We now live in a world rapidly filling with strife of every description, war, contention, division, sorrow, unhappy people, selfishness, and misery. Where did all this come from? Why is it getting worse? Is there no cure? Is finding peace an option?
Sources of Suffering
The world is a temporary and imperfect place. Some of us are born with disabilities – sometimes multiple disabilities. Some of us have accidents or get sick and spend the rest of our lives dealing with the results. Some of our suffering is brought upon us by the actions or inaction of others. Again, not always our fault. Some suffering is financial, some social, some political, some from shortsightedness or the unthinking comments made by others. The possible causes of suffering in mortality are literally legion.
But those are only the parts over which we often have no control. We also cause ourselves problems by disobedience to God’s commandments. As the laws that govern happiness, ignoring or deliberately breaking the commandments always result in misery and unhappiness.
Russell M. Nelson in the April, 2011 Conference said:
The forces of evil will ever be in opposition to the forces of good. Satan constantly strives to influence us to follow his ways and make us miserable, even as he is.
It makes sense that Satan is miserable, miserable above all other creatures under heaven, as he has violated more of the laws of happiness than any other creature under heaven. As Christ is the happiest of all God’s children, having lived the laws of happiness to perfection, so Lucifer is the most miserable, having chosen to reject all of God’s laws in favor of his own path.
The definition of sin is to know to do a thing, and then not do it (James 4:17). When we choose to not do what we are supposed to do in order to bring about happiness, how can we expect to find happiness in the wake of our violation of the very laws that grant us that happiness? The problem often comes from the whisperings of Satan. He points to those who are violating the commandments and points out how much fun they appear to be having.
What we are not shown is the long-term results of those violations. It never ends well. It simply makes no sense that anyone can expect to find lasting happiness by violating the laws that create that happiness. Temporary pleasure and enjoyment certainly is available to those who break the commandments, but we are not looking for temporary. We are looking for those things that are eternal in nature. Life is short. Eternity lasts forever.
Some believe Satan’s lies and think that they can play around in mortality and in the end the Lord will overlook their indiscretions, resurrecting them to a blessed state despite their persistent disobedience in mortality. In Alma 41:10 Alma taught about the law of restoration this way:
Do not suppose, because it has been spoken concerning restoration, that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness. Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness.
In other words, just because God happens to love you, don’t think you can ignore the laws of happiness, but still be happy in the hereafter. It ain’t going to happen. The Lord is just and merciful, but only those who go through the proper steps of repentance qualify to receive that mercy.
Everyone else who falls outside the bounds of His mercy have only one available option, and that is to receive the reward of the unrepentant soul, which does not include the eternal happiness enjoyed by those who repent.
There are those who persist in trying to find happiness in sin, but their efforts always end the same way, in disappointment. As the Nephite people were about to meet their end at the hands of the Lamanites, their sufferings from the robbers and evils of the land became so severe that they began to mourn and “repent” of their sins. At first Mormon was pleased to see them desiring to turn their lives around so they could become a happy people again, but his hopes were dashed in Mormon 2:13.
But behold this my joy was vain, for their sorrowing was not unto repentance, because of the goodness of God; but it was rather the sorrowing of the damned, because the Lord would not always suffer them to take happiness in sin.
These are the sources of our suffering. They are many, so many that all the ways we can be made to suffer in mortality would be impossible to list. Suffice it to say that wickedness causes unhappiness and sorrow. There is no escaping it. Whether it comes quickly or after a long while, misery is the inevitable end of the matter. The misery of this world is largely caused by individual and community sin. There are hurts that happen by accident even among the most righteous of souls, but they are quickly repented of, and relationships are mended as well as they can be.
We are told that obedience is the first law of heaven. Why? Because every blessing is based on a commandment, a law of happiness. Obedience to a particular law will bring about the natural blessing or consequence of that law, which is something that causes happiness (D&C 130:20–21). It cannot be helped. If doing anything other than strictly obeying the commandment brings misery or suffering, then obeying the commandment can do nothing but create the opposite effect – happiness. It is really a very simple concept.
Peace in this life is based on the number of divine laws we obey. The more closely we align our lives with the laws that create happiness, the greater our internal peace. And it doesn’t matter what is going on around us. This is peace that is internal and independent of all other things under the heavens.
They are the same laws God, Himself, obeys and cherishes. They are the source of His happiness as well. He commands us to live these laws because He personally knows what happens when we live by them. Joy is the result.
Obedience allows God’s blessings to flow without constraint. He will bless His obedient children with freedom from bondage and misery. And He will bless them with more light. (Russell M. Nelson 2011/04)
Learning to Wait on the Lord
Peace is born of patience, and patience from suffering. That’s a bummer, I know, but it is just a fact of life. As we pass through the trials of this life, we exercise our faith in Christ, and He teaches us, a little bit at a time, to have faith that all His promises will be fulfilled. Just as a child insists on instant gratification, but over time learns to wait longer and longer for answers or rewards, so too must we when it comes to our petitions to the Lord.
Our Father in Heaven never ignores our sincere prayers, but He may wait a while (sometimes a very long while) before we receive the answer that best suits us, and that we are prepared to receive. He always answers us perfectly, because He knows what we can bear and how much we can handle at any one time. Some answers or promised blessings don’t even come in this life. Others may take years of patient waiting on the Lord for our answers.
Robert D. Hales said in his October, 2011 Conference address that:
… the purpose of our life on earth is to grow, develop, and be strengthened through our own experiences. How do we do this? The scriptures give us an answer in one simple phrase: we “wait upon the Lord.”
As we patiently wait for the Lord to answer our prayers, the Holy Ghost guides us, directs us, and prepares us for the answers we seek. The answers come when the time is right and we are prepared to receive them. This requires that we develop the patience to wait, and the trust that our waiting will be profitable to our souls in the end.
A companion quality of patience is peace. As we learn that the Lord always answers our prayers, and that if we continue to be obedient to Him we will find wisdom and knowledge to be better today than we were yesterday, we develop an inner peace and serenity that can only come from the Holy Ghost. This is the calming assurance that we are working peacefully with our Father in Heaven, and not as His adversary.
Yes, we live in a world full of pain and violence, but it is caused primarily by personal and community sin. Most of the effects of those sins can be made to bypass us as long as we don’t engage in the sins that cause that pain.
Obedience to the Lord develops strength of character and will. It brings the Spirit of the Lord to guide us and direct us in the paths of happiness. By being obedient to the promptings of the Spirit we learn to have greater and surer hope in the promises of the Lord. This allows us to develop peace and the patience to wait on the Lord, even when it looks like we logically shouldn’t. Once we realize that God always comes through for us, and always answers our prayers, it becomes easier and easier to experience the peace that only comes from patiently waiting on the Lord.
Kelly P. Merrill
Kelly Merrill is semi retired and writes for https://gospelstudy.us. He lives with his wife in Idaho. His strength is being able to take difficult to understand subjects and break them down into understandable parts. He delights in writing about the gospel of Christ. Writing about the gospel is his personal missionary work to the members of the Church and to those of other faiths who are wanting to know more about Christ's gospel and His Church.