Tuesday, April 3, 2018

"That they might have joy."

I've been thinking a lot about the idea of "forced joy," or (much like Elder Uchtdorf's talk in fall 2017) the idea that we can be joyful in spite of circumstances.

It's something I'm really struggling with. I can pretend to be happy. It's not hard. I can spare everyone around me the struggles that I'm facing. But the more I try to pretend I'm not facing them, the more they weigh on me. The more "joyful" (read "of positive affect") I become, the more sorrowful I truly am.

When I accept that it's okay to have a hard time, that the things I'm going through really do suck, and really are hard, and really do hurt, the more I can separate them from me and find joy in spite of the hardships. But other people often don't see the joy I feel, especially since few of them are around me to see it.

Social media, for me, is a place to make social observations. Not exactly venting, but commenting, trying out ideas to see what other people think, if someone else has a different perspective. It really has very little to do with what I feel inside.

It has made me wonder, what is real joy? I'm not sure we recognize it. Joy is not the same thing as happiness. Joy is not the same thing as laughter, or a positive affect.

To me, joy comes from one source and one source only: recognizing the power, glory, and majesty of God.

When I see a sunrise, or hear my daughter's silly joke, I feel joy. When I see my daughter fight through bad circumstances, I feel joy. I feel joy when I pray and feel the Spirit. I feel joy when I see someone else find joy. I find joy when I'm on my knees, wrist deep in dirt, and see those tiny little sprouts poking up their heads.

We've got to stop using "joy" as a stick to beat ourselves with. Joy is a spiritual gift, and not all people are given it at all times. It's okay to be mad sometimes, if there's something that deserves anger. It's okay to be sad, when God Himself is a "man of sorrows." It's possible to be both of those things, and still carry joy.

Joy in Christ's atonement.

Joy in His ongoing love.

Joy in the fact that we have a God we can trust.

Joy in knowing that, if it were not for our sorrows, we would never have known real joy.

"Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy."
2 Nephi, 2


  1. When I read the Given's book "the God Who Weeps" I think I finally understood how integral the capacity to experience suffering is to the divine nature.

  2. Joy is the fruit for which gratitude is the seed. Joy doesn't spring out of our situation or our possessions or our challenges (or our lack of challenges). It comes from gratitude. Think what you believe would give you joy -- I can point to someone who has that and is not happy.

    More money? Unhappy rich people is almost cliche. Easy life? Those with easy lives are, in my experience, often the least happy people you will meet. Intact first marriage? Of course there are those who have that and are desperately unhappy. Whatever you feel you are lacking to bring about your happiness, you can find someone with that who is unhappy.

    It is only when we are grateful that we find joy. When we are more grateful, we find more joy. When we can say, in the midst of heartbreak and disaster, "Father, I know You love me and will consecrate all of this for my benefit -- thank You," we find a fullness of joy.

    It isn't easy, but it is simple. And years of experience and pain and trials have made this principle into a great test and reminder for me -- when I am unhappy, that is a sign to me that I am insufficiently grateful. So I look around me for the countless blessings God has given to me and I hit my knees in gratitude for them. And the joy returns. And if I am sufficiently unhappy that I cannot find something to be grateful for, I hit my knees and ask the Lord to open my eyes to what I should be thankful for -- that's one of the prayers He always seems to stand ready to answer.


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