I hopped on my elliptical machine to exercise, and turned on TV to make the time go by faster. Every channel clamored for my attention, such as commercials and programs shooting out dizzying images, grating voices, and quirky phrases to capture my focus. Even news channels bombarded my senses with moving messages along the bottom and sides of the screen in addition to spoken words. I was on sensory overload and my ears throbbed. Exasperated, I switched off the TV and tapped my phone to The Mormon Channel. By contrast, I listened to an apostle of the Lord speaking in a humble voice about an important principle of truth. His voice was soft; his message powerful. Ah—what relief! Spiritual truth cannot compete with the flash and flair of the world, if we are energized by those things. The world shouts in voices that are brassy and harsh; God speaks with the quiet voice of the Spirit which lingers and lifts. I need to seek quiet places to hear answers to my prayers, to hear God’s counsel, to feel His peace. “Therefore, let us follow after the things which make for peace” (Romans 14:19). God’s peace is what energizes and sustains me even through difficult days. In this I find Reasons to Rejoice!
Why is it so hard to notice our own spiritual progress? The reason: The effects are gradual and difficult to observe from day to day. For example, if I look at a photo taken of myself many years ago, I would notice a big difference as compared to now. But when I look in the mirror each morning getting ready for the day, I can’t see the subtle changes taking place. They aren’t obvious in 24-hour increments. I think that’s how it is with spiritual change. As I strive to keep the commandments, such as making time for scripture study, church and temple worship, offering kindness and service to others, change is happening even when I’m not aware of it. One way to observe this transformation is to keep a journal describing goals, challenges, and victories along the way. It’s like a photograph which can be viewed and reviewed. As I read entries from the past, I can see little signs of improvement. Some things I once struggled with have been conquered, and goals set years ago have been reached. Change is still subtle, and of course there are occasional setbacks and relapses. But as I yield to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, the Lord helps me put off the “natural man” little by little, step by step. God is in the process of recreating my nature to become like Him. I can see it and feel it. I feel progress like wind in my hair. This is a Reason to Rejoice!
Years ago, one of my students rushed into the classroom bubbling over with news about his parents’ reward for good grades at the end of the term—a trip to Disneyland! This dangling reward gave him motivation to get all assignments turned in for a week, but by the second week he had slipped back into former lazy habits. I have a similar problem with spiritual goals. First of all, the goal needs to be genuinely mine and not someone else’s. I have to want it passionately. And it has to be reinforced frequently to keep me focused through life’s distractions and temptations. My ultimate, long-term goal is to acquire the attributes of Christ. But with that ambitious goal, a one-time spiritual surge or epiphany isn’t enough to keep me going day after day. I need daily, hourly, even minute-by-minute encouragement to keep on track. That is why the Lord blesses us at baptism with the Gift of the Holy Ghost as a constant companion—to prompt, redirect, and encourage. Another significant help is partaking of the sacrament each week to refresh the promises I made at baptism and the Lord’s promises to me in return. I need that weekly renewal. When I wake each morning, I talk to God in prayer asking for His help and guidance. At night I report my day to Him and listen for redirection. With God’s help I can enjoy little victories along the way toward my long-term goal. “With God all things are possible” (Mark 10: 27). What a great REASON TO REJOICE!
- What keeps you motivated toward your prime goal in life?
Still dripping from her nighttime bath (long ago), my 7-year-old daughter pleaded to sit down to the piano for singing time. It was late. I was tired and there were others to tuck in bed, as well as a long list yet to do before turning in. The temptation to say, “Not tonight” was pulling on me, but a quiet voice inside urged me to give just a few minutes at the piano. I shudder to think how close I came to missing it. She flipped to her favorite song, “My Heavenly Father Loves Me.” After singing both verses, her beautiful blue eyes brimmed with tears. Quickly she explained. “Mom, I love that song! It makes me have a tight feeling in here when I sing the words, ‘He gave me my life, my mind, my heart.’ And when it comes to the ending, ‘Yes, I know Heavenly Father loves me’—it’s like in my Sunday school class when my teacher tells us that Heavenly Father loves us, I think, yeah, that’s nice. But when I sing this song, I FEEL that He loves me. I KNOW He loves me!” She threw her arms around my neck and whispered, “This will always be our song, Mom. We’ll always remember this night, won’t we?” Now decades later, rereading this journal entry, I am profoundly grateful for the whisperings of the Holy Ghost—to capture this moment with my daughter, and for helping her discover what it feels like to KNOW that something is true. As I look back, some of the little things and small moments are the most precious in life. I am tempted to think that there are no little things.
Is it possible to find peace living in a world filled with strident voices, violence, and crime? These words from President Thomas S. Monson lift my spirits. “It would be easy to become discouraged and cynical about the future, even fearful if we allowed ourselves to dwell only on that which is wrong in the world and in our lives.” He counseled us to focus instead on blessings, to remain steadfast and cheerful through our troubles. “This attitude is what will pull us through whatever comes our way. Fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith.” I feel peace knowing that I am a child of God and that He has a plan for me. I feel peace in covenant-keeping because God’s promises are sure. I feel peace in my marriage as we move through our days hand in hand—learning, loving, growing. The Holy Ghost fills me with peace, even during trials. Peace is love in my heart, restraint from temptation, and joy in sacred things. I feel peace in prudent living, with simple tastes and habits that constitute aesthetic leanness. Alan and I strive for “elegance rather than luxury; refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy…not rich; to study hard, think quietly, talk gently…to bear all cheerfully…to let the spiritual grow up through the common” (William Henry Channing). Peace does not come from external things; it is a gift of the Spirit—incorporated as an attitude. Yes, I CAN find peace even living in a chaotic world.
Do you remember Helen Keller’s animated description when she first discovered the mystery of language? Hands were thrust under a water spout while the teacher spelled the word “water” into her hand. Helen said, “I felt a misty consciousness as if something forgotten…and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free.” Helen’s darkness had suddenly burst into light, opening up a vast outside world that she could neither see nor hear.
I thought how similar was my awakening to the language of the Spirit—God’s communication to me through the Holy Ghost. It is a still small voice, ever so subtle. I hear this voice in the form of countless little ideas that pop into my mind—to serve, to love, to forgive. The Holy Ghost whispers reasons to rejoice every day. He speaks peace amid trial, comfort in sorrow. On occasion, the Spirit urges need for repentance. Always the Holy Ghost conveys God’s love and affirmations of my worth. Similar to Helen Keller’s awakening, this communication from God opens up a whole new world that I can neither see nor hear with physical senses. Of course, this awakening is the mere beginning of language. I’m trying to learn fluency—to recognize, interpret, and act. This living word from God “awakens my soul, gives it light, hope, joy, and sets it free.” How does the Spirit speak to you?