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Every day has a surprising amount of pollution in it. An unkind judgment of this person that leaves a noxious residue on my soul. Fretting about bills and health and bosses saps some well-being from my soul. Bristling against a perceived duty keeps peace and godliness at bay. Justifying my weaknesses and sins drains my spiritual reserves.
It seems that we humans are quite determined to embrace the darkness. The natural man (or woman) is an enemy to light. Our minds patrol our lives looking for people who are not following our rules, for threats to our well-being, all the while keeping an inventory of failings—our own and everyone else’s.
Pretty gloomy stuff. It’s not surprising that we mope our way through life.
In this mindset, it is no wonder that we also see God as the cosmic enforcer who prowls around looking for someone having fun and trying to get it stopped—as C. S. Lewis suggested.
We clearly misunderstand the way we are to live our lives. We are choosing misery.
The most important repenting we ever do is to change our mindset. Rather than focusing on failure and sin, Jesus commands a different focus:
Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not. (D&C 6:36)
He might allow us to expand that counsel: Don’t doubt. Don’t fear. Don’t worry. Don’t judge. Just live in the joy of my loving and relentless redemptiveness. Keep hold of the joy.
Henry Ward Beecher seemed to agree with that idea when he pronounced that “the test of Christian character should be that a man is a joy-bearing agent to the world” (Peter’s Quotations, p.84). When we allow Jesus to preside in our minds, our natural state will be one of joy. We will hardly be able to resist it! It will consume our thoughts and actions.
Of course, Satan will stand by waiting for a chance to return us to our state of gloom. He may try to use new challenges or fresh insults as his opening for his trademark darkness. But, if we understand darkness as a temptation from hell, we are more likely to resist it. Darkness is not conscientiousness or responsibility or accuracy. It is surrender. Surrender to Satan.
This is consistent with God’s instructions. Think about His amazing teaching in D&C 78:17-19. God begins by observing that we are still children who have no idea what amazing blessings He has in store for us. He assures us that, though we cannot now comprehend all things, we should be of good cheer because He is leading us along. He promises us a place in His kingdom and the riches of eternity. In that context, He gives us a sober law of life:
And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.
We are to receive ALL things with thankfulness—not only love, happiness, and comfort but insults, pain, and disease. If we receive all things with thankfulness, we will be made glorious.
This may seem silly and perverse. We are to welcome bad news with the same exuberance as we receive good news? I think a metaphor may help.
During a stay in the hospital a few years ago, my surgeon subjected me to procedures, restrictions, and tests that were uncomfortable and counterintuitive. Though I was often miserable and weary, I embraced directives from the doctor because I trust him.
God asks the same from us. He asks that we receive everything that He sends as a sacred gift. Joseph Smith provided a great example. After enumerating unbearable and seemingly senseless burdens, God counseled Joseph tenderly: “know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good” (D&C 122:7).
I think that God was inviting Joseph to have radical faith. In a sense, God was saying: “Dear Son, there is never a moment of your life that escapes me. I preside in your joys and your pains. None of it is random and unsupervised. I allow only those experiences that can ultimately bless you.”
When we accept everything including terrible tragedy as a gift from a God who is ministering perfectly to our education and refinement, we are living radical faith. We are ready to receive ALL things with thankfulness. We move through life with a steady serenity knowing that we are in God’s hands.*
Oddly, the pains of discipleship seem like nothing when we know we are in God’s embrace. Job could lose everything and still pronounce triumphantly: “the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Peter and John were threatened by the council but rejoicing still spilled from their souls. Pioneers might bury loved ones and still sing “All is well. All is well.”
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God. (Romans 8:28). When our eyes are fixed on Christ, we know that all is right in the world.
This is the season for gratitude! I would like to help you build that spirit in your family and among the people you love. I am offering five copies of my children’s book, God’s Trophies, for $25, free shipping in the US. This is a $65 value! The book features a wonderfully illustrated, joyful story that helps children to learn about gratitude for all of God’s creations and teaches them that they are each God’s most beloved creation. The book would make an excellent holiday gift for any special people in your life!
To get this special offer, go to: https://ldsgreats.com/products/five-copies-of-gods-trophies-by-wally-goddard-picture-book
*At times when our best efforts do not defeat the gloominess, we may need to get extra help from priesthood blessings, spiritual advisors, or appropriate professional helpers.