What an appropriate background for a broadcast tailored to singles! Many singles believe they need a miracle to move the mountains in their lives. As I studied his address in preparation for the broadcast this weekend, I could see how very appropriate President Nelson’s remarks were for singles. Truly, faith can move mountains no matter the challenge.
Start where you are
Many singles wonder how the blessings they yearn to have can ever be theirs. I love how President Nelson’s response to that reality begins with basic principles: “Everything good in life—every potential blessing of eternal significance—begins with faith.” Deny not the power of God, and your faith unlocks God’s power in your life.
I then really love how he goes to Alma’s discourse on faith in the Book of Mormon. Alma doesn’t ask us to hit a home run our first time up to bat. He simply asks us to experiment. All he asks us to do is to try.
And you don’t need anything more than what you have right here right now. President Nelson quotes Alma’s encouragement to “exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe” (Alma 32:27). You don’t need the whole toolbox of perfection. Just step forward with the portion you already have, even if that portion is simply the desire to have a portion.
And here’s the beautiful part: You don’t need to be perfect to change your life. You have everything you need to take the next step right now towards the better life you want. It starts when you believe that truth. President Nelson began his remarks on faith with that very idea. As he taught,”
The place to start is wherever you are, and you can do that today.
Isn’t that’s exactly how many singles view the challenges before them, as the tallest mountain ever? Yet Christ can give anyone the power to scale that mountain.
That happens for you when you exercise faith in Him. Faith is a principle of action, and that means you must do the work to get the result you want. President Nelson acknowledged as much when he declared,
He then lists five steps to increase faith and the access it provides to God’s power.
Whatever mountain stands before you, don’t focus on the obstacle. Look instead for the opportunity. Stand tall seeking ways in which your growing faith — even if it’s no more than a desire to have a greater portion — can grow more. As the Savior taught, “Seek, and ye shall find” (Matthew 7:7).
Faith really can move mountains. Nothing is impossible for the Lord, and He will grant you access to His power when you have faith in Him. When you do, He’ll show you the changes you need to make to secure the righteous blessings you desire. He’ll support you as you progress towards those blessings. And one day you’ll have them every one. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
The year St. Patrick died is in question (some say 461, others say 493), but all seem agreed on the day he died — March 17. St. Patrick’s Day started as a feast held annually to commemorate the man who led Ireland’s conversion to Christianity. The history of how the holiday has evolved is rather interesting, but I found one legend about St. Patrick particularly applicable to LDS singles. And that connection will have me going green on St. Patrick’s Day for years to come.
See the "snakes"
Multiple legends involving St. Patrick abound, but the one catching my attention involves snakes. (And yes, I can hear Indiana Jones right now saying, “Snakes! Why did it have to be snakes?) As legend has it, God’s power was so manifest in St. Patrick as he preached on a hill that all the snakes simply fled from the island.
That’s not likely actual truth, since snakes were never native to Ireland. But there is a Celtic legend of serpent-like spirits called nagas which supply water to trees and make streams and rivers flow. The legend of St. Patrick ridding Ireland of snakes is probably an allegory for the missionary ridding Ireland of old pagan beliefs.
And that got me thinking. What “snakes” in the form of old, defunct ways of thinking do I still have? What habits continue to hold me back from living my best life? Many LDS singles stand in their own way of experiencing the joy surrounding them every day. Instead of fully living life, they live far beneath their privileges.
Banish the "snakes"
St. Patrick didn’t rid Ireland of “snakes” in a single day. He didn’t arrive on the Irish shore greeted by masses of eager converts. Rather he started where he was with what he had. He went from village to village, achieving success one convert at a time. With persistent dedication, over time he stepped into the conversion of the entire island.
It’s not much different for LDS singles (or anyone else for that matter) struggling against the challenges of their lives. You won’t step into your best life all at once as it’s handed to you. You step into your best life one day at a time as you slowly but surely create it. And creating your best life always begins inside you.
What “snakes” inside you prevent you from experiencing the joy all around you? What “spirits” do you need to remove from within you in order to recognize and receive that joy in your life? The way you think determines what you do, and what you do determines the life you live. With persistent dedication, over time you can step into your best life.
Embrace your life
I know this take on St. Patrick’s Day seems odd. Particularly in the United States, Canada, and Australia, St. Patrick’s Day has become associated with parades and parties. We wear green and pinch people who don’t. But behind the frolic lies a fascinating history offering insight into improving your life. And that improvement always begins with changing the way you think.
Often what we need to trigger new thinking is a new experience, and St. Patrick’s Day offers many opportunities for new experiences. Delve into the history of the holiday as well as Ireland and learn something new. Or try your feet at an Irish jig. Or experiment with an Irish dish. St. Patrick’s Day offers many opportunities to have a new experience that can trigger new and different ways of thinking.
Embracing such opportunities can have you going green each and every St. Patrick’s Day. And finding those opportunities every day of the year will open the door to the new ways of thinking you must embrace to experience your best life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
That story greatly resembles dating for many LDS singles. Try as they might nothing they do seems to work. And days like Singles Awareness Day (otherwise known as Valentine’s Day) only highlight the struggles many LDS singles experience daily. In such circumstances, it’s easy to surrender to despair and embrace the pity party. But if you pity anything, you should never pity yourself. Pity the pity party instead.
Recognize your choice
I can talk because I’ve been there. After being single for more than 25 years, I’ve walked the lonely road. I know the heartache when everything you do seems to end in pain. If anyone should have justification to throw a pity party, it should be me.
And yet I’m not throwing one. To the contrary, I’m very optimistic about the future and my future in particular. How can I be so positive amidst so much reason for despair? After all, I’m still single. Nothing has ever worked out for me. True, I’ve had wonderful moments with girlfriends over the years, but it’s all come to nothing but pain every single time. At my age, how can I expect my life will ever be different?
Quite simply, I believe my future is more the product of my choices than my past. I believe fundamental truths which the restored gospel of Jesus Christ teaches me. And my beliefs run more than just skin deep. They permeate the very fabric of my character to define who I am and what I intend to become.
Choose your focus
For example, I believe the Book of Mormon prophet Lehi when he said everything has its opposite (2 Nephi 2:11). Everything includes the obstacles in our dating lives. What’s the opposite of an obstacle if not an opportunity? Thus, with every obstacle comes an opportunity.
Then consider your focus determines your reality. Focusing on your obstacles creates an obstructed reality. You’ll feel unfairly held back and oppressed by circumstances outside your control. But focusing on the opportunity that must exist with every obstacle turns your reality around. You’ll feel liberated and empowered to pursue whatever passion fascinates your imagination.
Either way you’re not one jot more or less single than you were before. But how you feel inside about yourself, your life, and your future is as different as the bright day is from the dark night. I’ve experienced that difference in my own life. And I’ve seen countless others experience it in their lives as well.
Embrace your reality
Those who surrender to the pity party simply fail to see the opportunities and reasons for optimism and hope truly surrounding them. We should therefore pity them for their lack of understanding and perspective and not their circumstances. We all came to mortality to have hard experiences. Indeed, we wanted the challenge because we knew that was the only way we could grow in eternity.
If Singles Awareness Day has you feeling as burned and failing as my experimental churro crisps were, you don’t have to be that way forever, or even for one more single day. Every day, you choose your focus by what you choose to feed yourself. And your chosen focus then brings you your reality.
Don’t throw the pity party. Instead, pity the pity party. Take the truths of the restored gospel deep into your soul. Let the miracle the Savior can and wants to perform inside of you happen. You can embrace pure joy and happiness without being one iota less single.
Of course hard times will come, as they always will. That’s part of the plan. But when you seek out the opportunities instead of the obstacles, the Lord will open your eyes to what truly surrounds you every day. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
But life comprises more than just the spiritual. We also have social, intellectual, and physical aspects to our lives, each with its own foundation. Could Elder Stevenson's counsel regarding our spiritual foundation apply just as much to the foundations for the other aspects of our lives?
If I had to choose one, certainly it would be the spiritual. But I don't have to choose between them, nor should I. And nor should you. After all, you best build your best life when you look to your foundation for every aspect of life.
Elder Stevenson recounted some of the 40-year history of the construction of the Salt Lake temple. In particular, he quoted Brigham Young, who wanted that "temple built in a manner that it will endure through the millennium. This is not the only temple we shall build; there will be hundreds of them built and dedicated to the Lord."
Elder Stevenson then emphasized the grandeur of Brigham's vision. He envisioned hundreds of temples while laying the foundation for the one before him. He didn't turn away from dreaming big.
Do you dream on that grand scale? Does your foundation for each area of life say you're preparing for big things? Far too many live without such a vision. They're zombies walking through life dead to all the joy surrounding them every day and which they could capture if they chose to pursue their potential.
Big dreams strengthen the foundation for every aspect of your best life, so dream big. Vision born of dreaming big inspires you to make your life everything it can be. You get a glimpse of your best life that can motivate you to keep moving towards that best life.
Surely many fail to live their best life because they fail to dream big. Just as surely, many others fail because they do nothing more than dream. You can't reap where you don't sow. To get a ticket to the show that's your best life, you must pay the price in full and in advance.
You pay that price largely in your work on and from your foundation. And the pandemic, which many have cursed as an obstacle to the life they want today, presents an opportunity to build the life you can have tomorrow.
We need to see beyond the obstacles towards the opportunities. Elder Stevenson rightly views the renovation of the Salt Lake Temple "more as a time of renewal rather than a time of closure." While presenting many obstacles, the pandemic also provides us with many opportunities to improve our foundations in every aspect of life.
A proper foundation always precedes prosperity. Private victories always precede public ones. Dating is a great example. Many singles fail publicly because they've failed privately; they don't have the proper spiritual, social, intellectual, and physical foundations to excel at dating. Only when you do the work do you get results.
That work is rarely easy. Big dreams always require big work. And working big is something entirely different than dreaming big. Visions can inspire, but it's blood and sweat doing the actual grind in the mill house of life. Results come only from action.
Often working big means working in faith. Elder Stevenson quoted a woman who worked in faith despite debilitating cancer. Focused on opportunities to inspire rather than obstacles to recovery, she wrote, "The future of this life may be unknown, but my faith is not. If I choose [not] to ... have faith then I choose to ... walk [only] in darkness. Because without faith, darkness is all that is left.”
Working big means patience. Big results don't come overnight. Big results come from the accumulation of little results patiently and diligently acquired every day.
If you experience constant failure rather than success, maybe you don't have the foundation for success. Look to your foundation in every aspect of life. When you strengthen your foundation, you clear the path to private victories. When you achieve enough private victories, you'll begin to experience public ones. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
But you can still own your life. You can still take responsibility for yourself and the results you have in your life. And today is the perfect opportunity to do just that because today is April Fool’s Day. Now, I’ll admit social distancing and sequestering have radically changed the landscape. But a change in landscape should never signal us to surrender positive energy. Now more than ever we should be always up for fun.
Change your habits of thinking
Many people don’t associate staying at home with fun. They think about going out to restaurants, stores, malls, parks, concert venues, and the like. Many of us approach April Fool’s Day the same way, conjuring images of practical jokes played on people and often in front of other people.
But that was yesterday. Today the landscape is different. We need to practice social distancing and sequester ourselves in our homes as much as possible. And those who refuse to change their thinking to match this new landscape will experience untold and unnecessary hardship.
Long time listeners to this program are familiar with these principles in relation to helping LDS singles find joy regardless of their circumstances. For example, many singles who leave YSA land without getting married experience a difficult transition into SA world. Some don’t even transition; they go inactive or leave the Church altogether.
That’s because their YSA thinking doesn’t match the new SA landscape, and they simply respond to their biological hardwiring which encourages them to maintain the status quo. They keep thinking the same way, and that just leads them to leave. But if these singes would change their thinking to match their new landscape, they could experience a greater amount of joy despite their circumstances.
Look for opportunity
We can begin to capture much of the joy we’ve been missing by owning our lives and looking for the opportunity amidst the obstacle. I demonstrated that attitude this morning in my Daily Dose video. Is it cheesy and silly? Absolutely. And that’s OK, because I refused to let my current situation keep me from having a spot of fun.
You too can refuse to allow your current situation to keep you from experiencing joy amidst adversity. You can still celebrate April Fools Day. Will it be the same? Of course not. But joy is still joy, no matter how it comes.
Own your life
Presented with this knowledge, each of us now confronts this question: Will you own your life? Or put another way, will you take responsibility for the results you experience in your life? Will you refuse to allow your circumstances to dictate your attitude and perspective?
I choose to own my life. My circumstances will be what they will be, but they will never dictate my choices. I choose to live with intention, not on autopilot. I choose to produce more than I consume, not just consume. I choose phenomenal, not mediocre. I choose life, not death. I choose faith, not fear. I choose hope, not despair. I choose love, not hate. I choose joy, not sorrow.
And so can you. Decide today you will own your life. Decide that no matter your circumstances you will be always up for fun. Then follow through with that decision by taking advantage however you can of the moments for fun that come your way. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Now I’m struggling with page layout problems. What I thought was settled in my word processor apparently isn’t. And when that’s done, who knows what unforseen obstacle I will encounter next?
That said, I’m not discouraged. I know in the end I’ll succeed in publishing my book as well as many more in the future. I just need to keep looking for the next opportunity and then pounce on it.
That’s how anything worthwhile in life works. The world owes you nothing. No one will deliver the life you want on a silver platter. If you want something, you need to go get it.
That’s where most people falter, because going to get it means work, and most aren’t willing to work. After all, most already work just to pay the bills, so the last thing they want is more work. Thus, when the next opportunity to move closer to their dreams and goals appears, they opt instead to watch TV or surrender to social media or diverge into some other distraction.
Such distractions come to all of us. But those who heed their siren call soon find themselves off potential. They waste time they could have spent helping others and moving closer to their dreams and goals. And at the end of the day, their dreams are nothing but wishes.
But we can all choose differently. We can all choose to look for the opportunity to move closer to making our dreams reality. We can choose to exercise discipline and pursue that opportunity even when we’re tired or don’t feel like doing it. And at the end of the day, that choice allows us to rest our head on our pillow with satisfaction because we accomplished something. Even if it’s only something small, we accomplished something.
That gives me hope. I know an opportunity to near myself to the life I want will always come my way. And when it does, I know I can pounce on it and reap the satisfaction that can come only after action.
How do I know opportunity will always come? The Lord loves me and wants me to succeed. I can’t succeed without opportunity. And so the Lord will bless me with opportunity. And because He loves me, He’ll bless me generously with opportunity after opportunity after opportunity. But I have to do the work. So I look for the next opportunity and then pounce on it when I see it.
And I’m OK with doing the work. I own my life. I accept I’ll need to work hard and work smart to get my best life. And I embrace doing what I can to move even a little bit closer to my dreams and goals, because I know the closer I get to my dreams and goals, the sooner I’ll see them become reality.
That’s just as true for you. Every movement towards your dreams and goals, no matter how small, carries with it a momentum. So even small movements count a great deal.
This is, after all, how the Lord works. Small movements produce small momentum, true. But working that small momentum allows a slightly bigger movement, which carries its own slightly bigger momentum that allows an even slightly bigger movement and so on. Before you know it, you’re not just splashing a small street puddle; you’re roaring a tidal wave that totals the coastline!
So what tidal wave will you create? What dreams and goals will you approach? What opportunity will you pounce on today? No matter how large or small, take what steps you can today to move yourself closer to your dreams and goals. Then get up tomorrow and do it again. Then get up the next day and do it again. And keep doing that until you win. When you do, you’ll know the satisfaction of making your dreams reality. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
In the most recent General Conference, Elder Jack Gerard of the Seventy spoke of the importance of priorities in life. His remarks, entitled “Now Is The Time,” encourage all of us to place our priorities upon what matters most in life — our relationship with our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Whether or not you have goals for the new year, now is the time to consider whether the priorities you really do have are the ones you really should have.
Set the right priorities
Elder Gerard begins with an account of chest pains he experienced while traveling. After arriving at the airport, he sought help at a local hospital, wondering if he would reach his final destination. A doctor ran multiple tests and then declared him safe to continue his travels.
Elder Gerard returned to the airport and resumed his journey. As the plane approached his final destination, Elder Gerard learned an ambulance would be waiting to take him to the hospital. The doctor had misdiagnosed his condition, which was much more serious than previously supposed.
After he learned the new diagnosis and that not many patients survive that condition, Elder Gerard’s perspective suddenly shifted. He described his experience with these words:
Indeed, now is the time to consider our direction. Stephen Covey often used the analogy of a ladder when speaking about priorities. He described a man who exerted much effort to climb a ladder leaning against a wall. When he got to the top, what he saw behind the wall made one truth painfully obvious; his ladder was leaning against the wrong wall.
It should sound silly to talk about priorities after many of us have made our goals, because priorities rightfully come before goals. We need to establish our direction before we establish what we want to accomplish. Otherwise, we’ll likely find the ladder we climb has been leaning against the wrong wall.
Daily life in our modern world contains so many distractions we can spend our lives wandering aimlessly without any sense of direction or purpose. We need to take time to reflect upon our direction. Unless we do, we’ll easily become “like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed” (James 1:6).
Do the things of greatest eternal importance have the highest priority in your life? If not, it’s never too late to start again. Now is the time to consider your direction.
Elder Gerard reminds us that
It’s so easy to coast and let the waves of day-to-day living just wash over us! But that complacency will never deliver your best life. You get your best life by living intentionally, and living with intention requires awareness of what you’re doing and more importantly why. That means having priorities and a plan of action that supports those priorities.
How else do we ensure our ladder is not leaning against the wrong wall? Priorities determine direction, and direction determines destination.
Rise above distraction
During his remarks, Elder Gerard asked this very practical question: “How do we rise above the distractions of this world and stay fixed on the vision of eternity before us?” He then extolled Christ as the standard by which to judge what’s best and declared “understanding our divine origins is essential to our eternal progress and can free us from the distractions of this life.”
Ultimately, the best way to know what our real priorities should be is to evaluate ourselves and our lives without distraction. That’s where temple attendance can be so refreshing. In the house of the Lord, we can separate ourselves from the distractions of the world. Remembering our divine origins and why we’re here can bring clarity to an otherwise muddled view.
If you wonder whether your ladder is leaning against the wrong wall, now is the time to consider what changes you need to make. If you didn’t make any goals for the new year, then by default you decided to let the waves of life carry you where they may. Now is the time for you to own your life and establish the priorities that will determine your direction and ultimately your destination. When you do, you’ll find yourself moving forward more confidently. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
You must believe
People make resolutions with the best of intentions. In fact, those good intentions drive us to create the resolution. We see something we want in our lives, or maybe something we want out of our lives, and we resolve to change.
But the road to hell is paved with good intentions, so good intentions alone are insufficient to achieve greatness. Good intentions reflect good desires, and as such they make a good start. But you must also believe in the change you want for yourself.
If you don't believe, you won't receive. Without believing that what you want for yourself is possible, you won't even try. You’ll quit before you start. And you’re guaranteed not to achieve anything if you don’t try.
But you must believe in more than possibility. You must believe what you want for yourself is probable. And you must believe in yourself and your ability to make what you want more probable. That’s of course easier to do when you partner with the Lord. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).
You must plan
Once you believe the attainment of your desires is not only possible but also probable, you must take action, starting with a plan. What steps will you take to achieve your desires?
How we achieve our goals may not happen exactly the way we envision. In fact, they very often don't. But a good plan provides concrete action you can take. It gives permission and direction to be busy doing. And that's essential, because results come from one thing and one thing only — action.
The best plans provide specific actions you can take. Clearly defined, simple tasks conform well to how the brain is hardwired. Our brains are hardwired not to think but to execute clear, simple instructions. When you break your plans down to that level, you align yourself with how you’re built. And that significantly improves your probability of success.
The best plans also consider environment. Your brain is hardwired to determine normal by assessing your surroundings. Let’s say you want to lose weight. If the people usually around you have some pounds to shed themselves, then your brain will think being at that weight is normal, and it will be harder for you to lose weight because most of us don't want to be abnormal; we want to fit in and belong to the group. You must also consider potential distractions in your environment. Again, if you want to lose weight, make sure your food stores don't contain anything that will work against you.
Finally, the best plans consider psychology. Many who are overweight use emotional eating to compensate for something they lack. They use the pleasures of eating to feed their emotional needs (pun intended). If you try to lose weight without addressing deeply seated psychological influences, it's more probable you won't succeed. Your plan must include healthy ways to address your emotional needs that can support you in achieving your goals.
You must act
With a good plan in place, the only thing left is to do. Results come from one thing and only one thing — action. Action plus attitude equals achievement.
Your past attempts ending in failure can provide lessons for success. A failed attempt doesn't mean you’re a failure; it just means your approach is a failure. Direction determines destination, so make a slight change in your approach — in the direction you take — and you can arrive at an entirely new destination. Anything you can imagine you can have. Anything you can dream you can live.
A new year is now upon us, and with it comes new opportunity to improve upon ourselves and to live our best life. When we believe, plan, and act, we can achieve anything. Now is the time for you to rise up and claim your best life. When you do, you give others permission to rise up and claim their best life. That makes life better for everyone. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Christmas is right around the corner, and as long-time members of the audience know, Christmas is my favorite holiday. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. And we know why. There’s the time with family and friends, the food, the presents, the lights everywhere, and the general feeling of goodwill, just to name a few.
In addition, many of us will have our own slight adjustments to that list because we each have our own traditions for celebrating the season. Those traditions create memories that can last a lifetime. We can reflect back and relive the goodness of those moments, an experience bringing us joy again and again.
Yet we truly treasure those old memories when we allow them to motivate us in creating new memories to treasure and recording them in some way that allows us to bring these memories to future generations. By creating new memories as well as the means to share those memories with those coming after us, we truly treasure our memories of the season.
Relive past memories
We can all capture joy by reflecting back on treasured memories of past Christmases, particularly those that involve family traditions. Some of my most treasured memories of Christmas as I grew up involved two special traditions: Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas morning breakfast.
Dinner on Christmas Eve was a huge smorgasbord. We would list everything we wanted to eat — pizza, sandwiches, fried chicken, Chinese, whatever. We’d intentionally get more than we could possibly eat in one setting so we’d have leftovers over the next 2-3 days and my mother wouldn’t have to cook. It was my father’s annual present to my mother.
But we needed to have Christmas breakfast before getting to that point, and that was also a feast in its own right. We’d have waffles, eggs, bacon, sausage, hashbrowns — pretty much anything you’d want for a big breakfast. And just like the night before we’d have leftovers to eat the next couple of days.
What make these memories so treasured for me is that they required us to work together. Our Christmas Eve smorgasbord usually required 2-3 of us each traveling a different route to secure a portion of the whole feast. And we’d each take turns helping to fix parts of Christmas breakfast so each of us could shower and dress to get ready for it all. By the time we were all dressed and ready, so was breakfast.
Share past memories
Of course, treasured memories will die with us unless we create a channel to transmit them across the generations. It’s great that my treasured memories bring goodness into my life whenever I relive them. But how much more goodness can I bring into the world by recording my memories so that future generations can share in my joy?
Modern technology provides many options for all of us to record the memories we make each Christmas season. I’m something of an old school fan here; I prefer handwritten journals. But there’s plenty of other options. You can record audio conversations with family members, or take photos of family being together, or record video of family members participating in family traditions. Modern technology makes it really easy to capture the moments that make great memories.
And you don’t have to settle on just one channel for preserving and transmitting memories. Again, modern technology makes it super easy to utilize multiple channels. Some careful planning can maximize your readiness to capture the memory making moments you don’t anticipate as well the ones you do.
Don’t miss the opportunity
However you choose to proceed, don’t miss the opportunity to make the most of your moments. The memories that bring us joy from years past and the memories that will bring us joy in years to come arise from the actions we take now. We truly treasure the memories we have today by working to make more memories we’ll have tomorrow.
And we amplify the goodness contained in those memories by creating channels for sharing it with future generations. Don’t make the mistake of allowing your circumstances to decide your level of activity. Even if you’re single without any direct descendants, don’t think there aren’t others in succeeding generations who’ll be interested in knowing more about your goodness. Like light that shines for all to see, the goodness we each have can make memories everyone can treasure for years to come.
So treasure the memories you have by making new ones and recording them in some way for future generations. When you do, you’ll expand the goodness you experience in our your own life and transmit that goodness to those who come after you. And that will bring more joy in your journey.
Last week I talked about my mother's suicide attempt. I also talked about some of the reflections that event inspired. I've searched for the big-picture view not only of what's happening but also of my life up to this point.
And what I see fills me with awe. Obviously I see the trial of my mother's suicide attempt and her subsequent hospitalization. But I also see that trial as the latest episode in a series of trials. And I remember the experience we gain from trials is one of the reasons why we’re here in mortality.
I could start listing what I've endured, but it wouldn't mean much because we all have trials in life. As much as we might feel our particular trial makes us special, it doesn’t. Everyone has trials. And everyone can learn from those experiences. When I realize what I've learned from my trials, I can't help but be grateful for trials.
Essential to happiness
How could I be the man I am today without the trials I've experienced? It's impossible. I’d never have the depth of compassion I have for LDS singles were I not single myself for so long. I’d never have positive energy ruling my life if I hadn’t experienced the self-inflicted negative energy so many LDS singles experience. And I’d never feel the confidence I feel in my future without overcoming the despair of hopelessness.
I could go on, but the point remains. Everything positive about us, anything indicating growth in us, and anything proving we’re better today than we were yesterday is possible because of trials. Without trials, there’s no opposition. Without opposition, there’s no growth. Without growth, we can’t be our best. If we can’t be our best, we can't be happy. And if we can't be happy, then what else is there?
Of course, I'm not actively looking for trials. I've lived long enough to know trouble never has trouble finding each of us eventually. And yes, sometimes trials have negative impacts that overwhelm in the moment. But every obstacle also comes with opportunity — the opportunity to yield something positive from the experience. It's that possibility for the positive for which I'm grateful.
Dependent on the right perspective
As I look back on the trials I've experienced in life, I recognize that the possibility for the positive creates a space necessary for growth and personal enrichment. Life has a way of beating everyone down. And the only way getting beat down could ever be positive is if that action shapes us into something better.
But that only happens if we choose a perspective that allows that to happen. The existence of the opportunity to yield something positive will mean nothing unless we take advantage of that opportunity. We do that by choosing to be positive.
That brings us to gratitude, because gratitude is always the first choice in creating a positive life from whatever trials we each experience. Gratitude breeds appreciation, and appreciation opens the door to faith, hope, and charity. Appreciating what we have leads us to believe we can be further blessed. That gives us hope we will be further blessed and inspires us to bless the lives of others.
But just as gratitude feeds a mentality of abundance, the lack of gratitude feeds a mentality of scarcity. We don't want to share what we have with others out of fear there won't be enough for ourselves. We begin to believe there are no further blessings, and therefore there’s no hope tomorrow can be better than today. In the end, we become very insular and absorbed in self.
Foundational for a new tradition
That's why I'm grateful for trials. It's the School of Hard Knocks that beats me down enough to learn what I need to learn in order to grow. Without the challenges that trials provide, I wouldn't be nearly as motivated to seek after the solutions that transform me into a better man.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and if your day will include any traditional performance, you're likely to mention or at least think about what you're grateful for. That list, no matter how long, usually includes obvious blessings like friends, family, good food, and a warm place to sleep at night, just to name a few.
But this year, can we also be thankful for the trials that have shaped us into something more than we were before? Can we be grateful for lessons learned the hard way and for growth that would come to us in no other way? We’re more open to further blessings when we’re grateful for the trials that provide opportunities for positive growth and enrichment. Being grateful for trials can help us accept that truth. 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.
Joy in the Journey Radio offers many free resources to help LDS singles everywhere, but it certainly isn't free! Help Joy in the Journey Radio in its mission to improve the lives of LDS singles by donating today.
Posts by Month