It helps me to remember I am not on my journey through life alone. But it helps even more to vocalize that to someone.
A couple of weeks ago I had an extended conversation with my stake president. Given my calling as his executive secretary, my recent struggles with singleness especially concerned him. But I found that vocalizing my faith to someone who shares it filled me with an extra measure of strength that I previously did not know.
And how I needed that strength! It’s one thing to believe the promises of the Lord when you seem to have all the time in the world. But as you age and that window of youthful opportunity gets smaller and smaller, it gets harder and harder to believe.
But whatever difficulty or ease we each may have in believing does not change the essential truth of His promises. That thought gives me courage, and so it can to you as well. The Lord will fulfill every single one of His promises to you [pun intended]. So great will be your blessing that, when that glorious day finally comes, you’ll wonder how it ever was that you doubted Him.
How do you believe that? How do you generate such faith in the Lord and in His promises that you continue to believe fervently even when everything around you seems to say the exact opposite?
You must first approach the Lord. We must walk in the ways of the Master Who still has power to calm the waves and the storms around us. Then you must take action. You can’t just wish and wait, expecting your blessings to come. To increase your faith, you must increase your action. To believe Him more, you must walk more in the covenant path.
As I reflect upon my own performance, I quickly see my shortcomings. That’s not surprising given my lifelong status as a walking construction zone. But perfection is not about performance; it’s about persisting towards proximity to Christ. As we keep trying to follow Him and come closer to Him, He gives us strength to endure well the time before our blessings come, whether that time be short or long.
In the post from two years ago, I said, “If all of us were to step back and observe the situation, we’d see that all fear does is prevent us from taking the next step in our journey. But whatever your fears are, you still control what response you will provide. Will you allow your fear to control you and cower from your next step? Or will you control you and take that next step?”
The moments I experience now try me more than the moments I encountered two years ago. But reading those words from two years ago now gives me added strength to endure well my more trying moments in the present and added hope my moments in the future will still be brighter and more glorious than I could ever imagine.
The Lord will grant you the tender mercies you need to face your fears just as He has for me. He will help you to trust Him. And when you truly trust Him, you can walk by faith even if your path is upon the very water that waves against you in the storm. When you trust Him, He will show you your diligence and patience will not go unrewarded. When you trust Him, He will make you more and more equal to whatever challenge confronts you. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
In that context, the future doesn’t look bright at all. I don’t have what most single LDS women seem to want, and my effort at acquiring those traits have been far from successful. In their eyes, I'm a dainty bird that can’t sing well. Why then even bother trying to sing?
Well, you're guaranteed to fail if you don't sing at all. And who knows what goodness your song, though poorly sung, will promote? So even if you sing poorly, still sing.
Choose your advantage
Emotions like hopelessness are real and legitimate. Yet following those emotions to their logical conclusion would lead me to where I cannot go.
In my heart, I know God loves me. I know He wants to bless me with every righteous blessing I desire and more. In fact, looking back on my life, I see He's worked tirelessly to bring me those desired blessings of companionship. He hasn't abandoned me. He has a plan for me and all of His children to progress in this life and in the eternities to come.
So why then, one may well ask, have those desired blessings of companionship not come? Well, in a word, it’s agency. People make choices. And because people aren't perfect, the choices they make aren’t often perfect either. Sometimes you'll make poor choices, and sometimes others will.
Yet the same agency allowing others to choose against you is the same agency allowing you to choose to your advantage. You can choose to improve. You can choose to learn and to practice honing your skills so that you sing better. But that won’t happen if you don’t sing. Even if you sing poorly, still sing.
Rely on Him
But, you may well ask, what good will that do me today? If I don't sing well enough right now, I won't be noticed. And then how will I have my desired blessings?
That's a legitimate question. Many suitors ignore pathways to their success because they're focused on fulfillment in the present rather than on potential in the future. But you get the same result if you never sing at all.
Moroni experienced a similar conundrum. With the abundance of time he had on his hands, he entertained hypothetical what-if scenarios. What if the Gentiles fail to have charity because my weakness in writing kept the scales of their agency from tipping towards charity? Wouldn't it be they didn’t have charity because of my weakness?
That argument mirrors the one we’re considering here. The Gentiles might not have charity whether Moroni writes in his weakness or chooses not to write. So why then write anything at all? Of course, the Lord had a very clear answer:*1
The Lord has worked wonders that make any weaknesses Moroni had moot. What's to say He won't work similar wonders for you and me? Whatever our weakness, God can turn the songs we sing into powerful performances. Even if you sing poorly, still sing.
Never stop singing
And even if you sing poorly, the more you sing, the better you’ll get at it. I remember once as a child being told by one of the other Primary children I didn’t sing very well. I should just shut up and spare everyone.
But I didn’t stop singing. Mostly I would sing to myself when alone — that childhood experience affected me — but I kept with it. Many years later in college, I tried out for a musical, hoping to join the choir. To my great surprise, I got the main part!
Even if you sing poorly, still sing. As they say, “The show isn’t over until the fat lady sings,” and for many of us singles, that moment is still far away. Though you may feel bereft of hope, strive on still. Focus on doing what you can do, keep doing what you can do, and one day you’ll surprise yourself as you exceed your wildest expectations. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Many LDS singles have habits of thinking that give zero consideration to that truth. Too often they put the cart before the horse by insisting that potential casual dates meet their marriage standards. This practice encourages equating dating with marriage, warping dating for everyone.
Online dating only magnifies that ill perspective. If you don’t make an overwhelming first impression with your profile — and primarily your photo — in the first two seconds, you’re done. Treating people like commodities just keeps everyone single.
Don’t close off possibilities
When you buy a commodity online, you expect what you buy to maintain its quality long after the purchase. A tool that works when you buy it should work years from now. Clothes you buy today should still look good years from now. Media that plays today should play problem-free years from now.
And that’s where treating online dating like commodity shopping breaks down. People aren’t products that never change. People will change over time. The person you marry today isn’t the person you have today but the person you will have 5, 10, 15, 20 years down the road.
But of course, none of that enters into our consideration when viewing online dating profiles. We don’t think in terms of potential and the direction people have for their lives. We think in terms of position and how well a candidate can satisfy us today.
In so doing, LDS singles often close themselves off from possibilities to have the very blessings they seek. When considering dating opportunities, we should consider direction more than just position. We need to see others as they will likely become.
Direction is more than position
We came to this mortal existence to grow towards perfection. Traveling on this path towards perfection means that none of us are perfect as we are now.
Yet our Heavenly Father doesn’t condemn us for not having yet completed our journey. He knows we’ll eventually arrive at our celestial destination if we maintain the proper direction. And He knows we can always change our direction.
How often LDS singles fail to take that perspective when dating! We too often prefer someone who provides present satisfaction over someone who’ll provide eternal satisfaction.
Case in point: Most aren’t attracted to overweight suitors. Yet being overweight is merely position. What about direction? There’s a world of difference between the overweight person stumbling through diet and exercise and the overweight person doing nothing except crying over why no one wants to love them as they are. With your help, that person you discount today could be more than satisfactory tomorrow.
Potential to change is not change
Of course, just because someone can change doesn’t mean they will change. For example, perpetrators of physical abuse can change, but that doesn’t mean you should trust them just because they can change. Potential for changing direction isn’t the same as actually changing direction.
That’s why you must examine what people do when assessing their direction. What we do every day determines whether we end in one destination or another. And small changes today can result in large differences tomorrow.
No one’s perfect in this life. We all miss the mark somewhere. But that doesn’t mean we always will. Your actions today can build a case that over time demonstrates a more positive direction, convincing those with eyes to see just what a find you really are.
Seeing others for their potential can reveal doors of opportunity you didn’t know existed. Because no one’s perfect, the eternal companion you seek isn’t perfect. Learning to value others for what they will become because of their direction may help you find that companion who actually fulfills your needs more than you could ever imagine. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Whatever the reason, I'm learning not to question promptings to do good but rather simply to follow them. I'm learning to trust, without seeing the end, that the end will be better than I ever could have imagined it. I'm learning to trust that the blessings I long for most in my life will come, as Elder Holland declared, by and by.
See beyond your pain
It's easy for all of us to get so absorbed in our own trials that we lose perspective. And with that loss of perspective often comes also the loss of another sight — one that sees the way forward.
Many singles feel so burdened by the loneliness and heartache of singles life that all they see in their future is an eternity of loneliness and heartache. Such an outcome should not surprise. After all, your focus becomes your reality.
Singles who know the depth of that despair from seeming ever so out of reach of desired blessings intimately know loneliness and heartache. So of course singles would feel comforted and appreciative of Elder Holland's early and earnest recognition of that familiarity.
But notice what immediately followed. Elder Holland was just as eager and earnest in recognizing the depth of despair many trapped in a lonely marriage feel, seemingly ever so out of reach of escape from their familiarity with loneliness and heartache.
Without recognizing the pain others feel, it's easy to become so absorbed in our own pain that we can't see anything else. Our pain becomes so enlarged we think it not only fills our world but that it is the world.
Trust in Him always
That's one of the comforting aspects of Elder's Holland's remarks. He reminds us that, regardless of our individual situations, we all feel pain. We all ache under the burden of trial. We all long for relief.
Yet we often pray for freedom and relief on our schedule rather than for faith to rely on God's. As we plead with heaven to lighten our load, our pleadings will be answered, though sometimes not how or when we would wish.
As Elder Holland reminds us all,
But then Elder Holland cut straight to the truth at the crux of the matter.
How did people come to believe that all suffering is necessarily bad? Whatever its source, Elder Holland rightly suggests some suffering isn't bad. In fact, I dare to declare some suffering is necessarily good.
Rise above your trouble
No doubt those steeped in their own pain will find it difficult to believe any suffering could be good, let alone necessarily good. As already noted, it's easy to be so absorbed in one's own troubles that it's difficult to see how those troubles could ever be stepping stones to tranquility.
And yet that's precisely why some pain is necessarily good. Henry Ward Beecher once said our troubles are "the tools by which God fashions us for better things." It is through our trials that we become refined and more of our best selves. It is through our trials that we develop the characteristics of godhood. It is through our trials that we come to know God.
How else could He be known? Elder Holland says as much when he declared,
We all have pain in this life. But when we look beyond our own pain to see the pain in others, we find it easier to see our own in perspective. We find it easier to reach out to help others. We find it easier to see meaning and purpose in our own suffering. And we find it easier to trust God through bad seasons as well as good ones. We find it easier to walk in faith and confidence that the promised blessings will come to us by and by. And that will bring us 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 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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