Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

A review of Steven R. Hemler’s Search No More: The Keys to Truth and Happiness

(photo: Register Files)

Steve Hemler, the president of the Catholic Apologetics Institute of North America, has turned his attention to the pursuit of happiness in his most recent book. He defines it in practical, theological and spiritual terms in his Search No More: The Keys to Truth and Happiness.

Seeking happiness and fulfillment in this life is a perennial question for many reasons, not the least of which is because it is fundamental to our nature as intelligent creatures endowed with a soul by our Creator. It is natural that we question how to seek out a happy, fulfilling life. The question deserves to be asked both on the individual level as well as on the level of society — or, at least, a healthy, thriving society that is rightfully concerned with the happiness of its citizens.

Our bookstores and recycling centers are full of self-help books, and they’ve yet to make anyone happy. The brilliant thing about Steve Hemler's book is that it’s a self-help book that rejects “self-help.” Rather, the author shows us we should instead rely on God himself.

If pop secularist self-help books actually worked, we’d have exactly one of them to which all people would swear. In reality, there are tens of thousands of currently-produced self-help books all of which are filled with the same inane platitudes seemly written by SNL-era Al Franken’s alter ego, Stuart Smalley (e.g., “I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”) Adding to this, is the landslide of out-of-print books which are essentially failures in helping people help themselves otherwise people would be still buying them. That’s the problem with self-help books―they don’t help “the self,” and they often confuse self-servitude and self-worship with self-help (and with Christianity in general).

Hemler, on other hand, recommends being self-effacing as humility is the cure for pridefulness. Nothing good will come from people telling themselves how wonderful they are because that behavior just puffs up pride, and pride is the deadliest of the deadly sins. As St. Augustine of Hippo reminds us, “It was pride that changed angels into devils. It is humility that makes men into angels.”

Hemler's book is a self-help book for those who really seek to transform their lives and the world. His book supplements and illuminates the Bible and the truths the Church derives from it. The author points out in a systemic, caring and intelligent manner how and why it is that God is the only one who can save us from ourselves. He is Great Physician who knows us better than we know ourselves. He alone can help “the self.” In the words of St. Augustine of Hippo, God is “more intimate to me than I am to myself.” Hemler explains to his readers why God alone knows how to save, heal and bring us to our authentic self.

God―Who is Light, Love and Truth―brings order and meaning and serenity to the universe and its inhabitants. Why turn to God? The author explains, “Only in God will we find the true happiness and deep joy we seek in this life and glory in the eternal life to come. Joy is the lasting happiness we are actually searching for.”

As in his previous book, Hemler offers the advantage of his vast knowledge base of theology and spirituality. In his newest book, the shows us he is knowledgeable about developmental psychology as well. It’s a pleasure to come across a scholar who can teach as well as research.

Hemler writes enthusiastically, both from a scholarly perspective and a personal one. He believes what he teaches. Most importantly, he is orthodox in his teachings. I warmly and eagerly recommend his book to those who wish to learn more about themselves and the Loving God in whose image we are created. We are made for God’s love and His love fulfills us and draws us closer to him―the only reality that makes any sense in the universe.