Be of Good Cheer (but Don’t Overdo It)

By Joel Hiller

Most people who know many latter-day saints would agree that members of the Church are, as a group, happy. In the media we are often portrayed as excessively cheerful and optimistic. Obviously, this mostly stems from the fact that living the gospel naturally brings us happiness—for me, the prospect of exaltation makes up for a lot of rainy days in this life, and the blessings that come through obedience are undeniable. But we are also specifically counseled in the scriptures to “be of good cheer,” and Church leaders have advised us that enduring to the end means more than simple survival.

An eternal perspective also gives us insight into the need for trials, however. Few members of the Church would deny that great blessings can come to us through overcoming the tribulations we all face. None of us will escape trials in this life, and many of our most severe tests can bring about life’s greatest joys. Parenthood, for example, is one of the greatest responsibilities we can be given in this life, and it brings with it both difficult trials and incomparable rewards.

Sometimes, though, it seems we as saints are afraid to show ourselves as human. Remaining optimistic in the face of difficulties is important, but does that mean we can’t ever let on that we’re going through tough times?

Now, I’m not saying we should “disfigure our faces” when facing trials. Nobody wants to be around someone who is always complaining. But there’s a difference between griping and being honest about what we are going through. After all, if we truly are supposed to “mourn with those that mourn,” don’t we need to be aware that other people are mourning?

I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but sometimes it’s harder for me to develop close friendships with people who can’t seem to relate to me. The people in my ward who never seem anything but perfectly composed (with perfectly obedient children, of course) seem so far above me in progression that it’s harder to develop the unity that we should all enjoy as friends and neighbors. If they truly are that happy at all times, then I greatly admire them and hope that I can someday achieve such a state. In the meantime, however, the people that my wife and I always feel closer to are the ones that might occasionally have bags under their eyes from sleepless nights with a baby, which we can readily relate to. These are faithful members of the Church, fulfilling their responsibilities and serving others, but we can be honest with each other and admit that we’re looking forward to a time when nighttime feedings are a thing of the past. We can draw strength from this solidarity, and find comfort in the support we offer each other.

When we are suffering through trials and it seems as though everyone around us has life all figured out, that can leave us feeling like something of a failure, not righteous enough to merit the constant happiness that others seem to enjoy. Because many people easily feel insecure, even with the comfort the gospel brings, we feel lonely when it seems we’re missing something that those around us seem to enjoy. By building walls around ourselves to keep others from seeing our humanity, we lose out on the closeness that comes from uniting together to endure the challenges of life. By being open with each other, we learn that success in the eternal sense comes from faithfully enduring and overcoming trials, rather than acting as though they didn’t happen.

I am not suggesting that we all stand up in fast and testimony meeting and detail everything that is imperfect in our lives. But in the appropriate circumstances and within reason, we have great opportunities to show empathy and love when we open up and share our tribulations with one another. Ironically, when we all seem a little more human, our goal of eternal perfection can seem a little more attainable.

1 comments:

Jen said...

Nice, Joel. I especially like the part about fast & testimony meeting. ha.