Guest Post by: Isabelle Walker
A common theme this past General Conference was a quote by President Nelson, “The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.” When I was younger, I used to roll my eyes whenever someone would say something along the lines of “The only thing preventing you from being happy is yourself.” I genuinely thought there were too many exceptions for that to be true! How can you be happy if you are diagnosed with depression, you lost a loved one, you suffer from an illness or injury, or any number of trials? The truth is, you probably won’t be able to find happiness through those trials without the help of our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is a hard pill to swallow sometimes, that we are often preventing ourselves from feeling joy even through some of the hardest trials of our lives. President Nelson elaborated on what the focus of our lives should be for us to feel joy. It’s no surprise that his answer includes focusing on things of eternal nature, by looking to Christ.
Looking to Christ can mean a lot of different things. Sometimes, the least we can do during hard times is to continue keeping promises and being worthy. Looking to Christ means keeping our covenants and following the commandments. Elder Sean Douglas of the Seventy taught in our most recent General Conference that “Inattention can induce a lack of spiritual conviction, where we are “neither cold nor hot.” If we are not anchored to Christ, doubt and its allures will lead us away to apathy.” Apathy looks like taking the path of least resistance or doing what is easy and comes naturally. When we are struggling, apathy can be forgetting to take care of ourselves and our bodies, being unkind to those around us, and sometimes, becoming lax with our covenant-keeping, or breaking the commandments. So, when things become hard, to find and create joy, sometimes the least we can do is make sure we aren’t idle.
All missionaries are asked to read or reread the Book of Mormon before entering the Missionary Training Center. In preparation for my upcoming mission, I set a goal to read the Book of Mormon in 90 days. The past 90 days have been anything but easy for me, but remembering that commitment has been an anchor to Christ and has kept me reading the scriptures even when things are difficult. When you are struggling, remember what God has asked of you! Remember your baptismal and temple covenants and stay worthy to have a temple recommend. There is power in keeping our covenants and following the commandments, power enough to bring us joy in hardship.
Looking to Christ means softening our hearts to His will. Sister Camille N. Johnson, Primary General President, said it well this past General Conference. It is sometimes hard for us to submit to the Lord’s will because “The natural man or woman in us is resistant to turning things completely over to the Lord and trusting Him entirely.” Something I have implemented in my life to help me be more receptive to the spirit is praying for the Lord to soften my heart every time I read the scriptures, and whenever else I pray or fast. I am beginning to see my joy grow in small ways every day as I have continued praying for this. As baptized and worthy members of the Church we are blessed with the companionship of the Holy Ghost, but only we can let him in. Only with a soft heart are we open to the revelation, guidance, and comfort provided by the Holy Ghost. We read in the Book of Mormon frequently that the paradigm shift toward destruction and suffering in the pride cycle is a group of people hardening their hearts to the spirit and the word of God.
To “let God prevail,” we need to give Him authorship of our stories and stop resisting so much. Christ is holding us by the hand, leading us to lasting joy. Any child can attest to how much it hurts when a parent is holding your hand and you try to pull away from their grasp. To find joy we need to stop trying to pull ourselves from Christ’s help! We can open ourselves up to His help and guidance when we soften our hearts to learn from the Spirit.
God loves us and our Savior wants to be there and succor us as we struggle. Finding joy through hardship is difficult, and sometimes we can’t see how the Lord has helped us until after the storm has passed, but I believe that God is always there for us when we call to Him. God orchestrates a beautiful plan for us, but he is also there in the details, providing tender mercies and beautiful moments to provide joy that pushes us through to the next day.
For I the Lord God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.
“Invite Christ to Author Your Story,” Camille N. Johnson https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2021/10/42johnson?lang=eng
“Facing Our Spiritual Hurricanes by Believing in Christ,” Elder Sean Douglas
“Joy and Spiritual Survival,” President Russell M. Nelson