I have a client who has spent a lot of time watching movies, wishing his life were like the lucky people on the screen. He envies what he perceives as better families, more exciting adventures, or more ideal situations. His own childhood was far from ideal. In fantasy he has found the ideal to which he has frequently escaped throughout his life.
Recently this client came in to see me and was very excited about a new perspective he had discovered. Hesitatingly, haltingly, he described a concept that was beginning to form in his head: perhaps he is currently, NOW, living in the “good ‘ol days.” Maybe the nostalgia and and longing he had felt in fantasy was placed incorrectly on fictitious stories portrayed by actors. Maybe he could see something joyful and even ideal in his own life. Right now.
Eckhart Tolle, a meditation teacher, writes about this very concept in his book, “The Power of Now.” It is such a beautiful concept, that our current state of NOW is beautiful, full, rich, and completely accessible to us. He teaches that to be caught up in the past is depression, and to be caught up in the future is anxiety. Only in our present moment can we experience joy.
Feeling the joy of our present circumstances can be a challenge. God created us to experience joy, as it states in the scripture, “men are that they might have joy” (2 Neph. 2:27). So surely God has provided a way for us to access this joy. When we contemplate our obstacles, trials, deficits, differences, handicaps, failures, etc., we may feel that the only thing available to us right now is suffering. This is especially true when times are hard. Specifically, when our burdens feel heavier than we can bear, joy can seem out of reach. Some of the hardest challenges (I think) that can be shouldered are born by those that Northstar ministers to: LDS individuals who experience same gender attraction or feelings or gender incongruence . Yes, there are many ways to experience challenges in life. But these ones are particularly heavy.
Regardless of the size or shape of anyone’s difficulties in life, I sincerely believe that God can help us feel joy in our current circumstances. As we are studying the Ezra Taft Benson manual in Sunday School this year, I was reading through chapter 4 recently and found the following quote by our former prophet, “Happiness here and now consists in freely, lovingly, joyfully acknowledging God’s will for us — and doing it in all ways and all affairs big and small.” This “acknowledging” that he speaks of is very important. If we acknowledge God’s will for us, we accept that His will and our will may not be the same thing, but we bend to his will, with the innocence and sweetness of an obedient child. This concept really resonates with me when I consider many of the deep disappointments and hurts I’ve felt in my life. When I get over the regrets of the past and the fears of the future and simply focus on where I am, and admit that God put me here for a wise purpose, I can feel the peace and joy available in that moment.
Further, President Benson goes on to say that these down times can end up being marvelous spring-boards to great strength if we allow it. He states, “We will all have disappointments and discouragements — that is part of life. But if we will have faith, our setbacks will be but a moment and success will come out of our seeming failures. Our Heavenly Father can accomplish miracles through each of us if we will but place our confidence and trust in Him.”
How wonderful it is to know that God can help us take our failures and turn them into victories! That knowledge can be so helpful when our present moment seems riddled with uncertainty and pain. If we know that in the end we will be victorious if we stand by God’s side, we can let go of the regrets and fears, and feel the comforting ease and joy of knowing that the battle will be victorious in the end.
And like a self-fulfilling prophesy, our trust in God in the hard times will actually lead us to victory. On the other hand, our fears create a disconnect with God that leads to actual fulfillment of those fears if we are not careful. We must not allow ourselves to be discouraged. Temporary discouragement is understandable…. we all experience it at times. But to stay there is dangerous. George A Smith quoted Joseph Smith as saying, “He (the prophet) told me that I should never get discouraged, whatever difficulties might surround me. If I were sunk into the lowest pit of the Nova Scotia and all the Rocky Mountains piled on top of me, I ought not to be discouraged, but hang on, exercise faith, and keep up good courage, and I should come out on top of the heap.” President George A Smith added, “There are times when you simply have to righteously hang on and outlast the devil until his depressive spirit leaves you.”
We are commanded to be of good cheer. President Holland stated once that he believed that was an oft violated commandment that perhaps we don’t realize we are violating. It is my testimony that there is much joy to be had, right now, and that we are in the good ‘ol days, right now. It is also my testimony that we can see God’s will for us in current life, that we can accept it, and that we can joyfully live it, and that we can outlast the devil by hanging on.
I’m grateful for the insights my client shared with me as he contemplated his growing ability to find joy in the present moment. I’m grateful for uplifting words of prophets and also secular teachers that help motivate me and teach me how to reach for that ideal. I am also grateful for the words of the Hymn, “I Believe in Christ” and will leave you will the following partial verse: