I remember when I was in college and dating. I used to dream about my future husband. Oh, what would he look like? He would definitely be handsome! I wouldn’t have to work anymore because he would have a successful career and I would be the perfect housewife. And my kids would definitely, always, be adorable. All my current problems as a poor college student would be gone. I’d love my family, they would love me, and we would have joy.
In 2 Nephi 25 it says, ” Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” We are commanded to have joy. And I believe savoring the sweet moments of life are a huge purpose of our existence. God loves us. He wants us to be happy. So what was the problem with looking forward to joy? The problem is that my focus was in the future and that my future is what would bring me happiness. My happiness was contingent upon expectations of the future rather than the present.
My impression is that this scripture in Nephi is rather commanding us to find joy in this moment. The scripture could say, “…and men are, that they might have joy right now!” Let go of the past. Your mistakes you cannot be undone. Those tragedies cannot be magically changed. Trust me, I’ve tried. I’ve woken up into deep sadness and wished that my reality was a nightmare. But no amount of denial or wishing has changed what has happened. And as we let our minds be stuck in the sadness, regret, and anger of the past it takes away from our present. That time and energy you spend dwelling on sadness takes away from your capacity for joy.
Is God with us during these moments when joy is not easy? Yes. God is with us even when we do not have joy. During Christ’s atonement in Gethsemane our Savior calls out, “If thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” God did not take away the terrible pain Christ was feeling. But instead in verse 43 reads, “And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.” God may not take away our cup, but he will send angels both unseen and through others.
How can we have joy if life is full of trials? It takes courage. It takes healing. It takes patience. It takes strength. Through our trials we must find our silver linings. We must try our best to make lemonade out of lemons. In the book Pollyanna she plays a game called the Glad Game. How you play is when you feel sad you try to find something you are glad about. This week I will be playing the Glad Game.
Another way that I feel joy in hard moments is when I accept that trials, stress, pain, anger, and sadness are going to be a part of my life. That was another flaw to my college midset from earlier. My happiness was contingent on perfection. When I let go of the expectation that my life should be without trial I am better able to accept them and find joy.
Elder Maxwell said,“… Part of enduring well consists of being meek enough, amid our suffering, to learn from our relevant experiences. Rather than simply passing through these things, they must pass through us … in ways which sanctify [us].”18 Since hearing this quote I’ve decided that through hard moments I would also think, “What am I learning?” Perhaps this is one step in the Glad Game that I have taken. In an amazing talk by Elder Evan A. Schmutz he says, “As we acquire this eternal perspective in our lives, our capacity to endure grows, we learn how to succor those in need of succor,13 and we come to appreciate and even express gratitude for the experiences God allows us to have as tutors in the path to eternal life.”
Someone once said that with big trials comes big blessings. One the greatest blessings I’ve received from my miscarriage was empathy. I gained an experience that has already tied me to so many of my friends and family. By feeling the deep sadness I felt I can in a small way understand the feelings of those who have felt depression creep into their lives, loss, and hopelessness. I can better mourn with those who mourn and know how to serve them better.
Christ had to experience our pain. He had to feel exactly how we have felt to understand and take away our own spiritual cups. And in a way as we suffer and then understand others suffering it brings us one step closer to Christ. Elder Schmutz later says in his talk, “God invites us to respond with faith to our own unique afflictions in order that we may reap blessings and gain knowledge that can be learned in no other way.”
God does love you. God is love. He wants us to have joy, right now, even in our trials, and even when it is hard. And when we do not feel joy, He is still with us sending angels to stand by us. I hope that as you find reasons to be glad and through each day, you have joy.
Also enjoy this free printable.