What causes you the most serious emotional pain? When I was 26 years old, I lost my little brother to cancer. The loss I felt was deeply painful. He was only 17. I held a belief that “it wasn’t meant to be this way” because he was so young. Mainly, it was just feeling the pain of his loss. I also had the thought that some of the light had gone out in my life, and that life would never be quite so sunny or hopeful again.
The pain of losing my brother was, in some sense, inevitable. I could, perhaps, choose thoughts that made it go away. But, in a larger sense, I would not have wanted it to go away too soon. As President Nelson said, “The only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life.” Who wants to do that? So, we can choose pain when it serves us. I think it serves us to grieve after the death of a loved one. However, the thoughts that I would never feel so sunny or hopeful again did not serve me. Any sense that he was “too young to die” was a judgment about how something must have gone wrong, the cosmos was out of balance, and I was suffering because if it.
Mid-single Latter-day Saints almost universally suffer from deep disappointment over how things turned out for them. During, and for years after, my divorce from my first wife, I was plagued by thoughts that:
- It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
- I did everything I was supposed to including going on a mission, getting married in the temple, paying my tithing regularly, and trying to be a good spouse. This is completely unfair!
- We were married for time and all eternity, not to separate when things get tough.
- I didn’t get married to get divorced.
- We made Covenants in the house of the Lord before God, angels, and witnesses.
- I have lost my promise of exaltation because of my spouse’s choices.
- We have children who are deeply hurt by this.
- Whatever benefit this is giving us is not worth the price.
- It is not right for me to be deprived of my children as much as I am.
- I should not have to pay money to support someone else’s unrighteous decisions.
- God does not approve of divorce.
Taken together, in some sense, these thoughts all add up to the idea that, “it wasn’t supposed to be this way.” That judgment, in all its forms, will keep us in pain until we let it go. There are some who are afflicted by these judgments who are still talking of little else but their divorces even decades later.
It is one thing to feel the pain of loss when your marriage ends. It is quite another to burden those thoughts further with a lot of judgments about things you have no control over. I hope this gives another level of meaning to the truth that, “with what judgment ye judge ye shall be judged” (Matthew 7:2). Our judgment that something is out of place or wrong is guaranteed to keep us in pain far longer than if we just allowed ourselves to experience the authentic pain of loss, unladen with the idea that it was supposed to be some other way.
Let’s try on a few other thoughts and see how they feel:
- Things are as they were supposed to be.
- Wherever I am now is perfect for my growth.
- My situation is the starting point for a happier life.
- God has a plan for me and does nothing that is not an act of love.
- “All things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28).
- God allowed me to experience this loss to make room for more love in my life.
- No other person can permanently deprive me of my joy or of my exaltation.
- I love my children and will continue to love them even more actively when they are in pain.
- It is a privilege to support and care for my children in whatever ways I can.
- God’s love is in, around, and through me. There is an endless supply of it available to me whenever I need it.
Can you see how this list of thoughts is elevating, where the former list is heavy and overwhelming? Both lists are thoughts about the same situation, but they are different interpretations.
Remember the promise of our Savior that “the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32), and consider what the Prophet Joseph Smith taught:
”[T]ruth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come; And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning” (D&C 93:24-25).
Truth is what is, not what we think should be. We add and subtract from the truth by the judgments we make about it. How we think about our circumstances will determine whether we are happy or miserable. Joseph further taught:
“Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light” (D&C 93:31).
Why do people not “receive” the light? Anything we receive is accepted through an exercise of “agency.” We may have physical ordinances like baptism, but they mean nothing if they do not reflect an exercise of “agency,” where we receive every truth in our thoughts. Think of that metaphor of light and darkness. “That which is of God is light” (D&C 50:24). Moses saw the difference between the glory of God and the glory of Satan and told Satan that his glory “is darkness unto me” (Moses 1:15).
Light represents thoughts that are elevating. It represents illumination and clarity. It represents hope and vision. What does darkness represent? It represents chaos, confusion, a lack of vision, and being unable to see our way home. It represents fear of whatever danger might be lurking out there that we cannot see. Darkness is heavy. Any work performed in darkness requires more effort because we can’t see what we are doing.
My plea to you is to stop trying to think your way out of the pain. Pain is part of the human experience and sometimes gives meaning to the love we feel. The point is really to keep it in its proper place. Make it authentic pain, and not the result of the judgments we make about something being wrong or out of place. Pain with all sorts of judgments hanging on it will last longer, hurt more deeply, and get us stuck and unable to move forward. My plea is to embrace the light with your thoughts and words. We have all kinds of thoughts. Not all of them reflect light and truth. Many of them are laden with judgment. Choose to keep the thoughts that are elevating and invite more love into your life and into your heart. That is the way of happiness.
About the Author
Jeff Teichert and his wife Cathy Butler Teichert are the founders of “Love in Later Years,” which ministers to Latter-day Saint mid-singles seeking peace, healing, and more joyful relationships; and the authors of the Amazon bestseller Intentional Courtship: A Mid-Singles Guide to Peace, Progress and Pairing Up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Jeff and Cathy each spent nearly a decade in the mid-singles community and draw on this experience to provide counsel and hope to mid-singles and later married couples. Jeff and Cathy are both certified life coaches and have university degrees in Family Science. They are the parents of a blended family that includes four handsome sons and one lovely daughter-in-law.
Purchase Jeff & Cathy’s book at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09KMXXJN7?ref_=pe_3052080_276849420
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