I know, I haven’t written for a really long time. And I’ll admit that I wanted my first post back to be very different than the one I’m about to write. You see, since early spring we’ve been dealing with some unemployment. As a result, we decided to sell our home in June and we’ve been house-sitting for the last several months as we’ve been trying to figure out where we belong. All that time, I imagined writing a post where I could finally proclaim that we’d been delivered from our trial . . . that the Lord had come through and saved the day and all was well. You know—like a General Conference talk with a wonderfully happy and feel-good ending.
But the truth is, we’re not there yet.
Here we are 6 months later and by the looks of things—meaning simply by the looks of our outward circumstances—our happy ending could still be a long way off. And it would be easy at this point to conclude that the Lord has forsaken us or that He doesn’t answer our prayers or meet the needs of His people when they cry out to Him. But I’ve seen too many tender mercies over the last several months to believe that for even a minute. In fact, I can honestly say He’s been more involved in our family’s lives over the last few months than He ever has been before.
So today, I feel the need to do something that may sound a little odd. I want to praise Him before the big answer comes and before everything is put right and before we reach our happy ending. Why would I do that? Because I’ve learned for myself that I don’t need the Lord to change my circumstances in order to be happy—I just need Him. He alone is enough, no matter what kinds of struggles I’m going through in my everyday life.
President Russell M. Nelson said it beautifully in Conference last week:
“The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives. When the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation and Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening—or not happening—in our lives. . . . As our Savior becomes more and more real to us, and as we plead for His joy to be given to us, our joy will increase.”
Those are incredibly powerful words, but I’ll admit I never lived that way in earlier years. In contrast to what President Nelson said, my joy has always been tied to my circumstances. If things were good, I was good. But if they weren’t, I struggled with feelings of depression, anxiety, or even just frustration and restlessness. Yes, I definitely tried to come to Christ on those bad days, but it was always with the request that He hurry up and change my circumstances so I could get back to being happy: “Just fix this or that, Lord, and everything will be OK.” When He didn’t answer my prayer like I wanted Him to, I was often left feeling abandoned and alone.
I never realized that I was looking at it all wrong. The Lord was trying to get me to see that He could fill me with more happiness than I could ever imagine . . . right in the middle of even the hardest trials and afflictions. Changing my circumstances wasn’t what I needed . . . I just needed Him. His joy. His light. His love, filling me until there weren’t any more empty places to fill. It’s one of the greatest miracles possible through the gospel of Jesus Christ and I was missing it. But I’m not missing it anymore.
I love how Elder Nelson tried so passionately in his talk to help us see this. I think one of the most important things he said was that we can only experience this joy if the Savior “become[s] more and more real to us.” Elder Bednar talked about the very same thing … about truly knowing Christ and not just knowing about Him. Personally, I believe that’s the key that will literally transform our entire lives. We really are promised that our “afflictions” can be “swallowed up in the joy of Christ” (Alma 31:38), and that our “burdens may be light, through the joy of [the] Son” (Alma 33:23). It’s the very thing our family has tasted over the last several months, and the whole experience has set my heart ablaze with overflowing love and adoration for my Savior. I want to shout from the rooftops that, like He did for Lamoni, He has infused more joy and light and love into my soul than I can ever express (Alma 19:6). I love Him with all my heart and I’ll spend the rest of my life telling everyone who will listen. Perhaps the Psalmist put it best when he said that Christ was “anointed … with the oil of gladness above [His] fellows” (Psalms 45:7). I’m so grateful He’s willing to share it with us. I, for one, will never be the same.
(I had to add some happy pictures from the last 6 months. These were just a few of the many tender mercies that I want to remember: blessing Declan, Breck & Katelyn’s graduation, Sunday dinner in Utah (only missing Chase & Kimball), and of course, our little Pudge. Katelyn called that last collage “The Many Faces of Declan.” That little guy brings his own brand of joy that makes everything else we’re going through seem easy!)