When life is going the way we want it to go—no bumps on the road, no unexpected turns—it is easier to find happiness and to be grateful for what you have. However, we ALL know that a smooth ride in life is temporary. Just when you are getting comfortable on this newfound break from the craziness, all of a sudden, a test comes to surprise you. That test can throw you off track, and if you’re not careful, you get stuck on the side of the road longer than expected. Some of these tests are necessary for our spiritual progression. Some come because of the consequences of our own actions, but others come because of the consequences of someone else’s actions. No matter what the source or the outcome of the test, we must learn to overcome it…with JOY.
Joy? In a difficult circumstance? How is THAT helpful? Trust me, I know that negative thoughts can take over the mind when everything seems to be going wrong. Somehow, we must learn to change our outlook to focusing first on the things that are stable in life at that moment. When we do, we can start to notice that there is hope after all. It can be very difficult to shun negative thoughts and try to look for the positive in the situation, but it IS possible. You may need to search VERY deep or barely scrape the surface to find things that you are grateful for, but once you do, your hidden hope begins to emerge.
Don’t forget about heavenly help in this process! When all seems lost, reaching for the Savior’s guidance and comfort are a must! Pray like you’ve never prayed before. Read and search the scriptures more diligently. Lose yourself in serving those around you, so that you can forget your own troubles as you help lift those that need it most. You will still feel hopeless at times. Your heart may still be breaking into a thousand little pieces, but consistency in these key principles is paramount in order for you to overcome the tests and trials of life. The following verses in Psalms contrasts the feelings of the heart in such a situation beautifully:
Psalms 30:5, 11-12
5…weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
11 Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness;
12 To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.
Do you recall a time in your life when something was so difficult to bear that you cried yourself to sleep? What was the next morning like? Did you still feel empty? Did it all feel like a dream? Did you feel like the new day might bring a different outcome? What were your hopes that morning? Did joy come?
Joy might not be the priority for us after mourning, but it can bring renewed strength if we learn to refocus and strive to make joy a priority in ANY type of situation. Just like the sun rises in the morning without fail, joy can rise with us and become a source of strength once we learn to master our drifting thoughts.
It’s amazing to me how Christ can turn around our perspective as we allow Him into our hearts during difficult times. He is our source of strength. He provides the comforting embrace and the encouragement we need to keep going. I love the verses above because once we find the joy we were unsure would be available, we recognize His hand in all things and our mourning turns into gladness as our hearts are filled with gratefulness.
Many of the prophets and stalwart characters in the scriptures endured trying times. We read about their initial doubts, their unwavering faith, their boldness to testify, and so much more. One such example is the Apostle Paul. His heart was changed by an appearance of the Savior on the road to Damascus. Back then, Saul was the one causing difficult trials for the Christians of that time. Once he was converted to the truth and gained faith in Christ, he endured countless trials for the gospel’s sake. One occasion was when Paul returned to Jerusalem and was incarcerated by the Jewish leaders for preaching to the Gentiles and testifying about Christ’s resurrection. While in jail, he received a special visitor and the following encouraging words:
Acts 23: 11
11 And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.
Paul was being obedient to the Lord’s command to testify of Him and be His witness after Ananias had healed and instructed him in Damascus. Keeping the commandments did not excuse him from having trials. Faith was Paul’s driving force. When the Lord appeared to Paul that night, He didn’t tell him that the trials were over. Christ knew better than anyone else what the price of the gospel was. He had suffered more than any human being on this planet ever could. Christ was able to comfort Paul giving him the assurance that he would make it through this trying time because he had yet to be a witness of the Lord in Rome. Through the midst of the trial Christ asked Paul to be of good cheer.
He asks US to be of good cheer as well. What can you be happy about as you wade through life’s trials? Put everything into perspective. What is the END goal? We will all die one day. What are the promises to the faithful? I invite you to search the scriptures and make a list of those promises. That can be the beginning of your finding joy in the journey. Then, think about what steps you can take today to find glimmers of joy along the path. I challenge you to look for personal ways that you can introduce joy into your life no matter what the circumstance. It will vary from individual to individual. Ask Christ for help. He will comfort you and illuminate the way through it all.
That They Might Have Joy Series
The Purpose of Life: To Have Joy
How the Holy Ghost Fills our Souls with Joy
How Obedience to the Commandments Brings us Joy
How Creativity Brings us Joy
The Joy of Being You