What is the purpose of life? We’re here to gain a body and a family, to learn, to be tested, to develop faith, and ultimately to return to our Heavenly Father. However, the Book of Mormon also offers another interesting perspective on the purpose of our time here on earth:
Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy. (2 Nephi 2:25)
This is a very interesting thought. We are that we might have joy. Notice the scripture doesn’t say we will have joy, only that we can have it. In a life that has trials and sorrows, how do we obtain that joy God wants us to have?
It’s important to recognize that joy, happiness, and pleasure are not always the same thing. Pleasure suggests something worldly and fleeting. We might find pleasure in a walk in the park, but then go home and start arguing. Some people find momentary pleasure in sin, but this can never bring true joy.
We are often happy when things are going well in our lives. We may be happy the day our child wins an award for best student, dinner turned out perfectly, and we got a raise at work. All of this, however, is momentary and depends on things going well.
While God certainly has no objection to our happiness, what He really wants for us is to find true joy. Joy is deep inside, and is present even in sorrow and trials. We can experience joy even when someone we love has died, we’re coping with unemployment, or a child is causing us heartache.
Joy is based on knowing God is our Father and loves us with all His heart. It comes from knowing who we are—children of God—and letting that knowledge fill our lives and guide our choices. It comes from trusting God even when we see no way out of our current sadness or trial. It is the result of knowing that the trials of life are temporary and that someday we’ll live again with God in a perfect world.
A person grieving over the death of a loved one may not be happy at that moment, but she can be joyful, knowing the person has returned to Heavenly Father and is now living a wonderful life. She can be joyful because she knows family and love don’t end at death, and so there will be a time when they can be together again.
She can experience all this joy in a quiet way even as the tears fall. She knows why she is sad and that it will someday end. It’s a joy based on faith.
Parents are often devastated when a child who was properly raised makes terrible choices and turns his back on the values of the family. This is a time for genuine sorrow and fear. And yet a parent, although very sad and frightened, can have a quiet joy resonating in the background because she knows she isn’t coping with this alone. God is waiting to offer her comfort and hope, and furthermore, He hasn’t abandoned her child, who is also His child.
While He won’t take away the child’s God-given agency, the right to choose for himself, God can be standing by to place small promptings into the child’s heart, based on the faith of the parents. When the child is ready to listen, God will be ready to step in and help the child return to his foundations.
Joy is all about faith. When we trust God and really believe He is kind, loving, present in our lives, and ready to help, we can have a gentle joy that brings us through our greatest trials. We will still cry, still sometimes be afraid, and still experience trials, but we’ll always know we can turn to God to strengthen us as we’re going through them. Joy is all about knowing we’re never facing anything alone. We’re always in the care of a loving Heavenly Father.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.