying to force your body to conform to the world’s impossible standard of beauty?
  • Are you participating in sexual immorality? 
  • Are you constantly seeking comfort through mindless scrolling or streaming?
  • Are you held captive by substances that control your body?

What media do you consume?

  • What do your favorite podcasts teach you? Do they leave you feeling angry, sad, and fearful? Do they lead to joy, reflection, and happiness?
  • How much news do you consume? How does it affect your mood and opinion of people who don’t share your political views?
  • Does the music you listen to uplift you or pull you down?
  • How do the books you read form your understanding of God, yourself, the world, and others? 

After answering some of these questions, what changes do you need to make to become a statistical outlier in our increasingly unhappy culture? Isn’t it time to make those changes? Take your answers to God and ask Him to show you the changes He wants you to make. However you are conforming yourself to the patterns of this world, know that God offers a much better and happier path of transformation into His likeness. The more your habits reflect His will and desires for your life, the more likely you will radiate contagious joy and happiness to a world that desperately needs it.

In Him,
Mallory Smyth

[1] Ivana Saric, “U.S. hits new low in World Happiness Report,” Axios (19 March 2024): https://www.axios.com/2024/03/20/world-happiness-america-low-list-countries.

P.S. Want help in transforming into His likeness? Our Bible study, Ordering Your Priorities, is an immensely practical study that helps us rightly order our lives. Let’s begin by paying attention to the One who made us, because He can best tell us what we need for our lives to run well.

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