Sunday, March 8, 2015

Living Joyfully in Troubled Times- Some Items of Practical Application and Inspiration

In Relief Society today, we had a wonderful discussion regarding Living Joyfully in Troubled Times, a lesson from the Ezra Taft Benson manual. I think it also was refreshing to talk about life, and the fact that we all have afflictions, whether visible to others or not. I'm glad the lesson went as it did, and while I don't mind that I didn't get to share much more of my prepared materials, I thought it might be beneficial to some to have reference to these items.

There are some great talks by Elder Neal A. Maxwell, a personal favorite of mine. I love these ones about hope and how we mere mortals can be happy, successful, and handle the trials life gives us.
A handout with some 70 different coping activities for stress and frustration was passed out today. What I didn't mention due to lack of time was HOW we deal with something is incredibly important. Consider this quote by President Benson: 
"'Men are that they might have joy' (2 Nephi 2:25). Our Heavenly Father wants us to be happy. He expects us to be happy. But there is no happiness in a letting down of standards. There is no happiness when you fail to live according to your convictions, according to that which you know to be right. It is so easy to form the habit of taking it just a little easy on certain things. It is so easy to form the habit of faultfinding, or criticizing, of carrying in our hearts reservations regarding certain things in the Church. It is so easy for us to become a bit bitter, and then dwell on that, to become sad and carry a sad face with us. A sad face never won a battle in war or love."
It can be tempting to retreat into an ostrich mode, hiding our heads in the sand when it gets to be too much for us to handle. And in hiding, we instead of facing problems, we soundly abuse ourselves, calling ourselves lazy, incapable, slothful, not enough, failures, and then retreat to a place of distraction. I can understand that. Escapism is an alluring option when our woes and tribulations have no end in sight. Me? I love reading. I really love reading. A while ago, when Andrew was out of town on a business trip and stress was oozing from my eyeballs, what did I do? Not the dishes, that's for sure. I read 10 books in five days. I'm a relatively fast reader, and it didn't even take me whole days of reading to do it. In the time that I wasn't reading, I was looking around at the mess, beating myself up some more, and then picking up another book. NOT the way to fix a problem.

What is the way to fix the problem. Do something about it, no matter how small. As Spock, a personal hero of mine, once said: "One can begin to reshape the landscape with a single flower." This is in direct agreement with what Elder Holland taught:
"...Try not to be overwhelmed with your task. Don't assume you can fix everything, but fix what you can. If those are only small victories, be grateful for them and be patient. Dozens of times in the scriptures, the Lord commands someone to "stand still" or "be still"- and wait. Patiently enduring some things is part of our mortal education."
                                                                                              ("Like a Broken Vessel")
In addition to physical activities to help you feel better, you can also call on the power of music. Hymns are a beautiful way to inspire and lift your heart and mind. I find the following hymns to be especially adroit at nourishing my soul. I encourage you to read and ponder on the words, and read the scripture references.
  • "Ye Simple Souls Who Stray" (No. 118). This has four of my favorite verses in all of the hymnal. 
  • "Come Unto Him" (No. 114).
  • "Does the Journey Seem Long?" (No. 127).
  • "There Is Sunshine in My Soul Today" (No. 227)
  • "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" (No. 214). These lyrics are a poem written during the Civil War, and the message is one of perpetual application: No matter the darkness, the hate, the despair, remember that "God is not dead, nor doth He sleep! The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men!"
But music need not be holy only to be inspirational and just what we need. It is an incredible tool available to us in many forms! I love classical music, particularly of the Romantic era. I listen to operas and ballet scores throughout the day. For extra drive during cleaning, I like to listen to video game music- those songs are propelling in their drives and themes, and really make attacking that pile of dishes or laundry seem like an epic battle of light and darkness, and you the courageous hero.

If you want something with a good and bouncy beat, Mindy Gledhill is a cute artist with happy songs. And swing/big band music. A little Frank Sinatra can make me smile any time. A variety of music will help keep you rounded out in your varying moods and needs. Music is versatile; be versatile and creative in how you use it.

Remember that when making comparisons of your weaknesses to others strengths, you are hurting yourself and the other person. By assigning perfection and strength to the other person, you may not be able to see or accept the fact that he or she is currently having a difficult, and desperately in need of some help. You will miss the opportunity to help, to serve, and the other person will miss the chance to be helped and served. Comparing yourself to other people hurts everyone. Compare yourself instead to what you'd like to be: more like our Savior. President Benson taught:
Let your minds be filled with the goal of being like the Lord, and you will crowd out depressing thoughts as you anxiously seek to know him and do his will. "Let this mind be in you," said Paul. (Philip. 2:5.) "Look unto me in every thought," said Jesus. (D&C  6:36.) And what will follow if we do? "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee." (Isa. 26:3.)
We will never be alone if we live as we should, because our Father will always be with us to bless us. He wants us to be successful. He wants us to be happy. He wants us to achieve the good goals we set. He will do His part if we do our part.
One truth we must keep in mind is the beautiful fact God's "work and glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). You are part of that work and glory. YOU are part of the glory of God, you and your progression along the path to perfection. "To live perfectly is to live happily. To live happily is to grow in spiritual strength towards perfection. Every action performed in accord with God's will is part of that growth" (Benson). The way of the Lord is happiness and hope. 

Near the end of the lesson, I spoke of Mary Magdalene outside the tomb of Jesus Christ. The Lord isn't always where you expect Him to be, and if you are so determined to find Him in one particular spot, you may just miss the fact that He's right behind you. If you would like more on that, you can read Get Your Head Out of the Tomb. Additional discussion on being happy in our circumstances can be read in How to Be a Blossoming Flower. Please note that these are thoughts of my own, and I do not equate them to doctrine. But hey, these thoughts helped me- maybe they can help you, too.

I'd just like to end this pseudo-lesson (everything I didn't say in RS today) by saying that if nothing else, we can be glad that Jesus is the Christ, this is His living church, and the gospel is the way to salvation. Jesus is the LIVING Christ. ALL things will be made right through the power of the atonement of Jesus Christ. ALL things. That's why when no matter how dark the night, no matter how bitter the weeping that may endure the night, joy will come in the morning.