Finding JOY!

Recently, I've been studying the scriptures and some recent General Conference talks to learn as much as I can about joy and happiness.  I guess I started wanting to learn more about this, because I felt like studying happiness could fill the gap for the missing happiness in my life right now.  But this study hasn't increased my happiness at all; instead, it has increased my joy, and that has been life-changing!

Wait a minute!  Aren't joy and happiness the same thing?  Doesn't our happiness increase when our joy increases?  Well let me explain...

I have learned that happiness is dependent on our circumstances.  For example, in 4 Nephi 1:15-16, we learn that, for a time, there was no envy, strife, lying, murdering, etc., and that, at that time, there could not be a happier people created by God.  Because their circumstances were good, the natural result was happiness.  I mean, don't we all feel happy when our lives are going perfectly, when everything is falling into place just as planned, or when everything feels good and right?  I certainly felt happiness this last summer when depression was not a part of my life for a few months and when everything seemed to be smooth sailing.

Joy, however, is not dependent on any circumstances.  It is something we can feel regardless of what is happening around us.  It's something we can feel, even in the midst of painful trials, even when the hardships of this life steal our happiness for a time, and even when we feel weighed down with sorrow.  Isn't that amazing?!  We can feel joy and sorrow at the same time, whereas happiness and sorrow are opposites and cannot co-exist.

All of this means that...
  • NO ONE or NO THING can steal our joy (John 16:22).  Joy is a choice that we must make and that we can make every day.
  • We can find more joy as we experience more misery, because our misery helps us recognize joy (2 Nephi 2:23).
  • We were created to have joy, even through our difficulties (2 Nephi 2:25).

How is it possible to have joy during times of sorrow, misery, and pain?

As President Nelson explained in this last General Conference (in his amazing talk about joy):

Joy comes when we are focused on the eternal things, rather than the things that are happening in the present.

We can find joy in our trials, knowing that they are helping us to become more like our Heavenly Father and that our reaction to them will help qualify us to return to live with Him again.  We can find joy in the Atonement, knowing that Christ experienced everything we experience and that He is here to help us through our difficulties.  We can find joy through the resurrection, knowing that someday all our tears will be dried and our broken hearts will be healed forever.  We can find joy in service, in loving others, in being thankful, and in praying, especially when we do these things through our struggles.

The Savior is our greatest example in all things, including in finding joy.  In Hebrews 12:2, it teaches that Christ was able to endure the atonement because of the joy that He felt.  This amazes me.  How did the Savior feel joy through what was the most difficult thing anyone has EVER had to experience?  It's so simple, yet so profound.  He thought of us.  He thought of how I would one day suffer from depression, and I would cry out, "Why doesn't anyone understand?" and how, because of His experiences, He would be able to reassure me that He does understand.  He thought of how each of us would need Him at different times in our lives, and that brought Him joy through His immense suffering.

I still have so much to learn about joy and so much room for improvement in finding joy through depression and through other struggles, but I am so thankful to know that joy is always possible!  I'm thankful that I have a Savior who truly does understand everything I feel and experience and that He is the one who can help me find joy.

1 comment:

  1. I love your articles! I just wanted to say that I think that fasting is a way we can begin to understand how Christ felt finding joy through pain. When I fast, what makes it joyful for me is to think of the person or reason I am fasting and imagine them asking me if they are worth giving up my food for. And I usually feel this overwhelming joy to say yes of course you are worth two of my meals. And I likewise compare that sometimes to when I feel the pain of depression and I consider taking my life or running away and I think of my husband and kids and my sisters and all my family members individually asking me "Am I worth you going through this depression?" Because if I abondon my family or take my life I might cause some of my individual family members to experience depression. And I would never want that for them or anyone. I will endure this pain of depression so that I can spare my family from the pain I would cause them if I abandoned them in any way. I then find joy in my depression because their happiness brings me happiness.