In his message to the world, President Nelson taught “Counting our blessings is far better than recounting our problems.” To help us integrate that teaching into our lives, President Nelson suggested two specific actions:
The social media gratitude journal
Social media has never resonated much with me. I recognize its benefits, like keeping up with family and friends as well as increased communication that otherwise would be difficult if not downright impossible. I’ve just never felt the need to integrate everything about my life with social media. I resonate much more with connections in the real world.
Yet I don’t feel that way about President Nelson’s invitation to use social media as a gratitude journal. Contrary to my usual response, President Nelson’s invitation resonates greatly with me. From the moment I first heard his 7-day challenge, I felt a desire to embrace it. And that desire felt completely natural.
I of course have no idea what will result from my participation in that challenge. Maybe something big will happen. Or maybe not much of anything will appear to happen at all. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that good men and women stand up and push goodness into the world to fight back against the emboldened evil that President Nelson declared in the last General Conference abounds. That goodness begins with gratitude.
Prayers of gratitude
From my own experience, the best way to begin to embrace gratitude is through prayer. I’ve spoken before about my habit of devoting my morning prayers to gratitude, and that one simple change in my daily routine has greatly transformed my life for the better.
About two years ago I adopted a habit of including in my morning prayers only expressions of thanks. I intentionally do not ask for anything; I simply give thanks for what I’ve received. Over time, those prayers have grown to include thanks for blessings not yet received. At first, it was difficult; my mind wasn’t trained to think in strict terms of thanksgiving. But repeated attempts brought that training, and the effect has been life-changing.
Hearing others express gratitude in prayer can open us to a new level of gratitude. I was greatly touched by hearing the Prophet pray and express gratitude for the many blessings we all enjoy everywhere every day. The wonders of nature, the glorious workings of the human body, and the beauty of art, literature, and music all bring joy in life. Focusing on expressions of gratitude invites us to open ourselves more to that joy.
The next step
The Prophet has spoken, and now the next step for all of us is to follow the Prophet. Take his challenge to express gratitude in social media every day for seven days, and then see whether you feel happier. And begin to express more gratitude in your prayers to God.
When we were Primary children, many of us sang, “Follow the Prophet. He knows the way!” I know that President Nelson is the Prophet for us today, and in his recent message to the world, he has shown us the way. That way is gratitude.
Let us each claim the blessings of peace and healing that God wants to bestow upon us. When you let gratitude heal you, you can feel peace in a chaotic world. You can salve the wounds of hate. You can find victory in defeat and abundance in loss. Best of all, you can feel more of the love God has for you as His child. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Whatever the reason, I'm learning not to question promptings to do good but rather simply to follow them. I'm learning to trust, without seeing the end, that the end will be better than I ever could have imagined it. I'm learning to trust that the blessings I long for most in my life will come, as Elder Holland declared, by and by.
See beyond your pain
It's easy for all of us to get so absorbed in our own trials that we lose perspective. And with that loss of perspective often comes also the loss of another sight — one that sees the way forward.
Many singles feel so burdened by the loneliness and heartache of singles life that all they see in their future is an eternity of loneliness and heartache. Such an outcome should not surprise. After all, your focus becomes your reality.
Singles who know the depth of that despair from seeming ever so out of reach of desired blessings intimately know loneliness and heartache. So of course singles would feel comforted and appreciative of Elder Holland's early and earnest recognition of that familiarity.
But notice what immediately followed. Elder Holland was just as eager and earnest in recognizing the depth of despair many trapped in a lonely marriage feel, seemingly ever so out of reach of escape from their familiarity with loneliness and heartache.
Without recognizing the pain others feel, it's easy to become so absorbed in our own pain that we can't see anything else. Our pain becomes so enlarged we think it not only fills our world but that it is the world.
Trust in Him always
That's one of the comforting aspects of Elder's Holland's remarks. He reminds us that, regardless of our individual situations, we all feel pain. We all ache under the burden of trial. We all long for relief.
Yet we often pray for freedom and relief on our schedule rather than for faith to rely on God's. As we plead with heaven to lighten our load, our pleadings will be answered, though sometimes not how or when we would wish.
As Elder Holland reminds us all,
But then Elder Holland cut straight to the truth at the crux of the matter.
How did people come to believe that all suffering is necessarily bad? Whatever its source, Elder Holland rightly suggests some suffering isn't bad. In fact, I dare to declare some suffering is necessarily good.
Rise above your trouble
No doubt those steeped in their own pain will find it difficult to believe any suffering could be good, let alone necessarily good. As already noted, it's easy to be so absorbed in one's own troubles that it's difficult to see how those troubles could ever be stepping stones to tranquility.
And yet that's precisely why some pain is necessarily good. Henry Ward Beecher once said our troubles are "the tools by which God fashions us for better things." It is through our trials that we become refined and more of our best selves. It is through our trials that we develop the characteristics of godhood. It is through our trials that we come to know God.
How else could He be known? Elder Holland says as much when he declared,
We all have pain in this life. But when we look beyond our own pain to see the pain in others, we find it easier to see our own in perspective. We find it easier to reach out to help others. We find it easier to see meaning and purpose in our own suffering. And we find it easier to trust God through bad seasons as well as good ones. We find it easier to walk in faith and confidence that the promised blessings will come to us by and by. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Of course, Nephi is a key clue indicating direct applicability to singles. After all, Nephi was a stud of a single adult. Many of the epic faith-promoting stories about him — "I will go and do," for instance, or retrieving the plates from Jerusalem, or the vision of the tree of life — were realized while Nephi was a faithful single adult.
What inspiration has lit the world from that valiant example! We LDS singles can foster a similar influence for good if we will do as Nephi did and look to the Savior.
Look to Him
That's exactly where Elder McCune's remarks went. Addressing the general Church membership and not just the singles, Elder McCune admonishes all of us to exercise faith despite our challenges. As we look to the Savior in those moments, we can feel the love and peace only He can offer.
Elder McCune shares a family experience after his son encountered a life-threatening accident to his brain. In an almost empty hospital, all Elder McCune and his family could do was kneel and pour out their hearts to God. "In the midst of this confusing and painful moment," Elder McCune recounts, "we were filled with our Heavenly Father’s love and peace."
Elder McCune continues,
Many LDS singles sometimes wonder whether the challenges of singles life will ever end. To those with such thoughts, I invite you to look to the Savior and walk in faith.
Follow His servants
Walking by faith isn't easy. Especially in these times when the pandemic has turned the world upside down, many seem intent on walking in fear. We who have the light of the gospel can inspire faith with a focus on the Savior. And we LDS singles can play that part in our day just as Nephi did in his.
Already in my new calling, I've participated in discussions regarding the return to weekly Sunday church services. Many of the Saints have concerns — and rightly so — about the risks of infection. Yet the Brethren have asked local leaders to accelerate the return to regular worship services.
Keep in mind the Church is greatly exceeding what local state and county officials recommend. Yet even with that, many members resist the idea of meeting together. Far be it from me to judge others in these trying times. I certainly don't blame anyone for wanting to stay away.
Yet I would invite these same people I hesitate to judge to look to the Savior and follow His servants in faith. Elder McCune spoke of the support we can find in focusing on and following the Savior.
Nephi was able to do difficult things because he focused on the Savior and walked in faith. As we focus on the Savior and walk in faith, so can we.
Walk in faith
Elder McCune concluded his remarks by addressing the enticements some may experience to leave the spiritual safety of the Church. He first mentions loved ones "who are questioning truth." We don't want to abandon the gospel but also don't want our families torn apart.
I can't really speak from personal experience here, but I do like how Elder McCune responded. He advocated looking to the Savior and remaining faithful to Him and His gospel. It's hard to lift someone to higher ground from below. As Elder McCune declared, "If our true desire is to rescue those we love, we ourselves must stay firmly with Christ by embracing His Church and the fulness of His gospel."
He then addressed those who think we don't really need the Church.
I too bear witness that we singles Latter-day Saints can do difficult things when we look to the Savior, focus on following Him, and walk in faith. It's not easy, but it was never meant to be, because it was meant to be worthwhile. When we look to Him, the Savior's peace and love can fill our souls. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
A new calling
I actually had both of those events happen in the past few days. The new calling came on Sunday. When the stake president texted me to request a meeting, I knew it was about a calling. I just didn't know what calling.
I learned soon enough amidst a mixture of surprise and overwhelm. I expected a calling working with the singles. That just makes sense for a man in my position. But the calling extended to me was totally different. I was called to be the new stake executive secretary.
That the Lord would want me in such a position truly baffles me. Am I the one who should be joining meetings of the stake president with his counselors and meetings of the high council and such not as a participant, mind you, but as an equal contributor? I just never really thought of myself in that way, and so this new calling feels a little intimidating.
But I accepted the calling because I know the Lord governs His Church through revelation. I responded by walking in faith the Lord will support me. In so doing, I have committed to move ever forward.
A worsening condition
If news of a new calling is a blessing, this one wasn't meant to last very long. Later that night I began to feel stomach pain. At the time, it felt like I had just eaten something bad. I wasn't sure what that could have been, but I wasn't overly concerned as I laid myself down to sleep.
A couple of hours later I awoke to an even more intense pain. The pain wasn't so large it debilitated me, but it was large enough to keep me awake. Try as I might, I couldn't get back to sleep.
Tired from a night of almost no sleep, I went to see the doctor first thing in the morning. Considering my previous visit after a near miss of a heart attack, the doctor reaffirmed the earlier diagnosis and extended it to include the possibility of an ulcer.
Actually, it was more of a probability than a possibility; left untreated, my condition would certainly worsen. The pain I experienced was most likely created from bacteria that precedes most ulcers eating away at the wall of my stomach. We can't be sure until the test results come back in.
But we can be sure walking by faith is once more the best response. I have a contribution to make, and I'm not going to quit what the Lord gave me to fulfill because of any medical diagnosis. Certainly the one I received concerns me greatly. But I am determined to walk in faith the Lord will support me. In so doing, I have committed to move ever forward.
A determined response
Life will always bring its ups and downs, but we can live with confidence when we walk in faith. My decision to walk by faith hasn't lessened the overwhelm I feel in my new calling or the concern I feel in my unfolding medical condition. I still have those challenges.
But the point of walking by faith is not to remove our challenges. The point of walking by faith is to strengthen our dependency upon God to see us through whatever life may bring us — all of the ups and all of the downs. With Him, nothing is impossible.
Whatever challenge confronts you right now, I invite you to join me in the response I have given and will continue to give to my challenges. Commit to moving ever forward. Your progress may be slow or perhaps so small that it doesn't really look like progress at all. But by placing your trust in the Lord and walking in faith, you can, in the due time of the Lord, overcome any challenge placed before you. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
That’s true for anyone, LDS singles included. How much injustice have we endured? How often have we been considered an “other” or somehow “less than”? The bitterness we singles can feel — and indeed many have felt — isn’t fundamentally different from the bitterness behind all the chaos currently tearing the country apart. Bitterness is bitterness. Hate is hate.
And so as we approach Father’s Day this year, I reflect upon the never-married single men who want to be fathers but feel embittered against the single women who have constantly rejected them. I reflect upon the divorced single fathers who feel embittered from a broken marriage. I reflect upon the widowed men who feel embittered after tragedy forces singleness upon them. For these and so many others, what we need is forgiveness. Without forgiveness, there can never be healing.
Start with self
I was once quite embittered. In fact, I often joked, “I’m so jaded, I’m diamond!” — a tongue-in-cheek jab at the single sisters who somehow couldn’t see what a real find I was.
But that attitude never made me less single. If anything, it kept me more single. After all, who wants to live with bitterness?
And the ironic part is that the hatred bitterness always breeds is most fully directed against self. One may think all of the hatred is directed outward, but how can people truly love others without also loving themselves? We’re all children of the same Heavenly Father.
Only after I embraced forgiveness — of both myself and the imperfect ladies making imperfect choices regarding me — did healing begin to take hold in my heart. And only after my heart had healed could I broadcast a more positive energy that then led to more positive dating experiences
Take strength to let go
Simply put, the failure to forgive will hold everyone back from living their best life. Many singles harbor ill-will for both perceived and real injustices related to their singleness. However justified singles may believe their feelings to be, bitterness will always consume more the longer it’s held. Healing can’t happen until we let the bitterness go.
Chris Williams was a married man until a drunk teenage driver robbed him of his wife, then pregnant with their fifth child, and two of his other children. He watched his wife’s last breath. I can only imagine the sorrow this man endured.
If you’re unfamiliar with the story of Chris Williams, I highly recommend you watch the video in which Chris tells his story. And if you’re anything like me, grab a box of tissues first because you will break a water main.
Let the healing begin
Of course, it’s not just single men who need to embrace forgiveness. Everyone’s been wronged somehow. Bitterness works the same way in anyone. It knows no preference on whom it feeds.
And it doesn’t matter who is involved. Bitterness will corrode and canker whatever soul contains it. It works the same way on anyone. Its antidote is also the same for anyone. What we need is forgiveness. Without forgiveness, there can never be healing.
So this Father’s Day, show your love for fathers by embracing forgiveness. Forgive the man who was never the father you needed. Or forgive the one who took your father from you. Or forgive the man who has yet to be a father, especially if that man is you.
Whatever your situation, embrace forgiveness. Let the healing begin. Only then will come the peace and comfort you yearn to feel. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
That one part is completely true. They are torturing themselves. Your focus always determines your reality, so when you focus on what you don’t have, your reality becomes one of lack and emptiness. Because each one of us has agency, we choose our focus. And that means we choose our reality. Indeed, these sisters are torturing themselves. Their wanting serves only to amplify the effect.
Of course, that truth doesn’t excuse married Church members from lacking sensitivity. In recent years, I’ve noticed more married Church members displaying more sensitivity. Nevertheless, not every ward is like that. We still have work to do.
In the meantime, it’s productive for all of us to shift our focus towards what Mother’s Day was intended to celebrate. All of us have a mother who bore us and a mother who raised us. For some those two women are one and the same. But either way, we can each answer this question: “How’s your mother?”
Just as focusing on your lack produces a reality of scarcity, focusing on what you have produces the opposite reality — one filled with abundance and plenty. Your life shifts substantially in the improvement direction when you exchange your expectation for appreciation. It’s all starts with an attitude of gratitude.
So many create disappointment by expecting too much. We want, want, want. And very often what we want, however righteous that desire, centers around something we don’t have. Because our focus always determines our reality, focusing on what we don’t have produces a reality of lack. And the more deeply we want, the more deeply felt that lack becomes.
But exchanging your expectation for appreciation creates something amazing. By constantly expressing gratitude, we can shift our focus towards what we do have. And focusing on what we do have creates a reality of abundance. The more deeply we appreciate, the more deeply felt gratitude becomes. We can bathe in the joy of feeling richly blessed.
Shift your focus
That feeling is completely legitimate because it results from how we’re constructed. Your focus determines your reality. That principle applies to everything, including Mother’s Day. Focus on what you don’t have, and you’ll take no joy in the celebration because your reality will be so full of emptiness you won’t want to celebrate. On the other hand, if you can focus on the good about the day, then you can have a joyful reality you’ll want to celebrate.
I know that can be challenging. As I said before, not every ward displays sensitivity to singles. It’s hard to stay positive when the dream you don’t have but most desire gets highlighted every week at church. I know what it’s like to get constant reminders of what you lack rubbed in your face every week. I know it’s hard.
I also know what hard means. It doesn’t mean impossible. It just means difficult. And difficult can become easy when you partner with the Lord.
The Lord can guide your focus towards the blessings you have today because your mother sacrificed. When you trade your expectation for appreciation, you open yourself to receive more of the joy life has to offer.
And if your relationship with your mother needs work, you can focus on what you can do to improve that relationship. Even good relationships can be improved, so focusing on doing something in that arena is good advice for all of us. Even if your mother has passed on to the other side, you can still find ways to express appreciation and improve your relationship on your end.
So I ask once more, “How’s your mother?” which is really just another way of asking “How’s your focus this Mother’s Day?” Your focus will always determine your reality. So make the positive choice. When you embrace a positive focus, you’ll receive a positive reality. 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.
Over the years I’ve occasionally heard LDS singles complain that the Brethren don’t address singles and singles issues very often in Conference. I strongly disagree. True, they don’t always package their content with wrappings identifying their offerings “For Singles.” But if you dig a little deeper and really think about what’s being said, you can find many messages in every Conference that apply to singles.
Such are President Ballard’s remarks. By digging a little deeper, we can find messages that apply to singles. And they all center around the idea of giving control to the spirit over the body.
Remember God’s plan
President Ballard began by reminiscing over the previous year and his Conference address in October 2018 about the 100th anniversary of Joseph F. Smith’s vision of the spirit world.
Note that was October 1918. At that time, war on an unprecedented scale had ravaged the globe for the previous four years, resulting in tens of millions of deaths. And the Spanish flu pandemic was sweeping the globe, driving the death toll even higher. In fact, October 1918 was the deadliest month of the entire pandemic. It truly looked like the end of days.
That’s where President Smith’s vision of the spiritual world so beautifully provides hope. This same hope President Ballard expressed in his most recent Conference address. Our Heavenly Father has an eternal plan for His children — that’s all of us living here on this planet as well as everyone who ever lived or will live on it. That plan provides for reunion — that’s the word President Ballard used — uniting generations of family members together forever.
Treasure family now
What strength and comfort that hope provides! Though death is certain for all and death from COVID-19 is possible for many, God has prepared a way for us to be reunited with those we love most.
He has also provided opportunities for us to treasure those relationships before death. Spending more time sequestered at home provides more opportunities for families to strengthen those treasured relationships. And don’t think that doesn’t apply to singles without families of their own. The only thing stopping us from reaching out to family during this time is ourselves. President Ballard pleaded,
But there’s a caveat: We don’t get a family reunion just because we have love for them. God is as just and orderly as He is merciful and loving. He cannot deny justice when it has its claim (Alma 42:22-25). But President Ballard quotes President Gordon B. Hinckley who tells how we can claim the family reunion we’ll surely seek on the other side of the veil.
Marrying right means marriage for time and all eternity in the house of the Lord. Living right is an entirely different matter. Whereas marrying right takes place within a single day, living right takes place every day over an entire lifetime. And while singles by definition haven’t married right (because they aren’t now married), singles can strive every day to live right.
How did President Ballard approach living right? He referenced a talk his grandfather, Elder Melvin J. Ballard, gave entitled “Struggle for the Soul.” In that talk, Elder Ballard addressed “the ongoing battle between our physical bodies and our physical spirits.” President Ballard then summarized his grandfather’s talk in one sentence: “The primary battle is between our divine and spiritual nature and the carnal natural man.”
How is that battle going for you? That’s the question President Ballard asked. And in considering how we each might answer that question, he provided some added perspective. He recognized our spirits have existed long before our physical bodies and that we’ve already made righteous choices before entering mortality — what President Ballard called “a proven track record of a successful spiritual nature and eternal destiny.”
He then shared these thoughts:
Living right is really about choosing the spirit over the body. And that’s a choice all of us — single or married — can make every day. We can also choose to strengthen treasured relationships now. And when we do, that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Some things never change as we get older. There will always be death and taxes. The coolest toys always come out after you grow up. And the grass is always greener on the other side.
At least that how it appears. So many of us look at others and think their lives are much better than our own because they don’t appear to have our problems. If only we could be like them, we think, our own lives would be so much better.
But that’s a lie we should never heed. The truth is everyone has challenges. When you solve one problem, you’ll find a completely new problem just around the corner. Or you’ll merely swap your old problem for a new one. Life wasn’t meant to be problem-free for anyone.
And that’s good. We’ll never grow as we need to grow and learn what we need to learn without opposition. To become what we’re meant to become, we must overcome our challenges. So you shouldn’t want what the other half of the world has. Just keep your half because it’s what you need.
Don’t run away
The longing after what appears to be greener grass on the other side of the fence is often just a desire to escape from our current challenges rather than overcome them. If we simply ran away from those challenges, we’d certainly not progress towards becoming what we’re meant to become.
I know I wouldn’t be the man I am today if I’d decided to run away. For example, on my mission in Guatemala, I constantly battled illness. Had I agreed to come home early, I wouldn’t have had the blessing of teaching the gospel in my own language and to people from different parts of the world in the neighboring country of Belize. I wouldn’t have had the companions I had, each one of whom taught me something. My mission experiences continue to bless me and benefit my life decades after my service.
Facing our trials and working to overcome them have changed us all for the better. We’re better people because we decided not to run away from those experiences but rather to embrace them and allow them to change us into something more than what we were before.
Embrace the opportunity
In addition, those challenges themselves can be blessings in their own right. But we’re not likely to see that as long as we keep wanting to cross to where the grass appears greener. We’ve got to learn to want what we’ve already got. And that means changing the way we think in order to see the blessings our challenges are.
Sometimes that blessing comes as opportunity to bless the lives of others. For instance, my experience being single for more than two decades has, to say the least, increased my compassion for those who struggle with the challenges of LDS singles life. And that compassion is a large portion of the fuel that drives me in producing Joy in the Journey Radio. How many lives have been and will be blessed because of my personal ministry?
If you feel the siren call of grass that appears to be greener, ask yourself who could be blessed because you stayed on your side of the fence. Someone there may need your contribution, a contribution only you can make because only you have your unique personality paired with your challenges.
Confront your challenge
In the end, we are our choices. The grass may indeed seem greener on the other side, but there’s much value in the greenness of the grass we already have. We can all choose to lift where we stand, thereby blessing others while growing from the confrontation with our challenges.
Besides, nothing good comes from wishing we could exchange places with that other half of the world that seems to have a better life. The results we want will never come from wishing because they can come from one and only one thing — action. Better to spend our time confronting our challenges and learning how to overcome them than to waste away wishing for what will never come with the wish alone.
When you choose to keep your half instead of longing after the half someone else appears to have, when you choose to embrace challenges rather than seek ways to escape them, when you choose to see them for the blessings they are in and of themselves, then you’ll see that the grass on the other side of the fence isn’t that much greener after all. That will increase your gratitude to God for His bounteous blessings you already have. And that will bring you 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