Another two years later, I need those words. I find myself challenged even more with a hospital stay. It’s a new experience for me, as is needing any surgery, let alone two. All this has been unexpectedly thrust upon me. Yet even in these challenging circumstances, I can still choose my response. And so can you. No matter what life gives, when you choose to act, you can fight your fears with faith.
Pray and act
My most recent trouble began with abdominal pain, coming hard, fast, and sharp one afternoon. It seemed to wane as the night came, so I thought I might sleep it off.
But the pain returned very soon after awakening. Having recently been diagnosed with an ulcer, I thought the pain might be excess stomach acid. I took a couple of antacid tablets and waited, but the pain continued on. And it was so massive, I couldn’t ignore it. But I didn’t know what to do.
So I prayed for help. A voice I felt more than I heard whispered, “Go to the emergency room.” I looked at the time and wondered if I shouldn’t try to tough it out for three or four more hours, because then the clinic, which costs less than the emergency room, would be open. Again the voice whispered, “Go to the emergency room.” So I got dressed, put my shoes on, and went.
There was certainly no sense of emergency in the people working there. Eventually I learned my previous diagnosis of an ulcer was not correct. My real problem is pancreatitis, a severe inflammation of the pancreas caused, in my case, by gallstones. But here’s where it gets tricky. Some of those gallstones have traveled into the bile duct connecting the liver with the pancreas. Those must be removed before the gallbladder. Due to differences in how surgeons enter the body for each of these tasks, two surgeries are necessary.
Make your choice
The universe isn’t without a sense of irony. I was thinking just the other day very little in my life is actually going my way. Everything seems a challenge, and I’m continually fighting from the edge of a cliff hoping not to fall over the edge into despair. Then I get this.
As if that isn’t bad enough, the first surgery’s scheduled for Monday. Yeah, that’s right. I’m going to be under the knife on Halloween. I think I’ve had my fill of irony!
Still, the choice we all have remains for me. Where will I place my focus? And what action will I choose? Sure, I have fears. In addition to ones stemming from current events, some of the same fears that plagued me four years ago continue to haunt me today. That’s because I haven’t taken sufficient action to build the faith needed to conquer those fears.
And so it goes for us all. When we focus on what we lack, we encourage inaction, and faith being a principle of action cannot thrive, leaving fear to reign. But when we focus on what we can do and take action, always taking the next step we can take, we build the faith we need to fight fear.
Don’t slow down
It’s so easy to step back and surrender to fear. So often we all choose habits of maintaining the status quo rather than consciously maintaining our momentum towards our best life. But the easy choice rarely leads to great reward.
Faith is built only through action. To have the faith the face your fears, you must act. Initially, any action will do, just to get some momentum. Once you start building enough momentum through any action, then you can shift your direction so you move towards your best life.
When you choose to act, you can fight your fears with faith. The Lord hasn’t given up on you, so why should you? Take His strength, act in that strength, and no matter what comes your way, you can truly believe great things are in store for you. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
That attitude can greatly bless the lives of us LDS singles as we interact with each other. Too often we see opportunities to interact through the lens of dating, which often pulls us away from blessing others’ lives. Seeing through the lens of friendship, we’ll more often provide needed assistance. It’s time for LDS singles to re-hoist friendship in dating and singles groups.
In the video, John admits he couldn’t “fix” Troy, nor did he attempt to. In fact, the casual observer might conclude John didn’t do much at all.
John certainly wanted to help, but given everything so many others were doing, John didn’t see much for him to do. Then he started doing something more of us need to do more often; he listened. John invited Troy to ride with him in his truck and let Troy say whatever he wanted. John simply listened.
There’s probably a lot the video doesn’t show. But the simple act of listening is beyond profound. We all have a basic human need to be heard and to feel understood. By not directing Troy or trying to give him something, John showed complete respect for Troy’s agency. And by simply listening to Troy, John declared he would stand by Troy regardless of the path Troy chose or what pace he pursued. That’s the mark of a true friend.
What blessing could we be to other LDS singles if we simply listened more? Instead of interacting only with those whom we want to date, what if we interacted with everyone with an interest in understanding them or simply letting them be heard? By putting aside the personal agenda, we re-hoist friendship to its rightful valued place.
Many LDS singles see a duality in their local Church community, especially in geographic wards. There’s the singles and the marrieds. It’s an extremely common perspective among singles.
But the story in the video takes a different perspective. The two groups there were the grieving (Troy and his family) and the supporters (everyone else trying to help). That’s significant. John viewed Troy as a brother, not someone fundamentally different. If we LDS singles could see one another more as brothers and sisters, we could re-hoist friendship in a new culture of togetherness.
Now, I know some of you are saying. “Yeah, but John and Troy are both married, so of course John would see Troy as one of his group.” Perhaps, but John could’ve found a substantial enough difference if he looked for it. The point is he didn’t. He saw Troy as just as much a person as he was, and that view allowed him to feel more compassion and more desire to be the true friend he was.
John also involved others in demonstrating support for Troy. The scene where John and the group present the jersey to Troy just jerks my tears. Then there’s what appears to be his ward releasing balloons in celebration of his son’s birthday. As John continued standing by Troy, many other opportunities to show support probably presented themselves. And they all helped Troy along his path.
What if we singles involved one another in supporting each other? What if, instead of everyone doing their own thing, everyone reached out to include everyone? What if we each told each other, “Come talk with me,” “Come sit with me”, and “Come do what I’m doing with me”? Real friends bring everyone in. That may be the best support for singles dealing with their pain and grief, many of whom struggle unbeknownst to those around them.
Let’s re-hoist friendship in all our interactions with each other. By listening to one another, seeing one another as brothers and sisters, and involving others in building community, we not only embrace but also embody true friendship. By bringing ourselves closer to each other, we bring ourselves closer to God. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Approach with intention
When you pray, what do you intend the result to be? Surely we can all think of prayers we offered simply because it was time to pray. We had a habit of praying upon getting out of bed, for instance, and we were simply going through the motions when the time came.
And what resulted? We could cross morning prayers off our to-do list. When you think about it, that was the result intended by just going through the motions. If all you wanted was to go through the motion, then in the end that’s what you got — a completed motion.
That approach with prayer — or anything else in life — will never result in a growing relationship with anyone, let alone the Lord. To have the result of an improved relationship, your approach must invite that result. You must approach with the intention of securing your desired outcome. That doesn’t mean merely wanting your desired outcome as you approach the moment. That means your approach leverages the moment to turn your intention into your desired result.
How would your prayers be different if you approached them with the intention of building a relationship with the Lord? Would you use the same tired phrases over and over? Would you deliver a laundry list of desires? Or would you open your heart, share your hopes and fears, present more of a conversation than a monologue, and spend more time listening for the Lord’s voice after you concluded your prayer?
Schedule your intentions
Scripture study goes the same way. Your time with the scriptures will build a closer relationship with the Lord when you approach it with intention. Don’t just read. Actively look for the Lord in the scriptures. Seek Him out by trying to understand His character, His qualities, His perspective, and His perfection through the written words.
Thus it goes for anything in life. Don’t just collide with the waves in the waters of the moment. Approach the moment before you with intention. Planning the moment in advance can help you do that.
Modern life tends to have so many currents pulling you in so many different directions that, unless you’re intentional about your day, opportunities for improvement will pass you by and you’ll find yourself no closer to your goals and dreams. It’s hard to approach the moment with intention when that moment doesn’t happen. Schedule it so it will.
Make the time
That’s not to say every moment you plan will go as planned. Life is about change and learning how to adapt to change. But if you don’t schedule time for producing the results you want, you’re not likely to take the actions that will give you the results you desire.
Thus, to develop a relationship with the Lord, schedule the time you will spend building that relationship. But if you really want to get serious, schedule not just time for activity but time to become more like Him. What will you need to do to become more holy? Pray with real intent? Schedule that time. Search Him out in the scriptures? Make that time. Devote yourself more in His holy house, a.k.a. the temple? Schedule that time. Spend more time serving others? Schedule that time.
Take time to be holy. As you schedule your moments and then approach those moments with intention, you’ll bit by bit strengthen your relationship with the Lord. You’ll feel more of His love, which will strengthen you as you confront your challenges in life. You can then approach with intention every other area of your life — your career, your social life, your dating, whatever — and start having more of the results you intend. That’s not just going through the motions of life. That’s living your life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Elder Christofferson approached belonging from a doctrinal perspective with practical application to belonging. That approach confirmed what we’ve been discussing here for years on Joy in the Journey Radio. But it also enlightened my understanding of what it means to belong. It’s easier to feel belonging when we truly understand the doctrine of belonging.
See the commonalities
Elder Christofferson begins by listing the three parts of the doctrine of belonging: “the role of belonging in gathering the Lord's covenant people, the importance of service and sacrifice in belonging, and the centrality of Jesus Christ to belonging.” Let’s talk about how each of these parts relates to LDS singles.
As the Lord gathers His covenant people across the world, we’d expect, as Elder Christofferson rightly notes, Church membership to become more diverse. We see that diversity today in every conceivable way, including life situation. This diversity offers great strength and richness but also great challenge as our biological hardwiring influences us to compare ourselves with others in order to assess how “normal” we are.
Without context, such comparisons can demoralize and depress us. Elder Christofferson illustrated this effect in the story of Jody King, a married woman confronting infertility. As I listened to the heartrending emotions expressed in Sister King’s experience, I recognized a great parallel. You could change the details of her story from would-be-mother to would-be spouse, and the emotions would stay the same. We need to see less of the details differentiating us and more of our commonality as children of God.
Elder Christofferson recognized that need when he taught,
We too should care about what others around us are becoming more than what they are today.
Serve one another
In addition, we gain a sense of belonging within the Church as we serve and contribute to the larger Church community. This makes obvious sense and yet the realization of its truth escapes many of us precisely because it is so simple.
We feel like we belong to a larger group when we do what those in the group do. Singles don’t do everything marrieds do (or at least they shouldn’t), and that distinction highlights the earlier distinction of identity (“I’m single and you’re married”) that destroys any feeling of belonging.
But serving one another is something everyone can do. Being true to as many covenants as one’s made is something everyone can do. When everyone serves everyone else and turns their focus there, we see ourselves more doing what the group does and foster the sense of belonging we crave.
Elder Christofferson recognized this truth as he shared,
How often have we singles focused excessively on our own unmet needs? Think back to such a moment in your life and consider whether you felt like you belonged to the larger Church community in that moment. However legitimate your unmet needs, focusing there always leads to feelings of isolation and abandonment, not belonging.
Come unto Christ
Of course, the highest and most important sense of belonging comes through Christ. We best promote that sense of belonging by nourishing a personal relationship with Him. We must spend time with Him daily.
As I think back upon my many years of LDS singles life, I can remember many struggles with finding acceptance within my peer group. What helped me the most in those times was remembering He Who “came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). Leveraging my struggle to feel closer to the Lord has helped me feel more belonging to Him, the only sense of belonging that really matters in the end.
Elder Christofferson displayed that perspective as he declared,
LDS singles must live the doctrine of belonging in order to thrive and experience maximum joy despite their circumstances. As we identify as members of the covenant, strive to keep those covenants while serving one another, and spend time daily nourishing our relationship with the Lord, we can gain a sense of belonging to Him and His Church. 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 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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