How to Avoid Avoidable Sorrow

“How to Avoid Avoidable Sorrow,” For the Strength of Youth, Oct. 2022.

Come, Follow Me

Jeremiah; Lamentations

How to Avoid Avoidable Sorrow

An ancient and a modern prophet teach us that turning to God is always the best way to go.

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Illustrations by Michael Mullan

“Destruction is coming!”

What a hard message to give! But it needed to be given. The people of Jerusalem had turned away from God, rejected His prophets, and lived in sin and disobedience. God wanted them to know that He had tried to help them, but now awful consequences were coming.

God called Jeremiah to warn the people. This was a tough job because no one listened. In the end, widespread unrighteousness led to the destruction of Jerusalem and people were taken captive into Babylon.

The Power of Choices

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Sometimes sorrow comes from events out of our control or from the choices of others. But a lot of sorrow can be avoided through the choices we make.

Jeremiah warned people that their choice to turn away from God and ignore His teachings would lead to sorrow. Thankfully, the scriptures and the words of modern prophets help us know what choices will lead to joy and help us avoid avoidable sorrow. Here are some examples:

Heed God’s Word

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Through Jeremiah, God told the people of Jerusalem that “they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters” (Jeremiah 2:13). Water is essential to sustain physical life. In the scriptures, water is a symbol of Jesus Christ and His teachings, which are essential for eternal life.

President Russell M. Nelson has taught that when we heed God’s word, “God gives us the pattern for success, happiness, and joy in this life. …

“… I promise that you will be blessed with additional power to deal with temptation, struggles, and weakness. I promise miracles in your … family relationships, and daily work. And I promise that your capacity to feel joy will increase even if turbulence increases in your life.”1

The Blessing of Regular Repentance

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A big problem for the people of Jeremiah’s day was that they acted like they were devoted to God, but they weren’t sincere (see Jeremiah 3:10; 7:8–11). God cares about the desires of our hearts. How can we make sure we are sincere in following Him?

The Lord told Jeremiah that we can “amend [our] ways and [our] doings” (Jeremiah 7:3). In other words, we can repent. President Nelson has encouraged us to have “a regular, daily focus on repentance.” He said: “Repentance is not an event; it is a process. … [It is] doing and being a little better each day. …

“When we choose to repent, we choose to change! We allow the Savior to transform us into the best version of ourselves. We choose to grow spiritually and receive … the joy of redemption in Him. When we choose to repent, we choose to become more like Jesus Christ!”2

Follow the Prophet

Russell M. Nelson

Jeremiah’s teachings were often rejected. The same thing has happened to prophets throughout history. They warn us about the spiritual dangers of rejecting or distorting gospel truths to make them more appealing or acceptable.

“Truth is truth,” President Nelson has said. “Truth is based upon the laws God has established.” He has also said: “It is precisely because we do care deeply about all of God’s children that we proclaim His truth. We may not always tell people what they want to hear. Prophets are rarely popular. But we will always teach the truth!”3

Help along the Way

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Sometimes the things we face can feel overwhelming. Jeremiah certainly felt that way. When God called him to be a prophet, Jeremiah was unsure of his abilities. God explained that He knew Jeremiah before he was born and that He foreordained, or chose, him and helped prepare him for his mission (see Jeremiah 1:5).

God knows you too. As you turn to Him, He will help you avoid sorrow that comes from sin and disobedience. He will give you the strength to accomplish what He needs you to do, regardless of what may come your way.


  1. Russell M. Nelson, “Hear Him,” Apr. 2020 general conference (Ensign or Liahona, May 2020, 89, 90).

  2. Russell M. Nelson, “We Can Do Better and Be Better,” Apr. 2019 general conference (Ensign or Liahona, May 2019, 67).

  3. Russell M. Nelson, “The Love and Laws of God” (Brigham Young University devotional, Sept. 17, 2019), 1, 2, 3, speeches.byu.edu.