Our Joy, Our Choice

"Many people die with their music still in them.  Why is this so?  Too often it is because they are getting ready to live.  Before they know it, time runs out."  This quote, expressed by Oliver Wendell Holmes, shows the sad end of those who do not claim joy as theirs to choose.  I wonder if you, reader, are experiencing such a mentality in your own life.  Certainly your pathway might prove easier if you simply allow life's swift river to carry you wherever it will, or as they say, if you "go with the flow".  In all bluntness, however, permitting someone or something to dictate your life for you really does not fit in with our Heavenly Father's plan.  Elder Bednar expressed it this way in his talk, 'And Nothing Shall Offend Them',

"In the grand division of all of God’s creations, there are things to act and things to be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:13–14). As sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we have been blessed with the gift of moral agency, the capacity for independent action and choice. Endowed with agency, you and I are agents, and we primarily are to act and not just be acted upon."

Jesus taught, "...and your joy no man taketh from you" (John 16:22).  If that is the case, and Elder Bednar has taught what he has as a servant of God, then having joy in our lives must be a choice we have. Employing all of our abilities to seek after gratitude, love, praise towards God, and more will all cultivate a spirit of joy. Even in cases of mental illness, I believe it is difficult to find one who cannot beat depression with dogged persistence and assistance from others to live a healthy lifestyle.  Exercise, writing down 15-20 things one can be grateful for, going and doing favorite activities, believing in oneself, prayer, priesthood blessings, and making positive affirmation statements all help.  Let me expound on a couple of them.

Gratitude, above all, manifests to God that we are determined to "be of good cheer" and to "be content with whatsoever the Lord hath allotted unto (us)", because it shows Him that we are receiving what He is giving us with a spirit of cheerfulness and humility.  Gratitude is so much more than merely expressing thanks when it is necessary or compulsory to do so; one who truly has incorporated gratitude into their lives is grateful for everything his Lord has given him-down to the life he enjoys when he wakes and the air he breathes.  Being grateful means you are glad to have the services that come from bills, that you are glad for the parts of your body that are healthy when you are experiencing sickness, that you are glad you are uninjured when you walk away from a car accident.  It means you are glad to still have your job even though you may walk in late after a hectic drive to work, or that you are glad to have children even though they can be rebellious and just downright nasty sometimes.  Gratitude endures and sees potential for better in the now, not in the future. If you truly love your life, or are grateful for it as I would say, it is in the now, not later.  And if you constantly express gratitude for what you experience now, including moments of simple joy up to the greater joys in life, you will find that God blesses you with more.  As Alma taught, "For what ye shall send out into this world shall return to you again...".  If you send out gratitude, more things will manifest into your life to be grateful for.  It is one of the universal laws of heaven.

Believing in yourself is the other key element to choosing joy over negative feelings.  Because we are all spirit children of our Heavenly Father, Satan's goal is thus:  "He seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself" (2nd Nephi 2:27).  But because we have bodies, he may bruise our heel but we can crush his head through the power of Jesus Christ and His Atonement.  Paul and Gabriel (Noah) both taught that we can do anything with the power of Christ at our side.  And as long as we have a broken heart and a contrite spirit (which essentially means a willingness to do whatever God asks), that power is with us.  Believe in yourself, because nobody can believe in you quite the same as you do.  Others may tell you or I may tell you how you can "best" go about believing in yourself, but the real truth is that you know such a thing best, though others help you discover it.  You can choose joy...it's simply there for you to grab. :)

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