See the opportunity
Trials come to everyone in mortality, and LDS singles are certainly no exception there. Being single in a family centered culture is challenging to say the least. If you don’t think it is, you’ve been living under a rock and need to get out more.
We all know our trials can help us to grow and become what we otherwise couldn’t become. They’re stepping stones in our journey to become more like our Heavenly Father.
Yet that knowledge can be cold comfort to someone in the midst of an especially challenging trial. We can focus on the adversity so much that we fail to see any hope for the future. The light at the end of the tunnel appears to be an oncoming train and not the other side of the mountain.
Yet there is always hope because there is always Christ. He will not leave us nor forsake us so long as we are true to Him. He will provide the tender mercies we need to carry on despite our adversities. He will give us eyes of faith to see the opportunity amidst the obstacle.
Opposition is essential
Many of us fail to see the opportunity because we’re fixated on the obstacle. Sometimes we need to take a step back to see it.
And yes, every obstacle we encounter in life comes with an opportunity. It’s eternal law. As Lehi taught his son Jacob, “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11).
Opposites allow us to make sense out of our experiences. We don’t know the sweet unless we also know the bitter. We don’t know pleasure if we don’t know pain. Everything has its opposite.
That’s very inspiring when it comes to adversity. Opposites mean that for everything we encounter in life that would seem to hold us back, there must also be something that can help us to move forward. With every obstacle comes an opportunity.
We need eyes to see
Just because that opportunity is there, however, doesn’t mean we’ll automatically see it. Often we need eyes of faith to see the opportunity amidst the obstacle.
My favorite story in this regard is of Enoch. When the Lord called him to preach repentance to the people, Enoch could see only the obstacle. He protested, “Why is it that I have found favor in thy sight, and am but a lad, and all the people hate me; for I am slow of speech; wherefore am I thy servant?” (Moses 6:31).
The Lord’s response is a classic example of confidence and faith:
As good as that was, the best was still to come. The Lord instructs Enoch to anoint his eyes with clay, promising that then he would see. He did so, and the vision that unfolded before him was magnificent.
Enoch went on to be a powerful voice for righteousness. So powerful was his voice, in fact, that
Not bad for a lad who thought himself slow of speech!
Like Enoch, we often discount our own potential when faced with challenging obstacles. Yet also like Enoch, we can come to the Lord Who will show us what we can become and help us to see the opportunity amidst our obstacles.
We can find opportunity
Three weeks ago I touched on seeing the opportunity amidst the obstacle while discussing Elder John C. Pingree Jr.’s October 2017 General Conference address “I Have a Work for Thee.” Elder John C. Pingree shared two examples.
The first was a man laid off from his job as a successful human resources professional. This man saw the opportunity amidst the obstacle. He used his knowledge and experience to start a business helping others to find work. Having lost his job himself, he understood the emotional turmoil that comes with that situation. That understanding gave him an edge over other job placement agencies whose workers never had the experience of losing a job.
The second example was a young couple whose child was stillborn. This couple saw the opportunity amidst the obstacle. Their experience gave them an understanding of stillbirth they would not otherwise have. They leveraged that understanding to provide counseling and other support for other parents who experience stillbirth. Because of their own experience, they know exactly what these parents need.
With every obstacle that would hold us back comes an opportunity that can propel us forward and bless the lives of others in the process. But we need eyes of faith to see that opportunity. That’s why it’s so important to partner with the Lord. He can help us to see what’s already all around us. When we see the opportunity, we can overcome the obstacle. And that will bring more joy in our journey.
Own every part
We’ve discussed ways LDS singles can overcome the challenges of LDS singles life. Dating becomes more simple and fun when we act out a proper understanding of the dating journey. Learning to forgive others along the way can lighten the load on our journey. Partnering with the Lord can help us understand our gifts and fulfill our own personal ministry. And holding fast to our covenants while being industrious can help create our happiest time.
Yet all this assumes we assume ownership of our lives. No one will create your best life for you. You must create it.
Fortunately the Lord wants you to have your best life and is willing to help you create it. But first you must accept responsibility for however your life turns out. You must own every part of your life.
You have the power
Owning your life must precede living your best life. Failing to accept responsibility for how your life turns out means assigning that responsibility elsewhere. And that leaves you playing the victim.
Confident people never play the victim. Victimization isn’t a position of power. Victims are victims because they’re powerless. Playing the victim means giving away your power to someone else. And yes, you had power over your life before you gave it away. It’s called agency.
The Lord has declared, “For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward” (D&C 58:28). We make our lives by the choices we make for ourselves. Inasmuch as we choose well, we’ll not lose our reward.
That’s the law of the harvest. We reap what we sow. Any other result would place the universe out of balance, and God would cease to be God.
It is your fault
I know what some of you are thinking. “It’s not my fault no one ever married me.” “It’s not my fault I got divorced.” “It’s not my fault I’m widowed.” In short, “It’s not my fault I’m single.”
Actually, it is. And the sooner you own all of your life by accepting your part in the events that have brought you to where you are, the sooner you can move past your challenges and live life with confidence and satisfaction.
Sure, other people make decisions that directly impact your life. But your decisions — the ones you make for yourself — also impact your life. Those decisions are the only ones you can control. You empower yourself by placing your focus there.
I’m sorry if you’ve never married. But you chose how to present yourself, what attitude to broadcast, and what direction to take in life. You can’t convince me those factors didn’t influence others when they decided against you.
I’m sorry if you’re divorced. But if you’re completely honest, you’ll admit you contributed to your failed marriage. Even if (and given how imperfect everyone is, that’s a really BIG if) you did everything right, who decided to get married? Yes, you married a jerk, but who chose that? You chose to enter a marriage that ended how it ended.
I’m sorry if you’re widowed. But again, who decided to marry your spouse? You chose to marry someone who died before you do. Had you known that would come, you might have chosen differently. But you couldn’t see then all the consequences your choice would have today. We often make such choices in life. And now you have the consequences from your choice.
You can be free
This approach may feel incredibly harsh, but it’s also incredibly empowering and liberating. Having once tasted it, you’ll never want to go back.
Why is owning every part of your life empowering and liberating? If your choices can make an undesirable life, then your choices can also make a desirable one. Your past doesn’t determine your future. Your choices in the present determine your future. You can make better choices and get better results.
Again, the choices of others do affect the course of our lives. But placing any focus there is unproductive because you decide only for yourself. Your choices brought you the life you have today. You must accept that truth to move forward.
Accepting that truth doesn’t mean wallowing in self-pity or punishing yourself constantly for choosing poorly. Just accept your choices had their consequences, learn from the experience, and move on. It’s really no more complicated than that.
Own every part of your life. Don’t allow failure to take responsibility for anything in your life hold you back from having your best life. When you take that attitude, you can move forward with confidence towards that best life. And that will bring more joy in your journey.
Never a happier time
Over the years, I’ve thought about Mormon’s description of the Nephite people in Alma 50:23: “But behold there never was a happier time among the people of Nephi, since the days of Nephi, than in the days of Moroni, yea, even at this time, in the twenty and first year of the reign of the judges.” More recently, I’ve pondered upon these questions:
It’s no surprise to learn Mormon picks this time out of the roughly 1000-year history of his people. His descriptions of Captain Moroni reveal Mormon as a huge fan of the young commander. Giving his son the same name, Mormon likely admired him as a sort of mentor, since they both held the same military position.
But is Mormon really picking this time as the happiest among the entire Nephite history because this is when their equivalent to Captain America had his adventures in mortality? Again, what was it about this time that made it the happiest? Let’s examine that.
Preparing for war
The year 69 AD saw the Nephite nation living under the threat of war. Just two years previous, Amalickiah was defeated after gaining the Lamanite throne by deceit and waging an unsuccessful military campaign to subjugate the Nephites.
Captain Moroni spent the following year preparing his nation for war. He knew Amalickiah would return, and he wanted his people to be ready. They built new, fortified cities as well as fortified those cities already in existence.
Those preparations continued on into the next year, the time when “there never was a happier time.” We don’t know much else about that year. The people were busy preparing for war. How does preparing for war create the happiest time ever?
Mormon’s commentary may provide a clue. He gets sidetracked talking about how Nephite history has verified the Lord’s promises. Troubles always came to the people when they forgot God and abandoned their covenants.
On the other hand, those who remembered their covenants were always delivered. Immediately after this observation, Mormon comments that this time was the happiest ever since the days of Nephi. Could this observation have something to do with creating that happy situation?
Remembering the founder
Nephi himself described his people in his day living “after the manner of happiness” (2 Nephi 5:27). What exactly does that mean?
Nephi had separated himself from his older brothers because they sought to kill him. Nephi didn’t leave alone; he took with him “those who believed in the warnings and the revelations of God” (2 Nephi 5:6). In other words, Nephi left with those who wanted to make and keep sacred covenants with God.
And what did they do once they established their separate community? Nephi’s words explain it all:
Here Nephi describes two main activities:
We see the same activities among the Nephites in 69 AD. They were certainly industrious as they built new cities and fortified existing ones. And Mormon’s commentary suggests they were probably turning to the Lord. Why else would he have thought to insert that commentary?
Taking a lesson
What lesson here can LDS singles apply to their lives? Even though they lived under the threat of war, the Nephites were happiest when they were mindful about keeping their covenants with the Lord and industrious in meeting their temporal needs. LDS singles can follow that example.
We singles may lack the covenant of marriage in our lives, but we’ve made other covenants at baptism and in the temple. Holding fast to those covenants we have made can provide strength to endure well the challenges of our lives.
Temple service in particular can provide perspective to see the opportunity amidst the obstacles. Nephi mentioned having a temple, and I’m sure it wasn’t just for decoration. We singles should do what we can to include the temple more in our own lives.
We singles can also be industrious in meeting our temporal needs. This industrious attitude can and should extend to our own personal ministries. God gives each of us gifts so we can contribute to His work. By focusing on utilizing those gifts in our own personal ministry, we bless our own lives by blessing the lives of others.
The Nephites lived their happiest time when they filled their days with devotion to the Lord and hard work. We LDS singles can have our happiest time when we follow that example. And that will bring more joy in our journey.
God has a work for you
Although Elder Pingree does not confine his remarks to singles, engaging a personal ministry can fill LDS singles with strength to face their challenges. God has given every one of us gifts to help us with the divine assignments that comprise our personal ministry. Great joy awaits those who embrace those gifts to assist God in His work.
Discover your gifts
It’s OK if you don’t know what your gifts are. Discovering them is part of the process of embracing them. Through the work discovery requires, you’ll become more endeared to your gifts and can more fully appreciate them.
I love Elder Pingree’s counsel to “approach decision points in our lives—like what to study, what to do for work, or where to live—in the context of helping others.” Such an outward focus aligns well with the support network LDS singles groups should be. More importantly, this approach follows the Savior’s example.
A priesthood holder giving a blessing never places his hands on his own head. Rather he places his hands only on the heads of others. That’s because the priesthood is all about serving others. This is how the Savior fulfilled His personal ministry. And it’s how we can fulfill ours as well.
Elder Pingree taught,
Partnering with the Lord can help us discover our gifts and then develop them.
We’ve all heard adversity has positive benefits. One such benefit is help in discovering our gifts. Experiencing our adversity gives us knowledge obtainable only through that experience. That knowledge gives us opportunity to help others who experience similar adversity in their lives.
Elder Pingree told the story of a human resources professional who was laid off. This man started his own company aimed at helping others find employment. In this way he used his experience to serve others. And in the process, he found a more meaningful career for himself.
That story reflects my own in developing this forum. A woman I asked out brushed me off without really getting to know me. After almost 20 years of that treatment, I decided to start a blog on 12/12/12 that could help others.
What started as a simple release valve has grown into so much more. Although the lack of comments to these blog posts suggests otherwise, hundreds of LDS singles have been helped to meet their challenges with faith in the Lord and hope for their future. One such single whom I called Lydia expressed special appreciation for that help.
Many more LDS singles will be helped. Next year, Joy in the Journey Radio goes live with a weekly Internet broadcast. Between that and the social media outlets to come, I’m hoping to bless the lives of many more LDS singles throughout the world. Can you see how using a focus on others amidst adversity has helped me to discover my gifts as well as pursue my personal ministry?
This is what happens when you partner with the Lord to pursue your own personal ministry. He can show you your gifts and how to develop them. And He can strengthen you as you use those gifts in advancing your own personal ministry, which is really just your individual threads in the great tapestry of His work.
Satan will of course attempt to dissuade us from contributing to that mighty cause. Sin may be his most frequently used tool, but other avenues at his disposal can be equally effective. He can distract us with a preoccupation on worldly things or discourage us with feelings of inadequacy or perceptions that our work is too great for us to accomplish.
However, as we walk in faith by keeping our focus on following the Savior, we need not allow Satan to prevent us from fulfilling our personal ministry. We can “be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of [our] own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness” (D&C 58:27).
And it need not end there. I love the quote from President Russell M. Nelson that Elder Pingree shared in his address.
When we partner with the Lord, we can do anything He requires. Our personal ministries can further His work and bless the lives of countless others. And that will bring more joy in our 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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