Often what we need most is right in our path, but for various reasons, we don’t see it or recognize the importance of the obvious. There is a metaphor for this concept that goes something like this:
Can’t see the forest for the trees.
That phrase was confusing to me when I was a child. There were lots of perplexing concepts when I was young, but as I became an adult, many of these ideas no longer baffled me, like the concept of perpetual happiness. Nobody can be happy all the time, can they? I don’t know, but I know Someone who does. And I don’t need to understand all things right now. For now, my faith in Him is enough.
Early in the Book of Mormon, an angel asks Nephi a tough question: “Knowest thou the condescension of God?” Nephi’s answer is a perfect statement for us to remember in times of trial. “I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things” (1 Nephi 11:16–17).
Maybe I didn’t see it because it was always there. We have a tendency to take things for granted that are ever-present in our lives, even when these things are of premier importance — like service.
Family history, serving those all around us, living like we believe — when we do these things, the promised blessings are ours. It is not just a good idea or positive perspective. It is a fact. But how do we respond when times are tough and the chips are down?
Learning to Stand Down
Stand down is a military term from Vietnam where GIs back off the field of battle and others take watch so troops can get showers, put on uniforms, or sleep knowing that the perimeter is safe.
Today, I barely remember the horror and sacrifice experienced by many young people of that day. My brother was 18. I was just a child at the time. Thousands died in the conflict. Thousands more lives are impacted nowadays as a result. So I connect with the Stand Down organization providing relief for veterans in an effort to give back to those that sacrificed so much then and still do now.
But the concept of service is everywhere, sometimes in the most unexpected places. I have a new favorite baseball team: the San Diego Padres. Why? There are many possible reasons, but for me it’s because they are involved in serving others. It takes character and bravery to stand up and be counted. That’s why I admire them.
The Benefits of Serving
Without fanfare or attention and sometimes without even acknowledgement, hundreds serve anonymously in many different capacities. But the similarity in them all is that the participants love it.
“Not very many people get to witness miracles all the time, and I do—all the time.”
“I know what it feels like. We are all children of God.”
”Nothing like I thought it would be.”
I don’t know that those you serve will remember or fully appreciate your time, effort, or sacrifice—how could they — but I know that you will never forget it. The experience becomes a great blessing in your life. That’s what He promised us: hope, happiness, peace, and forgiveness.
In the parable of the ten virgins in the New Testament, Jesus Christ taught that five of the ten virgins were unprepared without oil at the coming of the Bridegroom. This is of such significance that the parable mentions that these had to leave to replenish the oil in their lamps. While the lacking virgins were gone to obtain oil for their lamps, the wedding started and the door was shut without them.
As sad and upsetting as it may be, there was no accommodation made for them. Without oil, these virgins were unable to enter the wedding feast, which signifies the import of being ready with oil in your lamp now.
The oil could signify numerous things. What then is this “oil” in our lives today and why is it so important? I propose it could be unselfish service in others’ behalf. We can’t borrow another’s experience providing service, but participating brings us happiness now and hope in the future. That conviction explains to me the oil in the virgins’ lamps.
A Service Challenge Never to Be Forgotten
Service blesses all those about us and illuminates our own lives, as well.
Many youth today participate in service organizations. Their projects span every quarter of the world. Because of our abundance, many have an opportunity to serve in numerous capacities. These organizations all do good, and I see and feel their joy. It is apparent in their words, their videos, and their eyes which shine.
Their examples inspire and lift us all like a rising tide lifts every ship in the harbor. Though not touted by the brethren, the Church plays a significant role in providing relief during these times. There are plenty of examples all over the news and the Internet. But for purposes of this article, I have one of my own to share.
It occurred many years ago. I was a relatively young father with several children at the time. It was Sunday and stake conference this particular week. The previous night’s snow had blocked us into our cul-de-sac, but somehow we made it to the stake center prior to the meeting.
We entered the chapel for the service to begin, and the stake president stood up to address the congregation. He thanked us for coming to the church meeting, and then he acknowledged the many that could not make it to the services due to the substantial snowfall. He encouraged us to follow the example of Jesus Christ and asked us to return to our neighborhoods, so we could help and shovel the snow from our neighbor’s walks and attend to their needs. Then he dismissed the meeting perhaps ten minutes after it started.
We went back to our home and changed our clothes, then as a family, we joined dozens of others and helped dig people out of the snow and provide access to their garages and homes. I am sure that none of my neighbors remember that we were there, but I will never forget it.
That is just a small example, but through my life I have witnessed thousands of them.
Perpetual happiness starts right now by following the words of Jesus Christ and doing the things He has asked us to do. Our actions are confirmed with that warm feeling. That I know. Excuses are not the answer; obedience is. And with that comes understanding and peace now and perpetual happiness in the world to come.
We bear witness of Jesus Christ as we follow his example and obey Him — when we truly live like we believe.
In 1989, Walter Penning formed a consultancy based in Salt Lake City and empowered his clients by streamlining processes and building a loyal, lifetime customer base with great customer service. His true passion is found in his family. He says the best decision he ever made was to marry his sweetheart and have children. The wonderful family she has given him and her constant love, support, and patience amid life's challenges is his panacea.