Life is hard. I doubt there’s much debate over that. I am in awe of those for whom life is exceptionally hard. As Father Zosima (in “The Brothers Karamazov”) did to Dmitri out of respect for Dmitri’s suffering, I sometimes feel to bow to those who experience life’s more profound hardships.
It is easier, I think, to speak of the Lord’s peace (“not as the world giveth, give I unto you”) and of placing our trust in Him (“trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding”) when life is, for whatever reason, not as hard for us as it is for others. But what about when you’re the one facing any number of very difficult things: an ominous health diagnosis, betrayal from a spouse, same-sex attraction, a disabled child, a rebellious child, joblessness, rejection, depression, poverty, etc.
Nevertheless—and without being dismissive of the enormity of those challenges (as the word “nevertheless” might suggest)—the Savior’s message to us is that He will, in fact, give rest to those who are “heavy laden.” (In one sense, “heavy laden” is relative, with some thinking they’re heavy laden even while, in fact, they have it much easier than others; while in another legitimate sense, we are surely all “heavy laden.”)
“Take my yoke upon you,” He said, “and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” The phrase “take my yoke upon you” means two things to me. First, get after it; head up, chin up, and keep going. If we’re going to be yoked together, we’ll need to do push as best we can. Second, trust Him to do His part. A key to the scripture is in the phrase “learn of me.” The more we become acquainted with Christ and with his attributes and motives, the easier it is to place our trust in Him. “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” Coming to know him better should be an active life-long pursuit for all of us.
The Savior also taught us to not worry about worldly things and things that we just don’t need to fret over right now. For “which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?” On the other hand, “Consider the lilies” and the Lord’s willingness to take care of us who are “much better than” even those beautiful and perfectly obedient lilies.
No matter how much of a struggle we get into, it is always made worse by losing our perspective: when we decide our poor circumstances are permanent; when we doubt God’s existence (or at least His caring) because our troubles persist and He does not seem to respond to our requests to make them go away; when we believe that we must handle things on our own when we, in fact, can’t; etc. Such false ideas accentuate stress and lead to despair. They tend to lead us toward both giving up in our efforts and distrusting God—two things that will prevent us from finding rest for our souls.
I am reminded frequently of the serenity prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” How much we need to remember that!
I am also reminded of one of my favorite short verses of scripture (if only I could apply it better!): “In your patience possess ye your souls.”
Get to know God, trust Him, work, and be patient. This is part of living after the manner of happiness. And surely leads to the rest we seek.
What do we see when we encounter or interact with other people? Whether it’s your best friend, a teacher at school, a clerk at the 7-Eleven, your mother, the person in your rear-view mirror tailgating you, an old rival from high school, a co-worker, someone standing near a road holding a sign asking for money… When you see these people, what do you see? Which “them” do you see?
Numerous scriptures refer to seeing incorrectly or not seeing at all in spite of having the ability. We read things like:
- “they seeing see not” (Matthew 13:13)
- “having eyes, see ye not?” (Mark 8:18)
- “wo unto the blind that will not see” (2 Nephi 9:32)
- “we see through a glass, darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12)
- “seeing many things but thou observest not” (Isaiah 42:20)
The promise is that the Savior, who “seeth not as man seeth,” will help make it so “that they which see not might see.” (1 Samuel 16:7 and John 9:39) To illustrate his ability to do so, he gave sight to many physically blind people during his ministry—one of whom emphatically declared, “One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:25)
What is it, exactly, that we should see so much differently—so much more clearly—than we normally do? Some things high on our list might be: God, the nature of his love for us, and his role in our lives; ourselves and who we really are; also, our correct relationship to God. Thursday we discussed seeing other people more clearly.
The 13th Article of Faith says that we believe in being benevolent. Benevolent means having an inclination to be good and generous toward others, wishing others well, and having goodwill toward others. It is the opposite of having malice or ill will toward others.
The Savior showed us myriad examples of benevolence. He seemed to see people in a way that looked right past typical interpretations from outward appearances and status, and focused on their goodness, potential, and efforts. How did he react to the woman taken in adultery? To the publicans Matthew and Zacchaeus? To children (who were apparently annoying to some)? To the paralyzed man lowered through a roof to him? To the man at the pool of Bethesda? To the woman who touched the hem of his garment? To dozens or hundreds or thousands of others he healed? To thousands who came to hear him teach—and didn’t have enough to eat? To Nephites and Lamanites who longed to be with him? And so on.
Who did you encounter yesterday and how did you see them? Did you see someone who annoys or angers or offends you? Did you see someone who is less than you or better than you? Did you see someone you’re competing with or someone you need to appear a certain way to? Or did you see someone deserving of compassion, patience, and respect because, just like you, they have worries and struggles and pains and shortcomings (which probably trouble them more than they trouble you)? Was your first inclination to appreciate them for their humanity?
The good people at the Arbinger Institute have a lot to say about these topics. The principles they teach in The Anatomy of Peace and The Peacegiver are worth studying because they teach a practical approach to seeing others properly and exercising benevolence from our inside out, the way the Savior does. Among the principles they teach are the ideas of a “heart at peace” (which sees and reacts to people as humans like me) and a “heart at war” (which sees and reacts to people negatively). Perhaps my favorite principle is the concept that people actually perceive the state of our hearts toward them and reciprocate. However, they do it, people we encounter have a sixth sense which tells them whether we are viewing them with empathy and respect or not. If I am, they tend to react to me the same way and good things happen between us. If I am not, they tend to reciprocate my coldness and wrong thinking and we generally take nothing of any good meaning away from our encounter.
The point is that people are people. And people live and love and struggle and endure and laugh and cry and regret themselves and a million things—just like you and I. Mostly, they are good and trying and even though they frequently come up short, they continue to struggle and try and look for peace and happiness just like the rest of us. We owe them benevolence. We believe in benevolence. The Savior’s heart was (is) always at peace. He sees people with concern for them more than concern for himself. To the extent that I do the same, my life is richer and fuller and more rewarding—and the people I spend either brief encounters or a lifetime of companionship with also enjoy greater happiness. Seeing others the way Jesus sees them is one important way to live after the manner of happiness.