During a road trip, my husband and I took turns discussing these 3 questions: (1) What lessons have we have learned from the past? (2) How we can prepare for the future? (3) How can we enjoy living today? It was a fascinating and unifying activity. Of course the lessons learned from the past were usually gleaned from trial experiences. Though everyone’s list will be different, I’ll share just a few ideas we came up with from each category.
- Learn from the past: In the strength of the Lord, we can do hard things; Joy is in God, not in circumstance; recognition of countless divine rescues and tender mercies; the need of a Savior in the eternal plan of happiness; learning what is really important.
- Prepare for the future: Seek learning, both sacred and secular; continue to budget and save; practice prudence and generosity; maintain habits of healthy eating and exercise; establish emergency plans and supplies; maintain and repair property and possessions; nourish strong family relationships; view life with optimism and cheer; have a positive attitude about aging.
- Enjoy today: Appreciate each moment as a gift from God; increase gratitude; perform acts of service each day; prioritize best options for use of time; cherish each other and strengthen our marriage; be actively engaged in good causes; smile more; be other-centered; learn balance and pacing of all good things.
Plan to have this discussion with your spouse. It will give you many Reasons to Rejoice!
When teens graduate from high school and leave home to taste independence, they enter the dangerous decade of young adulthood. In the thrill of freedom, they often explore forbidden paths which lead to destructive behaviors, habits, and detours. By contrast, what parent could want more than to hear the following words from a son or daughter during these critical years? Here is a short extract from a long list of lessons learned from our oldest grandchild who recently returned from her mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was hard work. She said she is not the same person that she was 18 months ago.
- I have learned why we need opposition and the trial of our faith.
- I have learned the important role of the Holy Ghost, and why I never want to live without the guidance of the Spirit.
- I have learned the importance of family and what I want my future family to be.
- I have learned what it means to truly love people.
- I have learned that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is infinite and intimate.
- I have learned what Heavenly Father can accomplish through 19 and 20 year- old men and women.
- I think the greatest change in me is that I can say with confidence that I know the truths of the gospel for myself.
- There is a certain peace and joy that comes when you know the truth. It comes from the Savior. That is what continually motivated me to wake up every day with excitement to share it with others.
- I have learned that I have great reason to rejoice!
It is inspiration from God to send missionaries of young adult age to spread the good news of the gospel worldwide. In the process of blessing others, these young adults are shaped in magnificent ways. I am a grandmother with great Reasons to Rejoice!
We were standing in the wind, rain, and cold at the end of a long queue to tour the Payson Temple open house on the busiest of days. Three teenage girls in front of us were shivering in short sleeves and bare legs—jumping up and down to generate heat. Finally, one girl said to her friends, “Ok, guys—enough of acting wimpy. We’ve gotta be tough. We can do this!” It made me smile—because I think she had heard these words many times before. Good parents teach their children to do hard things. They teach them to work, to endure, and to be “tough.” In this context, “tough” means to weather the storm instead of quitting. It means—no whimpering allowed! But how do parents teach this important skill when it’s our natural instinct to swoop down and pluck a child from distress? It’s a delicate balance to minister compassion while giving challenging responsibilities and accountability. A child will gain confidence when a parent says, “You can do this!” instead of rescuing. Does the Savior rescue us from every distress? No. He allows us to grow as we push through hard things, although He guides us to the finish line. He cheers us on and enables us to do what we could not do on our own. When our children were young, we gave them tasks to perform. If they complained—another task was immediately added, without scolding. Lessons were learned quickly this way. I want to be able to say these words at the end of each day: “I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7).
The Savior told instructed His disciples to be yoked to Him. He said, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). First of all, what is a yoke? I think of that wooden thing between a pair of oxen, latching them together. When I covenant with Christ, I am yoked to Him so I won’t drift into forbidden paths. Being latched to Christ is like having a protective shield around me, ensuring safety from temptations. How can a yoke be easy? It looks heavy and cumbersome. At first glance, pledging obedience to commandments might appear cumbersome or restrictive. But actually, obedience frees me from the adversary’s snares. It’s not “shoulder-shrugging acceptance, but instead, shoulder-squaring to better bear the yoke” (Neal A. Maxwell). How can the Savior’s yoke make burdens light? Being yoked to Christ puts a spring in my step, fills my heart with hope. It enlarges my capacity to learn and feel joy—even during the most difficult trials. Being yoked to Christ enables me to carry on, to persist, to endure, to finish. The Lord needs finishers, no matter the challenge—to the very end of life. His yoke makes this possible. His yoke makes the journey easy and joyful.
Service to others
What does it mean to pursue “a more excellent way”? It is a path of covenant making and covenant keeping. It means being totally converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ and striving to become His disciple. Walking “a more excellent way” means hearing and yielding to the Spirit’s promptings. It means caring for and serving others with deep, considerate feelings rather than pursuing our own interests. We live in a selfish world where people give little thought to others; rather they are consumed in themselves. As followers of Christ, we must lose ourselves in the service of others. “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3.19).
I have often fantasized about a tensionless state where there are no deadlines, no stress. Isn’t that the ideal we all seek? Isn’t it good to reduce stress in our lives? Victor Frankl (from Man’s Search for Meaning) disagrees: “If architects want to strengthen a decrepit arch, they increase the load which is laid upon it, for thereby the arcs are joined more firmly together. So if therapists wish to foster their patients’ mental health, they should not be afraid to create a sound amount of tension through a reorientation toward the meaning of one’s life.” He summarized, “What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal.” I guess I don’t mind stressful work if I can see a worthy purpose—if it pushes me outside my comfort zone to be learning and growing. When Michelangelo was asked if carving stone exhausted him, he replied that it did not; rather, it filled him. Any effort with a worthy purpose produces growth. That’s why God allows adversity and challenge in in our mortal journey. So instead of yearning for a stress-free existence, I should smile and ask, “What am I learning from this?”
Do Actions Match Prayers?
Ever caught yourself in response to a disappointing exam result, saying, “What! I can’t believe that!”? I have. But in such cases, I had to truthfully assess how much effort I had expended to learn the material. Did I study all that was necessary to achieve the hoped-for grade? Or did I wait to the last minute and then run out of time, soothing myself with rationalizations? Was I wistfully and unrealistically thinking that things would turn out well without taking the steps to insure that they would? Similarly, I must work hard to prepare to meet Heavenly Father at the end of mortality. How much effort am I expending? My interview with God will reflect what I have overcome and what I have become. It will reflect my heartfelt desire to grow up in the Lord. It will reflect my faith as well as faithfulness to covenants. I want to avoid the sorrowful exclamation of regret: “If only!” The scriptures teach that “This life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors” (Alma 34:32). I want to push myself with renewed energy to make these eternal preparations.