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.
Let’s think of people we know who exude a radiance of happiness, even when going through trials. We like to be around them. They lift us up. They see the bright side of things, and they help others see it too. For example, we have a neighbor who is bent almost in half with osteoporosis and can’t see into the faces of others. But she is always cheerful with a sparkle of humor and optimism. She jokes that when people approach, she has to identify them by their shoes. “So much depends on our attitude. The way we choose to see things and respond to others makes all the difference. To do the best we can and then to choose to be happy about our circumstances, whatever they may be, can bring peace and contentment” (Thomas S. Monson). The ability to feel gratitude also contributes to genuine happiness. Instead of blaming others (or God) for our difficulties, we can focus on abundant blessings. We can seek and celebrate the uplifting aspects of our circumstances. With a buoyant attitude, we can make the choice to be happy every day. We have many Reasons to Rejoice!
May I describe what joy feels like to me? It’s deep and untouchable by external influences—such as disappointments, trials, and pain. I’ve had all of those. But even in the midst of difficulties, I feel a brightness of hope that lets in light. This hope is leads to faith, because I trust God’s purpose in allowing trials—His beautiful plan to tutor and improve me. I pledge to follow Him. This faith increases gratitude for my Savior who makes it possible to have eternal life. This gratitude heightens inner peace, which is a soothing feeling of equanimity that allows me to fall gently to sleep at night and to wake smiling in the morning. I might describe joy as an inward “smile.” Peace, gratitude, faith, and hope—gradually increase my ability to “grow in love” as Leo Tolstoy put it. These are all elements of happiness. They are subtle feelings and are easily overlooked, especially during an uphill climb. So I’m trying every day to recognize, acknowledge, and then record these tender mercies from above. They are Reasons to Rejoice!
As an engineering student in college, I learned that concrete has many useful purposes in the building industry. Testing concrete in the laboratory proves that it works well when loads press downward in compression loading. But when tests are reversed, and tension (pulling) is applied, concrete quickly fails. The reason? Elements in concrete do not properly handle tension. By adding steel rebar, concrete can handle both compression and tension loading. This combined product is called reinforced concrete. My life is like concrete, loaded with stress and trials—pushing me down and pulling me in opposing directions. Without reinforcement, I will surely fail. I ask myself—What can I do to reinforce my character to withstand the weight of life’s challenges? I believe they are simple things, such as studying scriptures daily, praying often, and seeking opportunities to love and serve others. These and other worthy actions, though individually small, strengthen me to bear my burdens. It’s a new way to think about being a man of steel.
I winced while watching a beautiful Ethiopian baby submit to a measles inoculation with terrified cries of outrage, while adults held his bared arm steady. The little child had no understanding that the momentary, painful poke would save him from a life-threatening disease. Metaphorically, I’m like that child and cry out in pain when trials hit. But drawing from this parable, I must remember that my momentary, painful pokes of adversity serve a greater cause, allowing me to thrive spiritually, and are well worth a tiny stab of pain. These words from Richard G. Scott teach me: “When you face adversity, you can be led to ask many questions. Some serve a useful purpose; others do not. To ask, Why does this have to happen to me? What have I done to cause this?—will lead you into blind alleys. Rather ask, What am I to learn from this experience? What am I to change? Whom am I to help? How can I remember my many blessings in times of trial?” In time I usually come to understand God’s purpose for my trials, measured in subtle increments of growth. I am a child of God—who loves me. “Know thou, my [child], that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good” (D&C 122:7).