When times are hard, whether they are hard for everyone or just for us, it can seem impossible to find peace and joy. We often consider ourselves the exception to any advice on the subject given by God, the Savior, or religious leaders. Sometimes people will say, “Well, that advice would work for some people, but my problems are bigger so it doesn’t apply to me.”
The gospel of Jesus Christ applies to everyone. No one has challenges so great they can’t find a measure of peace and joy, since those feelings come from within and can be chosen. We’ve read inspirational stories of people in great poverty, in concentration camps, or severely disabled who chose to be happy inwardly despite their outward situations. They choose to choose peace and joy, rather than let other people or their circumstances choose for them.
Mormons (a nickname for people who belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) have a scripture that tells them that Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy. Joy is the reason for our existence, but we have to choose it. The Bible and the Book of Mormon can teach us how to choose joy.
In the Book of Mormon, a book of scripture that is a companion to the Bible, an ancient king and prophet named Benjamin was preparing to retire. He gathered his people together to tell them who their new king would be and to deliver a final sermon. Benjamin was an amazing king. He took no salary for his work, but instead took a regular job in addition to his work as king, to support himself and his family. He was much loved by his people.
He told his people the secret to finding peace and joy. He told them peace and joy come from keeping the commandments of God, serving others, and acting in wisdom.
Keeping the Commandments
Just as a loving earthly parent will make rules for his children in order to keep them safe and to help them progress, God has made rules for His children—us—and done it out of love for us. The commandments of God keep us spiritually and, in many cases, temporally safe. They help us to develop self-discipline, to develop other-centeredness, and to prepare to live in God’s presence. When we are doing what God wants us to do, we feel peaceful and know we have God’s presence in our lives at all times.
The commandments don’t save us. Salvation comes through Jesus Christ’s atonement, as shown in this quote from the Book of Mormon:
7 I say, that this is the man who receiveth salvation, through the atonement which was prepared from the foundation of the world for all mankind, which ever were since the fall of Adam, or who are, or who ever shall be, even unto the end of the world.
8 And this is the means whereby salvation cometh. And there is none other salvation save this which hath been spoken of; neither are there any conditions whereby man can be saved except the conditions which I have told you (Mosiah 4).
Obedience to the commandments, however, are an outward manifestation of our love for God if they are done for the right reasons. They demonstrate how much we are willing to sacrifice of worldly things for Him. In the Bible, Jesus was asked by a young man how to achieve eternal life. Jesus listed a number of commandments, which the young man said he already kept. Then Jesus told him to give all his worldly goods to the poor and follow Jesus. The young man was not willing to sacrifice that much for the gospel. He had demonstrated, through his choices, what his priorities were and how much faith he really had.
Benjamin taught that when we really believe in the atonement and really understand that we have all received a powerful gift from the Savior we have not earned or even deserved, that we will never again be able to judge others or hold back our gifts from others. We will want our children to have everything they need and we will give to the poor. We are all, Benjamin taught, beggars dependent on God for everything we have, and so we can’t judge those who are beggars on the streets or who are in need.
21 And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.
22 And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done.
23 I say unto you, wo be unto that man, for his substance shall perish with him; and now, I say these things unto those who are rich as pertaining to the things of this world (Mosiah 4).
When we serve others, we forget our own troubles for a while and focus on the trials of others instead. There is always someone whose problems seem worse than ours. Helping to fill those needs fills our own needs to make a difference in the world. Benjamin taught that when we serve others, we are serving God. God usually does His good works through other people, and so when we serve those around us, we are on God’s personal errand.
Act in Wisdom
We can’t prevent all trials. Trials help us to grow. However, there is no need to suffer unnecessary trials. Some of our trials come about because we make bad decisions and then have to face the consequences and those trials are preventable. If we make wise decisions, we can spend more time enjoying the blessings of life, instead of learning from the trials of our mistakes. If we pray each day and check in with God and His commandments before getting started, we can keep our lives running as smoothly as possible.
We have no way of seeing into the future, but God does. He knows what is going to happen to us and He knows what we need. When we trust Him and follow His advice, we can feel an inner peace even when life seems impossibly hard. It is difficult to give our trust to anyone, even God, but there is no other source of complete truth and wisdom. The more we choose to follow God’s plan for us instead of making our own, the easier it becomes. We soon see the blessings that arise from doing things God’s way and that allows us the luxury of peace and joy in the depth of our trials.