Hope in Christ
Christ is of course the ultimate source of hope for anything good in this life or the next. No matter your background or situation, there is always hope because there is always Christ. That doesn’t mean you won’t have challenges, but it does mean every problem has some solution in Him. With hope in Christ, you can joyfully rise above any challenge.
Hope has power
I especially like President Ballard’s reliance upon eternal principles of truth. He doesn’t really talk about singles until halfway through his address. He spends the first half laying out the foundational principles that support his remarks on singles. That’s significant.
Equally significant is his repetition of what Elder Gong shared earlier. The majority of LDS adults are single. The public recognition of this demographic change precedes a new thrust by the Church to change LDS culture. Leaders might not describe it that way, but the Church is certainly publicly reaching more after those who by definition don’t have the traditional marker of belonging in LDS culture, namely being married with kids.
And it’s more than just Conference talks. Have you seen the Church website lately? The website has been promoting an upcoming broadcast for singles over 30, the first ever Church-wide broadcast tailored entirely and specifically for this demographic. There’s also an excellent article in the latest Liahona providing practical advice on helping singles feel more included at church.
This is the power of hope in Christ. How long have I discussed in blog posts and this radio program the need to embrace a Christ-centered culture in which the mark of belonging is discipleship? For the past seven years I’ve expressed my faith such a change would come, even amidst the challenges of feeling included in a culture that didn’t always welcome me. And now I rejoice to see the Lord rewarding the faith I and many others have held all this time.
Hope means action
President Ballard extolled singles everywhere to have such faith. Said he, “I speak of hope in Christ not as wishful thinking. Instead, I speak of hope as an expectation that will be realized. Such hope is essential to overcoming adversity, fostering spiritual resilience and strength, and coming to know that we are loved by our Eternal Father and that we are His children, who belong to His family.”
How does one achieve such hope? It comes by faith in Christ who grants that hope to those who wait patiently upon Him. Because faith is a principle of action, so is waiting upon the Lord.
President Ballard said as much. He declared,
I love his declaration of increased hope through needed contribution, a concept we’ve long discussed here — the need for singles to have a personal ministry. When you devote yourself to sharing your unique goodness and light with others, you focus on what you can do. That focus in turn creates a reality of possibility and potential, which naturally leads to hope.
Hope is yours
President Ballard shared other principles that engender hope — the truth no blessing will be denied those who keep covenants, the assurance blessings will be ours though we don’t know all the details, the inclusion of exaltation in God’s plan for all the willing, and faith the Lord will eventually right every wrong experienced in mortality. Each of these principles encourage us to hold to the promise of better days ahead.
And that promise is true. It’s not just wishful thinking. Better days are ahead! Whether those days come tomorrow, two years from tomorrow, or two centuries from tomorrow, better days will come. Faith helps us to see those better days, and hope helps us hold true until those days arrive.
There is always hope because there is always Christ. Let your hope in Christ kindle a fire of faith that promised blessings will be yours. Let your hope in Christ inspire you to share the light of your goodness with others. As you embrace your own personal ministry, you’ll see that light grow ever brighter and brighter. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Bask in the beauty
The rest and renewal you need won’t come to you on its own. You need to own your life and make what you need happen. That’s why every so often it’s good to separate yourself from your usual world and bask in the beauty of the world God gave you.
Refresh yourself in nature
Of course, the first thing that pops into the head of most people when I say that is nature. And yes, the natural world God created is filled with beauty. I for one am always moved by the majestic sight of real mountains. For me they represent so much strength I feel more confident and secure just being around them.
There’s also something refreshing in separating yourself from the artificial world people created and reconnecting yourself with the natural world God created. For some reason I just find it easier to get grounded when I immerse myself for a time in nature. There’s an extra renewal I gain when I reconnect with what’s most important while surrounded in natural beauty.
That’s why for the past few years I’ve held a tradition called Retreat. Every May I plan a day for being out in nature to meditate and write. The meditation helps me clear away everything not directly connected with the essence of my character, my true identity, and my purpose. Writing serves as an additional filter to clear away the bad. But writing also provides cement to solidify the good in place and fortify me to return to the artificial world renewed and ready to face the challenges that await.
Refresh yourself in the Lord
Of course, you don’t need to go into the woods on a special trip to reconnect with the essential. With enough intent, you can do that anywhere. And you should be getting that every week with the Sabbath.
I’ve often pondered on the words of the Lord to Moses: “...for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed” (Exodus 31:17). That final word refreshed has always caught my attention. The Sabbath should leave me feeling refreshed. I’ve come to learn that if I don’t feel refreshed from my Sabbath day, then I’m probably not keeping it very well.
And I find that’s more of a challenge as life goes on. My calling keeps me busy, and often I find so much needing my attention on Sundays I wonder if the day of rest isn’t a misnomer. But I’ve also found when I devote myself with intention to keep the Sabbath day, I do feel refreshed. I feel renewed and ready to tackle the challenges of another grinding week. There’s something very beautiful in that, and I can bask in that beauty every week.
Open yourself to beauty
There’s other beauty we can bask in regularly. For example, raising children alone challenges many single mothers, but I’ve heard many talk about moments when they realize how blessed they are to have their children. That’s beauty to bask in.
I could go on with other examples, but I think you get the point. We all have challenges in our lives, things we would rather do without. But we all also have great blessings, things we wouldn’t dream of not having. Whatever those blessings are, those tender mercies from the Lord are there to make your life more beautiful.
When you open your eyes to see the wonder all around you, you open yourself to wonderful possibilities of joy along your road in life. And you open the door to many more blessings God wants to give you if you will but open yourself to Him. So bask in the beauty you have all around you. Own your life and fill yourself with the refreshment and renewal you need. You’ll refresh yourself in the blessings you have around you. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Let faith guide you
The answer my stake president gave included a twist. He extended the ideas of agency and God’s respect for agency in a way that promotes faith in our use of agency. And the conclusion, if you honestly desire to do right, is to let faith guide you through whatever challenges you face in life.
We all have the choice of how we’ll act when confronted with challenges; that’s agency. And agency means not everyone will choose unicorns and rainbows. Some will choose to inflict hardship and even pain on others.
But agency is independent, meaning the choices others make don’t determine our own. We might choose in response to what others choose, but we don’t have to. We can make a completely irrational choice, because the agency we each have is independent.
That independence is vitally important because it transforms this life into a test to “prove [us] herewith, to see if [we] will do all things whatsoever the Lord [our] God shall command [us]” (Abraham 3:25). That independence allows every choice we make in life to be one of faith. Will we choose to exercise faith in God? Or will we choose a different path?
The question we ultimately face in the midst of any challenge is one of faith. In many cases, not knowing the end from the beginning contributes to the challenge confronting us. If we choose the path of faith, will we have a happy ending? That question speaks to the essential part of walking by faith; how could faith be faith if you always knew how your choice would result before you made it? In this way, every choice we make in life is one of faith.
When we view our choices through this lens, choosing faith becomes easier regardless of the challenge confronting us. For example, the older I get as an LDS single, the more I face the question of whether the blessings of marriage and family will ever be mine. My patriarchal blessing describes those promises, worded such that the fulfillment is in this life, not the next. But the older I get, the more single I seem to be and the less likely those promises seem to be true.
So what do I do? Do I continue in the path of faith believing in promises that seem less and less likely to come true with each passing day? Or do I surrender to doubt, discouragement, and despair in the belief those promises are not true? Ultimately my question of what to choose in the face of my challenge is a question of faith. Will I choose faith in God? Or will I choose another path?
You could extend that application to any challenge. Ultimately there comes a moment in any challenge when you must decide what you believe. Will you choose to believe God? Or will you choose to believe a different voice?
I’ve faced that point multiple times in my life. I haven’t been perfect, but ultimately I’ve always chosen to believe God, even when that choice meant great sacrifice or hardship. And God has always supported me. Moreover, God hasn’t just seen me through; the man I am on the other side has always been better than the one I was before.
Ultimately every choice you make is one of faith. Will you choose faith in God? Or will you choose a different path? Thinking on your life and remembering times when God supported you after you chose Him makes it easier to choose Him again. So let faith guide you through whatever challenge you face in your life. Walking in faith will open you to feel God’s love for you, see God’s hand move to support you, and allow God to make more out of your life than you can yourself. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Celebrate the best in you
Then I thought I might have the wrong focus. Maybe what I need to focus on, I thought, is focus. After all, Mother’s Day is hard for many single sisters because of where they place their focus. Your focus determines your reality, so when you focus on what’s missing, your reality feels like it’s missing something. When you focus on what’s wrong, your reality can’t help but feel wrong.
But when you focus on what’s right, your reality feels right. And that focus works not just for Mother’s Day but for every day. So instead of letting a holiday focus you on what’s wrong or missing, use that holiday to focus on what’s right. When you focus on the best parts of your life, it’s easier to celebrate the best in you.
Admittedly that’s a hard row to hoe when you’ve got an ideal you’re not even close to reaching pressed in your face at church. Many wards are stepping up and exercising more sensitivity to their single members, but many wards still have a lot of work to do. And that begs the question: What can LDS singles do when they find themselves in such a ward?
The worst that can happen is you have a horrible experience at church and then you go home and brood about it. If church wasn’t what it should have been, why would you torture yourself further by brooding about it? Your focus determines your reality, so wallowing in the muck of negative experience just brings you the muck of a negative reality.
Choose instead to focus on what’s right. If church wasn’t what it should’ve been, remember babes in sacrament meeting, go home, and move on. Have your own celebration that highlights what’s best in you. Refuse to focus on the negative, and your reality will refuse to be negative.
That may be hard, especially if you have a habit of immersing yourself in negativity. But like all new habits, actions become easier and more entrenched the more you practice them. Holidays that traditionally present challenge to singles also provide opportunities to rise above those challenges.
The key is to remember that practice does not make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect. You can practice how to approach something the wrong way, and you can practice it so much it becomes a habit. But in the end, all your habit will deliver you are less effective results. Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.
So if your habits produce less effective results, here’s some free advice: Change them! You have the power of agency. Use that power to play the victor, not the victim. Change what you need on the inside so you can more readily see the changes you want to see on the outside.
Whatever holiday comes to your door, others don’t have the final say in how you feel. You have the final say with the focus you choose for yourself. Control your focus, and you control your reality.
It’ll be hard if you haven’t practiced perfect, but that’s OK. That just means you need to keep trying. Keep reaching for the light and the positive choice. No matter what others decide, determine you will decide your focus. Determine you’ll celebrate the best in you.
Your focus will determine your reality regardless of what you choose. The universe obeys its laws irrespective of any of us. Time is continually moving forward. You can choose to use that time to embrace the negative or the positive.
The choice is yours, so make the positive choice. Choose to celebrate the best in you each and every day. By insisting on making your focus more and more positive, you’ll make your reality more and more positive. 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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