Last week we looked at some scriptures that showed us that God really does want us to be happy. Happiness is the design and purpose of our existence. The ultimate expression of what we can achieve is in the lifestyle of our Father in Heaven and in that joy Christ teaches us about in the scriptures and through the prophets.
But having joy be the end product doesn’t mean it will always be smooth sailing in this life. Life is tough. We all have times when everything seems to work against us and there is genuine suffering and sorrow. This being the case then how are we supposed to experience the joy God intends for us?
The balance between life and joy
Keeping the commandments may bring joy, peace, love, and many other good things, but that does not prevent life from happening all around us. Life is messy and sometimes it is dirty. There is pain in life as we deal with lack of funds to pay our bills or no money for that needed medical procedure. Life hurts when you lose your job or you’ve been robbed of your worldly possessions. Life stings when you are betrayed by a loved one or you see a loved one making choices that will inevitably bring sorrow, and there is nothing you can do to stop it.
The joy in the gospel of Christ comes in the midst of affliction. It slips into our thoughts and whispers peace to our souls. Joy often comes when we least expect it. It is healing and soothing to our souls. When Alma the Younger took his sons to preach to the Zoramites he blessed them in their callings as missionaries and sent them on their way. According to his prayer of faith they were blessed that their sufferings would never be more than their blessings (Alma 31:38).
And the Lord provided for them that they should hunger not, neither should they thirst; yea, and he also gave them strength, that they should suffer no manner of afflictions, save it were swallowed up in the joy of Christ. Now this was according to the prayer of Alma; and this because he prayed in faith.
When Alma the Elder and his people were in bondage to the Lamanites, even though they were righteous, they were treated terribly by their captors who hated them. The Lamanites strapped great burdens on the backs of the people of Alma as though they were beasts of burden. This caused much sorrow among Alma’s people. But they were faithful to the Lord and prayed for deliverance. The Lord eventually delivered them, but first He wanted to prove to them that their faithfulness could be profitable to them even in the midst of great afflictions. He promised Alma that the people would be individually strengthened so they wouldn’t even be able to feel the burdens being lashed to their backs (Mosiah 24:14).
14 And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.
The scriptures go on to say that Alma’s people “did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.” Yes, even in captivity one can be cheerful. This proves the point that joy comes from within, not from without.
When I first started defining joy the sources of joy all came from outside of me. There was a lot of money, respect, easy circumstances, having the ability to pay for bills, etc. None of these things have anything to do with me and my heart. Happiness, peace, joy, these things all originate from within the person and radiate outward. They are states of mind, not circumstances.
This is why living commandments bring peace and joy. They generate a state of justification before God. Living commandments brings us into line with the eternal plan for our happiness. This allows the Lord to begin to forgive us of sins and sanctify us or change our hearts so we no longer desire to sin. Sin always brings sorrow in its wake. Righteous living always brings happiness in its flow. That is the nature of things.
The happiness the Lord gives us comes in the form of peace of conscience, in security and freedom from fear, in love for others, and in assurance of His love for us. Joy is born of gratitude, and expressed through service. It may not be the temporary giddy flight of fancy that winning the lottery brings, but it gives us the security of knowing our place in the universe.
We find joy in our posterity and in the success of others. If you want to see photos of unbridled joy, look at the images of the Brethren as they meet the people of the Church on their assignments and as they dedicate the temples. There is no faking that kind of smile. These men are happy. You will find the same smile on the face of the General Primary Presidency, Young Women’s Presidency, etc. You’ll even find it close to home in your own ward if you look closely enough.
The key to our finding joy in this life has been in front of us all the time. Keep the commandments and serve the Lord. Joy flows naturally from obedience. That means we have some control over how much joy we receive in this life. That doesn’t mean life will ever be fair. It doesn’t mean we will all have lots of money and an easy go of it. What it means is that obedience to God’s commandments produces a joy that no amount of money can grant us. It produces gratitude that no amount of poverty can take away from us.
Joy, and the blessings that go with happiness is an essential part of the Lord’s plan for His children. Our Father in Heaven doesn’t hope we will find joy in this life, He commands us to be happy. Happiness is part and parcel of every directive we have ever received from heaven. Joy in this life and in the life to come begins with our individual decision to obey God’s commandments and live a righteous life. Joy is our birthright.
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.