I’ve been thinking recently about what I do here — this program, the blog, and everything connected to it. I’ve had such hopes and plans for helping LDS singles everywhere live better, more joyful lives. I still do.
Bit by bit, it’s all coming together. I’ve come so far since that very first blog post on 12/12/12. I’ve come so far from that first blog post on this website, the post in which I declared my desire for real in my life. I’ve come so far from providing audio clip readings of my posts. And I’ve got farther yet to go before I’m done.
These accomplishments and dreams inspire me. Yet my mind turns to those who could have such accomplishments and dreams but don’t. They don’t believe they’re meant for anything extraordinary. They don’t see how anything approaching greatness could ever involve them. The future they see holds no promise, no hope, and no joy.
If that describes you, I hope you listen closely to the program today. I have a special message just for you. And it’s this: Don’t you dare give up on yourself.
Choose your joy
I know the depths of depression, the darkness that can envelope a soul in despair so devoid of hope that one wonders how life could ever be joyful for any but the luckiest among us. But I also know that vision doesn’t have to represent anyone’s reality. You can choose your joy.
Once, my sense of “logic” would find such statements repugnant, not to mention incomprehensible. What I see now that I didn’t see then are the faulty assumptions underneath that thinking. Just because others believe something doesn’t make it true. Nor does it mean you have to believe it. You can believe what you want to believe.
And you can believe that what you believe and how you think will ultimately determine your reality. That’s how our brains are biologically hardwired. You can choose to think more effectively, to give yourself messages filled with positive energy, to put controls around your emotions, to choose your joy. You can choose your reality.
Let your light shine
Because you can choose your reality, you can choose to be a victim, or you can choose to be a victor. You can choose to wallow within your own self-absorption. Or you can choose to look outside yourself to how you can bless the lives of others.
Think of what that means. We all posses the awesome potential for bringing goodness into the world, for making a real difference in the lives of others. That means you have that potential. You can inspire others to shine their lights bringing goodness into the lives of others when you shine your light bringing goodness into their lives.
But what would happen if you choose not to shine your light, not to make your contribution of goodness into the world? Would others falter because they never had the light you could shine? Would someone surrender to negativity because he or she didn’t have quite enough reserves to resist, reserves that would have been sufficient with your contribution?
The Master taught, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). What distance between God and individual men and women will not be shortened when you choose not to make your contribution?
Partner with Him
That’s why you should never dare to give up on yourself. It’s not about you; it’s about all of us. So when you give up on yourself, you’re giving up on the people who stand to benefit from the contribution you could make, a contribution only you can make. When you give up on yourself, you give up on all of the rest of us.
When many of us look our meager offerings, we wonder how so much could ever hang in the balance. How could our contribution ever be so important? The Lord’s disciples thought this way when they saw they had only five loaves and two fishes (see Matthew 14:17). How could so little feed so many? And yet in the hands of the Master it did. Likewise, the Master can work miracles in the lives of others as you follow His direction to give your contribution.
Don’t you dare give up on yourself! When life looks bleak, partner with the Lord. He will heal you so you believe in yourself and your contribution. He will lead you to those who need your contribution. And His hands will transform your contribution into miracles in their lives. You can bask in their love for you and for the Lord when you make that contribution you can make. And that will bring more joy in your journey.
Some things never change as we get older. There will always be death and taxes. The coolest toys always come out after you grow up. And the grass is always greener on the other side.
At least that how it appears. So many of us look at others and think their lives are much better than our own because they don’t appear to have our problems. If only we could be like them, we think, our own lives would be so much better.
But that’s a lie we should never heed. The truth is everyone has challenges. When you solve one problem, you’ll find a completely new problem just around the corner. Or you’ll merely swap your old problem for a new one. Life wasn’t meant to be problem-free for anyone.
And that’s good. We’ll never grow as we need to grow and learn what we need to learn without opposition. To become what we’re meant to become, we must overcome our challenges. So you shouldn’t want what the other half of the world has. Just keep your half because it’s what you need.
Don’t run away
The longing after what appears to be greener grass on the other side of the fence is often just a desire to escape from our current challenges rather than overcome them. If we simply ran away from those challenges, we’d certainly not progress towards becoming what we’re meant to become.
I know I wouldn’t be the man I am today if I’d decided to run away. For example, on my mission in Guatemala, I constantly battled illness. Had I agreed to come home early, I wouldn’t have had the blessing of teaching the gospel in my own language and to people from different parts of the world in the neighboring country of Belize. I wouldn’t have had the companions I had, each one of whom taught me something. My mission experiences continue to bless me and benefit my life decades after my service.
Facing our trials and working to overcome them have changed us all for the better. We’re better people because we decided not to run away from those experiences but rather to embrace them and allow them to change us into something more than what we were before.
Embrace the opportunity
In addition, those challenges themselves can be blessings in their own right. But we’re not likely to see that as long as we keep wanting to cross to where the grass appears greener. We’ve got to learn to want what we’ve already got. And that means changing the way we think in order to see the blessings our challenges are.
Sometimes that blessing comes as opportunity to bless the lives of others. For instance, my experience being single for more than two decades has, to say the least, increased my compassion for those who struggle with the challenges of LDS singles life. And that compassion is a large portion of the fuel that drives me in producing Joy in the Journey Radio. How many lives have been and will be blessed because of my personal ministry?
If you feel the siren call of grass that appears to be greener, ask yourself who could be blessed because you stayed on your side of the fence. Someone there may need your contribution, a contribution only you can make because only you have your unique personality paired with your challenges.
Confront your challenge
In the end, we are our choices. The grass may indeed seem greener on the other side, but there’s much value in the greenness of the grass we already have. We can all choose to lift where we stand, thereby blessing others while growing from the confrontation with our challenges.
Besides, nothing good comes from wishing we could exchange places with that other half of the world that seems to have a better life. The results we want will never come from wishing because they can come from one and only one thing — action. Better to spend our time confronting our challenges and learning how to overcome them than to waste away wishing for what will never come with the wish alone.
When you choose to keep your half instead of longing after the half someone else appears to have, when you choose to embrace challenges rather than seek ways to escape them, when you choose to see them for the blessings they are in and of themselves, then you’ll see that the grass on the other side of the fence isn’t that much greener after all. That will increase your gratitude to God for His bounteous blessings you already have. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Is the new meeting schedule working? What improvements have we seen from emphasizing a greater effort to study the gospel in the home? And have we lost anything along the way with implementing these new changes?
Some may think it too early to say, but I’m convinced these changes announced by the Brethren as the result of revelation received from the Lord are nothing but good. In fact, I don’t think the word good does them justice. I think they’re outstandingly amazing.
Embrace more effective meetings
First, I have to say I love two-hour church! I wish I had this growing up, on my mission, and in college. But better late than never.
Elder Bednar encouraged us to see beyond the superficial logistical changes in the meeting schedule, and I do see this change as providing more than an “extra” free hour on the Sabbath. Perhaps the most immediate effect I’ve seen thus far is a greater attention to make the most of that second hour. Whether it’s Sunday School or my quorum meeting, I’ve seen my leaders be more intentional about using what time they have, if for no other reason than that they have less of it.
And that’s great. Living with intention precedes joyful living. It’s the antithesis of the living on autopilot which most people practice, a habit leading to mediocrity and a lackluster life. I’ve truly enjoyed my meetings more now that the time spent in them is more precious. That has translated into a closer and deeper interaction with the Spirit, which is part of the reason why we meet together to begin with.
Feel the Spirit more
Now, I don’t know this from personal experience because I don’t have my own family yet, but I’ve heard other ward members testify of greater unity in their family and the joy they’ve felt in fielding questions from their children regarding gospel principles. The Church has always been about strengthening families, and this move in that direction is truly inspired.
Not having my own family, I have an “extra” hour on Sundays, which I typically use in extended personal scripture study. I don’t follow the Sunday School study schedule because I felt prompted to travel a different road. But my life has been blessed as I’ve used this “extra” hour for my own study.
I’ve also heard of singles who have been blessed by gathering together in their own groups to study what their married friends are studying in their homes with their families. I’m not a member of such a group (though I might be if I knew of one that met weekly), but I can imagine the blessings that would come to singles who have that arrangement in their life. They could enjoy the same closeness with the Spirit and to one another that families experience among themselves.
Change in the culture
For me, however, the most exciting change from home-centered church has yet to be seen fully. I believe a cultural change is in the works that will benefit LDS singles everywhere. This change has already been ongoing, but the practice of home-centered church will greatly accelerate it.
Traditionally, LDS culture has centered around Sunday meetings in general membership wards. The mark of belonging has been being married with kids, and so many singles openly display their lack of belonging just by showing up without a significant other. Of course, different wards are more accepting than others, but that’s been the general reality over the past few decades, if not longer.
Enter home-centered church. By centering the worship experience in the home, the Church has effectively marginalized the differences between singles and marrieds that were once glaringly apparent. Now that church has become about supporting what’s done in the home, we’ll now see a change in the mark of belonging within the culture to one centered on Christ and our willingness to make and keep as many covenants with Him as we can. This is great news for LDS singles, because every single can belong in that culture.
The changes announced by the Brethren regarding home-centered church are outstandingly amazing. Many glorious days lie ahead of us. As we follow the counsel of the Brethren to adopt the changes revealed by revelation, the Lord will bless our lives with an outpouring of His Spirit. Our culture will become more inclusive, and we’ll become more united as a people. And that will bring more joy in our journey.
Not paying attention to the news for the last couple of years has made a huge difference in my life. For years I wanted to keep apprised of current events and so read regularly from various sources. But the overwhelming negative slant so many stories took painted a picture of an increasingly depressing world. And it didn’t take long for that depression to weigh me down.
The first step towards correcting an overflowing bathtub is to turn off the water. And that’s what I did with the media. Yet I still wanted to know what was going on in the world. How else could I be a responsible citizen? Thus began the yo-yo days of switching between feasts and famine of media news in my life.
But the yo-yo approach wasn’t sustainable. In the end, I chose to eliminate most media news from my life, largely because of its overwhelming negativity. I couldn’t see how I could live a positive life when I regularly drank from the fountains of negativity, so I said enough with the negative in my life. And as I said before, it’s made a huge difference.
Improve your thinking
One of the first things I noticed after I eliminated that negative source from my life was an improvement in my thinking. It’s hard to believe your world will be heavenly when every day you’re hearing about how the world around you is going to hell in a handbasket.
Once I eliminated the negativity, it became easier to believe in the possibilities of my future. I found it easier to believe in myself and my ability to achieve my potential, that I could make the needed changes to allow the blessings the Lord wants to give me — blessings I want in my life — to come to me.
Understanding that doesn’t take an Einstein. I’ve been saying for years that your focus determines your reality. When you regularly entertain sources of negativity, it’s hard for your focus to be anything but negative. And when you focus on the negative, your reality (otherwise known as your life) becomes filled with negativity.
Of course, the reverse is also true. When you eliminate the negative from your life, it’s easier to focus on the positive. And when you focus on the positive, your reality becomes filled with positivity.
Improve your self-talk
The changes I experienced in my thinking then bled into my self-talk. The messages I constantly gave myself became more positive. It didn’t happen overnight, but slowly the negative became positive.
I’ve discussed self-talk many times before on the blog as well as this program. It’s hard to believe in possibilities when you constantly tell yourself they don’t exist — or worse, that it doesn’t matter whether or not they exist because you’re just not worthy or good enough to have them. If you repeat a lie long enough, you’ll start to believe it.
But you’ll also believe the truth when you repeat your encounters with it long enough. Again, your focus becomes your reality. The more you focus on the positive, the easier giving yourself positive messages becomes. And the more you give yourself positive messages, the easier it is to focus on the positive. This self-perpetuating cycle provides a strong foundation for a positive reality so long you keep it going.
Improve your feeling
In an upcoming book I’ve been writing, I cite this statistic: Around 95% of how we feel comes from our self-talk. That’s an amazing statistic because it means we choose how we feel.
That idea may sound like pig swallow to some, but consider this for a moment. Most of what you feel comes from the messages you give yourself, messages you choose to give yourself. You choose your focus. You choose how to think and what to think. You choose all these factors feeding into how you ultimately feel. That means you can and do choose how you feel.
It then follows that when you choose positivity, you’ll feel positivity. Thinking positive lays the groundwork for positive self-talk, which then colors your emotional state with positive energy. All this focus on the positive can’t help but produce a positive reality. And here’s the best part: It all happens with zero change in your circumstances.
When you look within yourself and say you’ve had enough with the negative, you can begin to make lasting positive changes in your life. You can remove from your life the sources of negative energy that make it harder for you to have a positive reality. When you do, you’ll start to see improvements in your thinking, your self-talk, and your emotions. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and since 2018 I've been producing a weekly Internet radio show and podcast to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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