Life is busy, wonderful, and sometimes hard! It’s meant to be that way. Is it possible to feel “joyful in the Lord” while feeling overwhelmed or underwhelmed? I would say yes! Over the years, I’ve learned a few lessons that have taught me how to find joy in the Lord.
1. Discover the Lord’s Purpose for You
You are more than ordinary. You have a divine nature and purpose uniquely suited to you. Most of the time, the Lord’s purpose for you may seem ordinary, like a Church calling, a spiritual prompting, or a new personal or family role. However, these small and simple things combine into the Lord’s greater plan for you.
It’s easy to compare ourselves with others. There will always be someone who looks like they have everything together or are more important than we are. But we often forget that their purpose is different from our purpose. When we try to live true to who we really are—when we understand and appreciate God’s gifts and talents that are unique to us as individuals—then we can truly experience joy.
In John 17:4 we read that the Savior prayed to Heavenly Father, saying, “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” Jesus showed us how to find and finish the work Heavenly Father has given us. Our circumstances and the way we each complete our divine purpose will differ from everyone else, and that’s OK!
2. Find Joy in Your Circumstances
One of the keys to finding joy is to recognize God’s hand in your life, even during challenging moments.
Lehi taught this truth when he was living in a tent in the wilderness—all of his riches and his comfortable lifestyle left behind in Jerusalem. Some of his children were rebelling; two of them even tried to kill him and their faithful brother. Yet still Lehi wrote that “men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25
One day, while I was in Relief Society thinking about the women in the room, I looked at my sisters—knowing some of their challenges—and I felt their goodness, light, and strength. They chose to find things to be grateful for, and they became closer to God—not in spite of but because of their challenges. I once heard the statement “Joy is not the absence of pain but the presence of God.”
3. Remember That Joy Multiplies
Recently, I read a story about an ordinary individual whose joy spread from one person to another. The story began on a crowded bus during rush hour, the time of day when people feel tired and grumpy. A woman got on the bus carrying some heavy packages. She had to stand in the aisle because every seat was taken:
“Seated across the aisle next to her was a small plain-looking lady, someone you wouldn’t ordinarily notice. She looked up at [the woman] and her face was lit with a smile. ‘Could I hold your packages?’ she asked. ‘It’s so hard to stand when your arms are full.’ The woman glowered in confusion and looked away. But when she looked back, the smile was still there. Her wrinkled brow eased some as she handed over the packages. ‘They are very heavy,’ she said. ‘There are two pairs of specially made shoes for my crippled son, and they weigh twenty pounds a pair.’ She paused, and the next words seemed very hard for her to say: ‘Thank you.’
“They chatted on, and as they did, she smiled. Her whole face softened and her body relaxed. Soon the seated lady got off [the bus] and the other woman sat down in her place. But her expression had changed, and she smiled up at the young coed standing above her. ‘Could I hold your books for you? It’s difficult to hold on with books sliding every which way.’
“The girl smiled back, and as she gave up her books I heard her ask, ‘Did I hear you say you have a son who goes to Jefferson? That’s where I go to school.’ I had to get off at the next stop, but I imagined that smile traveling all over San Francisco. I too smiled, and wasn’t so tired anymore” (Good Deeds: True Stories of Good Deeds, Charitable Acts, and Selfless Service , 10).
Look around you. You can spread joy every day. The simple interactions you have with others can build character, faith, and testimony. You intentionally spread joy when you include someone new in your circle of friends, welcome a stranger, speak kindly with a cashier in training, wave when someone cuts you off in traffic, or put an arm around a young woman at church and tell her she’s just wonderful.
The miracle is that joy multiplies—and everyone you share it with will want to spread it.
4. Look for God in the Ordinary and Simple
Emily Belle Freeman said: “Our God is a merciful God. He is able to send tender mercies in the ordinary moments of our life according to our conditions, suited to the particular moments we face. If we watch for them they will become miracles amidst the ordinary details of our life. . . . It is a gift to learn to recognize these moments . . . , to view the great things that happen in the ordinary details of life as tender mercies from the Lord” (“If You Have Ever Wondered What a Tender Mercy Is . . .” Emily Belle Freeman blog, June 9, 2013, emilybellefreeman.com).
So, to those who feel overwhelmed, remember the glorious end of your covenant path will more than compensate for the adversity you face in life. And during your sometimes very busy mortal journey, through trials, heartbreaks, and sorrows, your “soul [may] be joyful in the Lord” (Psalm 35:9
Adapted from an address given at BYU Women’s Conference in May 2019.
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