Cheerfully Diligent

In a world of so much complaining, noise, distraction, darkness, and all the rest of it, sometimes I wonder why I sometimes join in and listen to all the negativity.  Doubtlessly Satan has a hand in it, certainly he would have us wallow in it.  What of Christ, though?  What would He have us do in times of hardship?  I would like to share a narrative, rather than the typical tone of doctrinal dissertation or even advice to live differently.  If anything, I hope to accomplish my goal of directing you towards heaven and towards Christ, by the medium of personal revelation.  I do not subscribe to the morally relativistic philosophy found in the Church which states that we each live our own truth, or our own way.  Such behavior of determining your own path of truth is condemned by the holy scriptures, when Christ said, "They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, which image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol..." (D&C 1:16)  It is the pathway to seeking to have a summer home in Babylon, as Elder Maxwell explained, while residing most of the time in Zion.  If we are to truly say that we bid Babylon farewell, then it must be a permanent choice.  And, as I've discovered, this is when the true magic of the gospel transforms our lives-when the Atonement of Christ changes not just what we know, but who we are. 

Back in April, I was seeking out employment somewhat desperately, because I thirsted for the freedom of emotional independence and financial stability.  My last employer had terminated me wrongfully, and through a tender mercy of God, I was staying with a good friend of mine who virtually required nothing of me, financially speaking.  I planned to stay in an apartment in the Ogden area, and figured that the rest would fall into place.  Well, as I planned it, I fell upon a job that paid a significant amount of money, but the Spirit prompted me not to take it.  I ignored the prompting, because I didn't understand why God didn't want me to take the job.  Instead, I decided to move forward.  At first, it seemed wonderful and so I decided that I was just listening to my fears and such.  However, as time wore on the job became so stressful that I grew very, very depressed-actually, the most depressed I have ever been in my life.  My appetite left me, I couldn't sleep properly, I even sometimes thought of killing myself because I felt lonely much of the time.  In the end, I ended up having a nervous breakdown after leaving work early one day, and I wrote a public suicide note on Facebook.  This resulted in me being hospitalized, which turned out to be a great blessing because it healed much of my bipolar and depression I was experiencing. 

For those of you who know me, however, I have not been able to be cheerful consistently for quite a period.  Honestly, the days where I was cheerful would vary so much and even be so far and few between that I didn't know when I was truly happy and when I wasn't.  My frame of reference for my happiness had really shattered into a million pieces, and couldn't ever be put back together.  However, God knew it was necessary for that to happen, because shortly after it did, I started getting better, and better, and better, to the point where I now can usually pull my depression back in consciously when it starts getting bad.  My bipolar has stabilized, which is something I have sought after for 7 long, long years.  All the pain I went through, the loss of friends, jobs, money, self-control in addiction, temple blessings, taking the sacrament, etc... all that happened to some degree or another because of my mental illness.  But as I remained diligent, with as much cheerfulness as I could muster and find in the grace of God, I regained my mental health.  The magnitude and joy of that blessing weighs heavier than the ability of words or perhaps even music to lift it up into the light of human comprehension.  It happened, though, because I chose Christ over the world, knowing I couldn't disobey the Spirit and simultaneously have joy.  Some may wonder what happened to me temporally- God has worked literal miracles since, for I've not wanted for anything.  I am richly blessed, temporally speaking. 

In my journey of same-sex attraction, sometimes I think has been rather easy to get caught up in melodramatic nonsense, my own insecurities and self-imposed labels, the whirlwinds of attractions, infatuations, and so forth, and all the rest of it.  It calms me when I am still, and know that God is, and will deliver me.  That deliverance may come through perspective, strength, comfort, peace, and other ways, but it always comes if I wait for it.  May I submit, then, brothers and sisters, that it can be the same for each of us, no matter what?  Each of us is a spirit child of our Father in Heaven, one who delights to hold us in arms of mercy and loves to hold us up to nothing less than a standard of perfection.  Love is too great to give me or anyone else lesser things, including mediocre morality or an unrefined spirit.  If I am to pursue a loving friendship and close relationship with Jesus Christ, I believe that it is true when the scriptures say, "Let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed." (D&C 123:17) 

I have struggled with simply allowing myself to be loved, and it is because of the concept which C.S. Lewis so correctly identified when he stated that the sacrifice for Christ is one of the most beautifully tragic, inexorable, and intolerable compliments to us as humans.  We are so imperfect, and yet, He loved us that much!  It is like a friend who loves you and loves you, even though you are being rotten to him in so many different ways, as we are when we sin before God.  Then, your friend goes and saves your life by giving his.  While I love my Savior for holding me in arms of mercy, I also love Him for holding me in arms of justice, too.  I do not wish for a God who is entirely merciful, because a perfect being would rather see someone suffering in doing right, than committing wrongdoing.  Therefore, as I am refined in the purifying fire of affliction, I truly praise God for it, because it is the only way by which I more deeply draw closer to Him.  Something about pain manifests the love of God for us, but not because God takes pleasure in chastising us. 

When the scriptures teach that whomsoever God loves, He chastens, I am certain it is because of the effects of doing so, not referring to the action itself.  In other words, the love of God is manifest in the effects of the chastening, not the actual chastisement.  My heart is purified, I draw closer to Him, the blessings flow, purity replaces pride, and much, much more.  I think, if we could see every affliction with greater eternal perspective, looking all the way forward to our exaltation, perhaps we might even ask God for greater trials- or as President Kimball once expressed, greater mountains to climb.  In this fiery trial, experience, struggle, or whatever other label you choose to place on SSA, I have climbed over mountains of shame, lust, codependency, hurt, bitterness, fear, self-doubt, and so on. 

Why, though?  Why bother?  I have because it means something to keep trying when your feet are weary, to step forward towards the outstretched arms of Christ when the pain is almost unbearable...that moment when you want to give up and give in.  I testify that giving up and giving in is not ever, ever, ever the answer.  We are meant for so much more, and though the path might not seem familiar to our feet, as we walk along it and endure, being cheerfully diligent, I know we will make it familiar.  It is a key to finding peace in any trial.  I testify of that, and I testify of the reality of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  He knows your pain and tears in the night, He knows your name, He knows your afflictions, your worries, your anguish, your conflict.  He hears every plea, and He answers.  Even when you can't speak, even when all you can do is simply speak the name of Christ, I know He hears the depths of your sorrow.  Don't give up.  Find power in being cheerfully diligent.  I love all of you.  Until next time...

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