Today will soon be yesterday
Time passes by so quickly. It seems only yesterday I came home from my mission. Yet in reality it’s been not one day but almost 10,000 days — 27 years. That number staggers my imagination.
And what changes have occurred in all that time? I’ve grown in ways I never imagined when I looked into the future 27 years ago. Many are quite positive, but many have me living far beneath my dreams. Comparing what I saw for myself then with what I see in myself now reveals vast differences that beg the questions: How did I get here? How did it come to this?
Many LDS singles ask themselves similar questions as they take stock of themselves. They live far beneath the dreams they had when they were younger. And with the world becoming ever more chaotic, they wonder how those dreams have any chance of coming true.
Much lies outside your own individual power to change, but much more remains within it. As President Nelson reminds us,
That last part — how you spend your time each day — is key. Your best life is the collection of results you desire. Results come only from action. And every action, in order to exist, must occupy space and time. You can’t change the past, and the future’s always a day away. All you have is here and now. And it turns out that’s all you need to begin living your best life.
It’s time to start moving
Far too many of us hold ourselves back from our best life. We focus on the obstacles instead of the opportunities. We keep looking for and listening to excuses instead of ways to move forward. And without forward motion, we’ll never develop the momentum we need to push through tough times.
Some hear these arguments and decide to fool themselves. They leverage lessons from their past to formulate brilliant plans for moving forward. They feel good about themselves after spending inordinate amounts of time planning and preparing. But those good feelings never translate into a new life. Their actions don’t deliver the results of their dreams but rather trick their minds into thinking they’ve done something substantial when in reality they haven’t.
President Nelson understood that situation. He taught,
It’s forward momentum that keeps you moving from one success to another. Momentum carries you through life’s rough seasons and makes your dreams come true. And the only way to get momentum is to start moving and then keep moving. Now is the time to start moving.
Right now is the time
Everything we talk about on Joy in the Journey Radio is meant to help LDS singles live their best life. And all of it will mean absolutely nothing for you unless you wield your power of agency to do what you can with what you have right here right now.
All you have is this moment. When you waste it, nothing in your life changes, at least not for the better. So don’t waste it. Begin gathering momentum now. Live within your covenants more completely now. Make more time for the temple now. Take more action towards the results you want in life now.
Now is the time because now is the only time you have. Once the present becomes the past, you can’t change it. And when you allow enough present moments to become past regrets you can’t change, your present life falls far below your dreams, leaving you to wonder how you ever got there to begin with.
Don’t wait, and don’t doubt yourself. Start taking action towards your best life. Now is the time. When you diligently take advantage of each present moment, they’ll become past successes that taken together will lift you into your best life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Perhaps most importantly, it really made me think about the perspective driving many LDS dating decisions and the resulting challenge it creates. Far too many filter decisions about not just who to date but who they talk to through the perspective of the natural man or natural woman. Seen only through those eyes, we’ll never see the truth that everyone is beautiful.
A demanding lifetime pursuit
Let’s start with a disclaimer: In the words of Indiana Jones’s father, “I’m as human as the next man.” Conquering the natural man or the natural woman takes a lifetime, so we shouldn’t expect anyone to be completely covenant men or covenant women during their dating journey.
But we can expect improvement. When I compare the man I am today with the man I was 10 or 20 years ago, those men were definitely more aligned with the natural man. I’m not completely a covenant man, but I’ve made gains in that direction, and I’ve got the receipts to back that up.
That said, I still have work to do. That’s part of the value I gained from watching this documentary. When I first saw a full body shot of Lizzie, I recoiled. I wasn’t seeing the beautiful soul of the person within, just the shell of flesh and bone that encased it. The portion of the natural man still within me found that shell repulsive.
A common blind spot
I’d expect most LDS singles to respond similarly because that’s how most people respond. Natural men and women see only the exterior. Those inner qualities of character which have value in eternity have no value to the natural man and natural woman.
When that natural mindset drives dating decisions, LDS singles will always discount worthy potential companions who’d be ideally suited for them because those options aren’t “top shelf.” They could be sitting next to the very person who could make them maximally happy and never know it.
Worse still, most LDS singles aren’t even aware of how natural their mindset is. They equate conquering the natural mindset with keeping the standards, and because they keep the standards, they don’t see themselves as a natural man or woman. That self-image blinds them from seeing how well their dating decisions actually align with the natural mindset. And it’s that mindset obstructing their dating journey. They’re blind, and they think they see just fine.
A more joyful view
That’s where this documentary enters stage right. Natural men value youth and external beauty. Lizzie has neither, so of course she’s single. But as I listened to her story with an open mind and an open heart, I experienced a transformation. I began seeing more and more the beauty living inside her. And that inner beauty colored my view of her exterior. After an hour and 18 minutes, what at first seemed repulsive had become welcome in my inner circle.
What changed it for me can change it for LDS singles in their dating journey. Far too many insist so much on having “top shelf” they won’t even give the time of day to anyone perceived to be less. But the truth is everyone is more. And you’ll never see that vision until you embrace an open mind and heart while spending sufficient time with someone.
Everyone is beautiful. Acting on that belief at first is an act of faith. You act as though you see that truth even though you don’t. Pressing forward in that walk of faith, eventually you reap the reward of your diligence and patience as the vision opens up to you. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Faith clarifies vision
We all judge too much by what we see directly around us, and this feature especially manifests itself in dating. Far too often LDS singles look around for someone they’d like to date and, not seeing what they define as acceptable, quickly become discouraged. That scene repeated often enough leads to hopelessness in the future.
Bright futures start with faith. Faith helps you see what’s there but not readily seen. In the context of dating, this could mean, first, you don’t see that acceptable candidates around you because they aren’t doing what you normally do and going where you normally go. When you branch out and see new vistas, you’re more likely to cross paths with them. The world is a bigger place than your own backyard.
Second, faith helps you see the person you discounted may be the one you’re looking for. So many singles insist on having the “perfect” partner that they reject knowing many less-than-top-shelf candidates who’d make good partners. Falsely assuming only the best can produce joy in life has kept and continues to keep many LDS singles single long than need be.
Action feeds power
Lack of hope in the future often attends feeling powerless. A focus there will lead only to despair. To change your reality, you must change your focus. Instead of focusing on the “evidence” for why what you want won’t happen, seek out reasons to believe.
Those reasons to believe will be easier to embrace when you take proper action. I’ve never seen anyone busy working to make his or her dreams a reality feeling powerless, and neither have you. That’s because it’s impossible. When you busy yourself with the business of doing, you’re so immersed in evidence of your own power you can’t feel powerless. It’s when you’re not doing anything that feelings of powerlessness can take hold.
Start feeling that power and savoring your life by listing what makes up your best life. If you could have your best life, what would it look like? What would you be doing? Put those activities on your list. Then start to fill your calendar with those activities.
So if you think your best life involves horse riding, great. When are you going to ride that horse? If you think your best life involves learning how to crochet, great. When will you learn that? Whatever you want your life to be, start doing what you can to live that life. Don’t let what you lack prevent you from embracing — and finding joy in — what you already have.
Partner with Him
While you’re making that list, don’t forget to partner with the Lord. When you include Him in crafting your best life, you’ll get there much more easily than if you go it alone. He might even help you see that what you think is your best life really isn’t. Make the course correction He suggests, and you’ll not leave any joy on the table.
The key to maximizing joy in life is focusing on fundamentals. Far too many LDS singles focus on finding ways to cross paths with that special someone, all the while forgetting that if they aren’t agreeable enough, no quantity of paths crossed will produce the desired result. When you focus first on living your best life as much as you can, you make yourself more agreeable and your life more inviting. That life is also the more joyful one, and that joy will only increase your attractiveness to a potential companion.
The future really is as bright as your faith. When you focus on fundamentals, you can take more effective action. More effective action produces more effective results. More effective results will help you feel more powerful and desirous to do more, and thus the cycle continues ever upward. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
My release augments my discouragement with the attitude my stake has for singles. The older couple serving in place of our non-existing reps were organizing an occasional activity before their release. Now there’s nothing. How can I believe my leaders really care about singles when I don’t see any action on the singles front?
Now enter my philosophical moment. Reflecting on much of what I share here on Joy in the Journey Radio, I’ve seen the need to take my own medicine. It’s time to own my life, and the first step is acknowledging the truth: I don’t have the results I want because of choices I made. In the end, what you think, what you give, and what you are determine what you get in life.
What you think
We often highlight on this program the connection between how you think and the results you get. As my recent experience shows, it’s one that is all too easy to forget. Having that idea infused into your nature isn’t the factory default setting.
That natural default is to blame the outside — blame people outside of yourself, blame outside circumstances, blame whatever lies outside your control. But by placing responsibility for your life outside yourself, you also place outside yourself the power to change that life. That’s why you’ll never have your best life if you don’t own your life. Until you take responsibility for all the results you have in your life, you’ll never wield the power you need to change your life into your best life.
And you have that power within you, for the Lord has declared it (D&C 58:28). Once you own your life, you’ll not only see that power you have within you more clearly but also wield it more effectively. Thinking in those terms always leads to better results in life, no matter your circumstances.
What you give
Once you start acting on more effective thinking, you’ll see your life begin to change, starting with the way you feel inside. The more you act on more effective thinking, the more effective your actions become at producing the results you want to see in life and the more you find yourself giving.
That shouldn’t surprise any long time members of our audience. We’ve often discussed our definition of happiness — giving your all to all the right things for you. The key part of that definition is that first word: giving. So many chase after having whatever they think will make them happy, and all of them sooner or later face the truth of their unhappiness. Happiness is not about having. It’s about giving.
And true to the Law of Restoration, life always returns to you what you give to it. What you send out always comes back. So if you want to get more out of your life, give more to it. And the definition of happiness we’ve discussed so often here is the key to what you give — your all to all the right things for you.
What you are
When you consistently take more effective actions bolstered by more effective thinking long enough, it becomes a habit. That habit played out long enough becomes your character. You become what you consistently do.
We all have the potential to be great, but whether or not you reach that potential depends entirely on the choices you make. You have the power within you to make those choices. It’s called agency, and you begin to wield that power by owning your life. The first step is acknowledging you don’t have the results you want because of choices you made in what you’ve thought, given, and been.
What you think, what you give, and what you are determine what you get in life. You get to choose all three, and it’s never too late to make a better choice. So don’t wait. Make the better choice now! When you own your life and choose to be more effective in what you think, what you give, and what you are, you’ll be on the road to your best life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
As I carefully re-read Elder Ochoa’s address in preparation for the broadcast, I see I had assumptions that led me to a different conclusion than what Elder Ochoa likely intended. When you approach your life with the right assumptions, you can ask “Is the plan working?” and know that it is.
Recognize your faulty assumptions
My assumptions began to influence my thinking from the start. When Elder Ochoa mentioned a young returned missionary whose life wasn’t working out the way he expected, I instantly assumed that young man was single.
It seemed right to think that. Increasingly LDS singles aren’t marrying at all, and those who do marry do so later. Thus, many LDS singles wonder how the plan of happiness can be working for them when they seem shut out from the blessings of happiness they desire. In that light, Elder Ochoa’s address could’ve been addressing LDS singles when he said,
But Elder Ochoa never identified that discontent young man as single. He may have been single, but he also could have been married. We simply don’t know because Elder Ochoa never said. That’s important, because my assumption the man was single led me to an erroneous conclusion about Elder Ochoa’s address.
Distinguish between two plans
Here’s the real problem: There’s two plans we’re talking about here. The first is God’s plan for His children that spans eternity. The second is our plan for our lives here in mortality. With both plans intended to result in our happiness, it’s easy to get them confused.
Many LDS singles do in fact confuse them because of faulty assumptions behind their thinking. The largest of these is the idea that righteous blessings result from righteous behavior. The faulty connection assumed here provides particular challenge when the blessing sought is marriage, a blessing not predicated entirely or even largely on righteous behavior. Notwithstanding, those singles who chose to assume that faulty connection in their thinking are more likely to turn tone deaf when they hear messages like this:
Many LDS singles who falsely assume righteousness leads to marriage hear that and respond, “What are you talking about? I’m trying to honor my covenants, so of course I’m following Jesus. But I still don’t have my desired blessings, so how can you say the plan works?” Again, we’re talking about two different plans here. Just because our plan for mortality isn’t working doesn’t mean God’s plan for eternity isn’t also.
Focus on the right plan
Elder Ochoa doesn’t address that distinction. His solution for people who feel the plan of happiness isn’t working for them is to act in faith, turn to Jesus, and humble themselves. That’s a great approach when you’re talking about God’s plan that spans eternity. But it offers little to those largely concerned with receiving a blessing in this life.
That’s why my faulty assumption at the start of his remarks led me to conclude falsely. Every time Elder Ochoa speaks of “the plan of happiness,” he’s talking about God’s plan that spans eternity. But my faulty assumption at the start got me focused on receiving a blessing in mortality. And with that focus, I couldn’t connect with Elder Ochoa’s real message.
Is the plan working? That depends on which plan you’re talking about. If you’re talking about the plan you make for yourself for happiness in mortality, then it may or may not be working, depending on your assumptions. But if you’re talking about the plan God made for His children to be happy in eternity, then yes, that plan is working great so long as we make and keep every sacred covenant we can.
When you question your assumptions and get clear about distinguishing between God’s plan for life in eternity and your plan for life in this world, you can better feel the power of perspective helping you to let go of everything holding you back from enjoying each moment irrespective of your circumstances. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
That relaxed attitude was no match for the “Yeah, but”s that always intervene when we’re stretching ourselves out of our comfort zone. “You should work on that dream” confronts “Yeah, but it’s been a long day and I’m too tired” and you don’t make any progress on your goals and dreams. “You should finish that task” meets “Yeah, but I’ve got bills to pay [or insert other work that appears to take priority]” and you don’t make any progress on your goals and dreams. So if you want to move towards your goals and dreams, don’t be a butthead!
Leave your comfort zone
So long as we stay within our comfort zones, we’ll always have average lives of mediocrity. And that’s the way our brain likes it. How do I know? Quite simply, it’s designed into our biological hardwiring.
Anciently, venturing too far outside your comfort zone could get you killed. Thus, the forces of evolutionary biology adjusted the design of our internal controls. Our biological hardwiring now provides a check point if we go too far beyond the borders of safety. “You don’t really want to go this way” becomes the persuasion of the moment attended by a natural pull back within our comfort zone. It’s all designed to keep us safe.
But staying safe will never result in your best life because staying safe leads only to mediocrity. Now, I’m not saying we need to be a reckless version of Evel Knievel. What I am saying is playing it safe every time never got anyone anywhere. Your best life isn’t found inside your comfort zone. If it were, you’d have your best life because it’d be easy to find and you wouldn’t be dreaming of something better.
Turn knowledge into action
None of this is new to me; I’ve known all of it for years. So why then have I kept slipping? Why hasn’t the knowledge of how my biological hardwiring works translated into forward-propelling action? It’s comforting to know that even with all my slipping the ball’s at the one-yard line, but even still. why isn’t it in the in-zone?
I simply haven’t been vigilant watching for lapses. Our biological hardwiring has us operating mostly out of habit, so it’s easy for eyes to drift away from watching out for potential slips. And those opportunities to slip sneak so silently upon us that not watching vigilantly essentially invites slips towards our goals and dreams to occur.
Those slips often begin with “Yeah, but.” Without vigilant watching, those “Yeah, but”s come and carry the moment. Each surrender to natural inclination is a vote to stay average. Over time, those votes can aggregate to deliver a life of mediocrity. In this way you can get close to scoring but never actually do.
Adopt a new habit
Can you ever get the “Yeah, but”s out of your head? No, they’re a part of your biological hardwiring. But you can develop habits for confronting those “Yeah, but”s successfully.
Begin by deciding your response in advance. Then write out that response: “When I get told ‘Yeah, but’ X in such-and-such situation, I will Y.” Writing out your response burns it more into your brain so that, when your trigger event occurs, you’re more likely to follow through with your pre-determined response. Once you play that out enough times, you’ll have a new habit that propels you forward to your goals and dreams.
So don’t be a butthead. Don’t just let the waves of life carry you wherever the winds happens to blow. Own your life. Take control. Reject any surrender to “Yeah, but” by setting yourself up to adopt the habits you need to succeed. You’ll find yourself slipping a lot less and scoring wins a lot more on the road to your best life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
There really was nothing wrong with me, but there was something wrong with my thinking. Despite seeming natural, these sorts of comparisons with others are never fair. And I wasn’t alone there; many LDS singles unwittingly compare themselves to others. But you should compare you with you and no one else.
Understand how you’re built
Comparing yourself to others is inherently unfair. We all have different backgrounds, different knowledge, different experiences, different ways of seeing the world. Comparing yourself with others is like comparing apples and oranges. They’re both fruits, but beyond that they have few similarities.
Yet recognizing that no good comes from that comparison doesn’t stop anyone from doing it. Why does it seem so natural to compare ourselves with others? Why are we so prone to make these comparisons despite their inherent unfairness?
The answer is biology. We’re all biologically hardwired with a basic desire to be loved and accepted. Since like begets like, that desire translates into a desire to be normal, to fit in, to belong. And so part of our biological hardwiring assesses what’s normal by comparing ourselves with those around us.
Think of that system as a sort of thermostat. We set our “temperature” to match the “temperature” of those around us so we’ll be like them and therefore fit in. This is why fat people who hang out with fat people find it hard to lose weight and fat people who hang out with skinny people find it easier to lose weight. In both cases, biology prompts the individual to be more like those whom that individual spends substantial time.
Leverage how you’re built
The same biological hardwiring works in any situation, including the one in which LDS singles feel like Moroni as they watch their friends leave singles life one by one. They feel out of place because they’re not like those around them. Time’s progressing, but they don’t seem to be.
How do you deal with such situations? If your biological hardwiring has you wanting to be like those around you, and you find yourself stuck and unable to be like those around you, are you doomed to a miserable existence? My response? Only if you want to be.
You can’t change your biological hardwiring, but you can redirect its influence. First, recognize both your propensity to compare and the inherent unfairness in comparing yourself with others. Then accept comparisons only between you and you. Every time you find yourself comparing you with anyone else, stop, remind yourself how unfair that comparison is, and then compare you with you.
Essentially, you compare the person you are today with the person you were previously. It may be the person you were last year, last month, last week, yesterday, or even earlier today. But if you can see a reasonable improvement between the previous and present you, you’re making progress. And that’s what really matters.
Grow into something more
Of course, simply making progress doesn’t necessarily satisfy the basic need to belong, especially if everyone one around you isn’t comparing them with them. But that just highlights the need to choose with caution those with whom you choose to spend your time. Maximize your time around others who’ll help you compare you with you, and minimize your time around others who won’t.
In the end, it won’t matter whether you did this or that within whatever time frame as much as whether the you at the end is better than any previous you, because that will mean you made progress along the eternal path. And making progress along that path will mean your time spent in mortality was worthwhile.
Stop comparing yourself with others. They don’t have the same combination of background, knowledge, experience, and perspective you have. For all we share in common, our individual experience in mortality really is individual. So compare you with you and no one else. You’ll turn your focus more on making the progress you need to make, and that focus will then determine a reality of progress. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
What impressed me the most in that meeting was a Japanese sister. As she rambled on in her broken English from one topic to the next, I struggled to make sense of what she was trying to say. But then she spoke two words that captured my attention: Expect miracles.
Nourish your thinking
I have no idea why she said those two words. Perhaps she was referencing President Nelson’s address from the last Conference on spiritual momentum. Perhaps she was talking about something else related to miracles. Or perhaps she was talking about something completely unrelated and the Spirit prompted her to say those words because I needed to hear them.
I say I needed to hear them because they captured my attention. And as I began pondering those words and remembering what I said about them in a recent episode of this program, I immediately felt prompted to make them the focus for this episode of Joy in the Journey Radio. So perhaps there is someone out there who needs this message.
Regardless of the need, I do believe this message is important for all LDS singles to review on a regular basis. We need to nourish our thinking with better assumptions, better perspectives, better attitudes, and better self-talk. The idea of expecting miracles encompasses all four of those elements.
Reformat and reboot
For example, too many LDS singles assume the future will be just like the past. They place so much emphasis on the choices others make, they do not perceive the power inherent in their own choices. A discouraging outlook encourages a despondent attitude.
And all of these elements then find reinforcement in self-talk: “What’s the point of trying?” “Why would anyone choose me?” “I’m not good enough.” “I’ll never be loved.” All these messages played on autopilot via habits of thinking reinforce the faulty assumptions, the diminished perspectives, and the failing attitudes that will never lead to success.
Expecting miracles reverses all that. Expecting miracles in your life assumes miracles can and will come to you. Expecting miracles exchanges the perspectives focused on the past for ones focused not just on the future but on a future that’s very different from the past. Expecting miracles encourages an optimistic positive attitude. And expecting miracles encourages uplifting self talk: “I’ll keep trying because I will succeed.” “My miracle will choose me.” “I’m more than good enough for my miracle.” “My miracle will happen because I’m already loved.”
There’s a night-and-day difference between expecting miracles and the less effective ways of thinking many LDS singles choose to tolerate. Many so choose because they simply aren’t aware of the difference. But having that awareness, why would you choose not to expect a miracle? Why would you cheat yourself of the glorious best life you could have?
Position yourself better
Of course, miracles are more likely to come and are therefore easier to expect when you get your game on. Put yourself in a good financial position. Serve faithfully in your Church calling. Take care of your responsibilities, including those involving self-care. These changes likely won’t come overnight, but every effort to move in that direction moves you closer into a space where miracles can more easily come.
My friend provides a good example. His real interest in attending that Sunday School class was a special “person of interest” (as he calls her). During the drive back, he told me they’d met only one month ago. I was surprised to hear that. Given the way they hugged each other in the parking lot before leaving, I thought they’d known each other longer. But apparently they just hit it off really well. I’d call that a miracle.
So expect miracles in your life. Believing in and opening yourself up to possibility can improve your probability of success. By working as you can on improving yourself and your situation, you can move yourself into the space where your miracle can more easily come. That miracle can be the door that swings your best life wide open to you. And that will bring your more joy in your journey.
It’s not uncommon to find singles who have extended such expectations to every part of their lives. They include how many kids they will have, where they will live, what kind of career they have, and more. The list of rules their life is supposed to follow is quite long if not endless. Well, I’ve got just one thing to say to that. Your rules are dumb.
Make rules for you
Setting rules for how life is supposed to proceed establishes expectations. And that’s a problem, especially where other people are involved. Everyone is so imperfect that you’re almost certain to be disappointed.
I know that sounds cynical. I’m not trying to be. Successful people take the world as they find it, not as they wish it would be. That means seeing things as they really are and calling them out. Expecting people to act a certain way so your life can unfold according to your fantasy is just dumb.
Instead of establishing rules for how others should act, make rules for how you should. Others will almost certainly disappoint you, but you can choose not to disappoint yourself. You can work towards your best life by becoming your best self, and you do that by exercising the discipline to conform to rules that your best self would follow. That process of struggle as you seek to change not just your behavior but your identity fuels the growth for the transformation into your best self.
Leverage life’s little surprises
Your rules for how your life should proceed are dumb for another reason. By staking out an expectation of what will or even should happen, you cut off all other possibilities from being acceptable. And that removes much of the beauty your life could have.
Life is wonderful not because it conforms with some plan of perfection but because of possibility. Variety and spontaneity are the spices of life because they highlight possibilities. It’s the possibility of surprise that helps make it interesting.
Of course, some of those surprises would be more interesting if they didn’t invade your life. For example, my place recently flooded for the third time in the last two months. A surprise to be sure, but I don’t wallow in playing the victim. I choose to leverage the event to fuel my drive to improve my situation. Those improvements require me to think creatively about possible solutions and to work hard to realize them.
If I insisted that my place wasn’t supposed to flood because that’s not how my life is supposed to be, I’d cut off the creativity I need to find solutions. I’d spend far too much time focusing on the problem, which creates a reality filled with problems. I’d miss out on how beautiful my life could be by truly living it — taking it by the reins and making it the best it can be.
Open yourself to possibility
What would happen if you suspended your rules and opened yourself to possibility? Instead of insisting that your life proceed according to some pre-determined expectation, what if you had the humility to embrace an alternative?
I recall in a previous ward receiving an invitation to dinner. The family had invited another family to join us. As we waited for the women to finish preparations, the children were playing outside, and we men were conversing.
Speaking of his wife, one of the men said, “I never thought I’d be happy with a red head, but I am.” When single, he expected he needed to marry a blonde to be happy. What he found by releasing that expectation and embracing possibility was true happiness found not in what he had but in what he gave. And the life he described living was truly beautiful.
Your rules are dumb. Let go of the expectations that life must unfold a certain way in order for it to work for you. Your life will work for you when you do the work your best life requires. And that will bring your more joy in your journey.
Check your thinking
Elder Christofferson starts with Job, recounting how Job’s sufferings tried him so deeply he began to condemn God for “wronging” him. God then reminded Job of His omnipotence and omniscience. Job, realizing he couldn’t hold a candle to his Maker, humbly let God prevail. In the end, “the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning” (Job 42:12).
Often the suffering of LDS singles leads them down the road of Job. They can feel wronged when they do their best to keep the standards of righteousness and yet desired righteous blessings don’t materialize. Worse yet, those blessings don’t show any sign of ever materializing.
But the problem here is in how we think. We need to correct the faulty assumption that keeping the standards means we’ll have our desired blessings and certainly not in our way and on our schedule. Elder Christofferson taught,
The idea that “I’m not happy so God must be doing something wrong” assumes God’s main job is to make our lives blissfully care free. But God’s work is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). As we discussed last week, growth is often uncomfortable. Sometimes that discomfort comes from living without desired righteous blessings.
Correct your assumptions
How then do the blessings we want come? Many LDS singles simply shrug their shoulders as they give the most common response: “I don’t know.” But other responses abound.
In recent years, as the proportion of singles in the Church has grown, leaders have increasingly suggested the receipt of righteous blessings is largely out of our hands. They say God has an individualized and personalized plan for each of His children, and righteous blessings are dispensed as God executes that plan.
Elder Christofferson appears to be in that camp when he taught,
I agree blessings which don’t conform to God’s will won’t materialize. However, I don’t think that means the lack of a particular blessing means it’s God’s will that blessing isn’t there. D&C 130:21 teaches every blessing is predicted upon obedience to the law connected with that blessing. If you don’t keep the particular law, you don’t get the particular blessing.
Thus, any lack of companionship and marriage lies not in failing to keep the standards good enough but rather in the assumption that keeping the standards should yield the blessing of companionship and marriage. Those desired righteous blessings are predicated on a different law.
Partner with Him
You may well ask, “What is that different law?” The blessings of companionship and marriage come as singles progress through the stages of the dating journey. When singles follow the fundamental principles of that journey, they make progress in that journey. When they don’t follow fundamentals, they don’t progress. Period.
Following fundamentals means becoming more agreeable, and that means changing you. Partnering with the Lord is the best way to know what changes you need to make now to become more agreeable. Partnering with the Lord also provides guidance, courage, and strength in making those changes. So a failure to see desired blessings in our lives should motivate us to increase our relationship with God, not diminish it. Elder Christofferson taught,
God hasn’t abandoned us simply because desired blessings haven’t come how or when we want. But we abandon Him when we lose faith in Him and allow that loss of faith to tolerate a lack of devotion to our covenants and our place in His work. That work is not about making life easy and comfortable but about helping others progress along a path that stretches into eternity.
When life doesn’t go as planned, we need to increase our relationship with God. Hard times are a call to deepen discipleship. By heeding that call, we’ll find the guidance we need to know the next step as well as the faith and courage to take it. 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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