Join me for the next two weeks as we study Joy and Thanksgiving. This is part One of my thoughts as I study the assignments.
I originally wrote this scripture study program two years ago as a part of class that I taught on studying the scriptures. I haven’t ever gone back and re-studied any of my scripture study series. (I like making new ones!) But I have been feeling a little down and out lately. Sometimes Joy feels elusive, and I don’t like that! I’ve always been a happy person, and I still feel that I’m essentially happy–that I’m just having a tough go of it right now.
So…I figured it would be the perfect time to re-visit the concepts of joy and thanksgiving. It’s the perfect time of year for it. Above all, I like life more when I’m happier and when I’m more grateful. And I also know enough to know that happiness is a choice. I’m excited to study these scriptures again and remember what I can do to continue on in this life joyful and grateful.
The Connections taught by Lehi: Sin, Misery, Righteousness, and Joy
In 2 Nephi 2:13 and 23 Lehi teaches his son Jacob a few connections between Sin, Misery, Righteousness, and Joy. There are multiple levels of connections here.
First Level Connections
The first level of connections are the concepts that are directly related through cause and effect.
Righteousness→Joy – When we choose righteousness, we will also choose joy. Joy is the result of righteousness. There is no other way around this. It is important to remember that joy is not the same as pleasure. Joy is deep. It is abiding. It is what will help to get us through dark times. It is meaningful and fulfilling.
Sin→Misery When we choose sin, we choose misery. There is no other way around it. The important thing to know is why. Misery is a result of sin; it is NOT an emotion we feel because Heavenly Father is a dictatorial God. We learn in Alma that the nature of God is the nature of happiness. (See Alma 41:11.) If we want to experience happiness, then we need to adopt God’s nature as well. That’s just how it is.
Each of these connections are the first level connections. They are obviously related. They are progressive in nature. It is easy to see their relationship and why they have this relationship.
Second Level Connections
The “second level” connections are opposing in nature. They are connected to one another because they oppose one another. (Think of heads and tails of a coin, or the north and south ends of a pole). Even though these forces oppose one another, they are still inseparable.
Sin and Righteousness – Both sin and righteousness are also related. They are opposing forces. Both sin and righteousness are choices we make. We can’t not make a choice. We all must choose. We choose either to follow Christ and be righteous, or we choose to sin. You can’t say, “I refuse to choose.” Even a refusal to choose is a choice (and often a sin because following Christ implies an active and conscientious decision).
Misery and Joy
This connection can be looked at in two different ways.
One–as a result of choice – Both Misery and Joy are results of our choices and are related because they are the results of either sin or righteousness. When we choose sin, we choose misery. When we choose righteousness, we choose joy.
When others choose sin, they choose misery, and sometimes the misery that they choose not only effects them, but spreads to others involved, too. Sometimes we must endure misery because of the bad choices made by others.
Two–as a part of mortal life – Not only are misery and joy results of our choices, but they are also simply a part of mortal life. Because Adam fell, we have gained knowledge. We have gained the ability to perceive all of our emotions. We are not freed from these experiences. It is a part of living here on earth.
We learn in 2 Nephi 2:25:
“Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” – 2 Nephi 2:25.
Because Adam fell, we exist. And we exist in the state that He has brought us into: the fallen, natural world. Yet, we aren’t here to be subjected only to misery. We are here to experience joy.
The thing is, both misery and joy are connected – like two sides of a coin. So, if we want to pick up the “joy” coin, then we also pick up the “misery” coin. You can’t choose to only pick up the “heads” side of a coin. It seems like it would be nice, but it’s not possible.
So, there are times in this life when we go through Misery–not because we have sinned, not even because others have sinned, but because enduring misery is a part of receiving a fulness of joy.
What do these connections mean for you and me?
I love understanding the connections between misery and joy because it helps me to be able to endure difficulty.
Recently I have been going through a kind of depression. I’m fairly certain that it has been caused by fluctuating hormones (I had a hysterectomy a little over a year ago) plus other little “issues” that I hadn’t really resolved in my life. No matter the cause, the fact is, I have been more prone to feeling “down in the dumps” lately.
This is not really who I am. I feel like I’ve always been a very happy person. Even though I’ve been a little depressed lately, I still feel like I’m a happy person, overall. But I, like everyone else, still struggle. I don’t like struggling, but there’s a way to endure: knowledge, perspective, and gratitude.
I have a very dear friend in my life–Spunky. We became friends when we were teenagers. She is the most vivacious, fun, and life-loving person I have ever known. She has always embraced life with everything she has. Her love of life can be exhausting at times, but it is also contagious, and you are always having a good time when you’re with her. These qualities attracted me to her as a youth. I still look up to her example now.
Spunky would have her fair share of hard days, don’t get me wrong. She was diagnosed bi-polar as a teenager. This was like 20 years ago–long before being bi-polar was popular and/or acceptable. My point is, Spunky wasn’t vivacious because she was ignorant or unaware of hard days. She had her fair share of really difficult times in life.
Yet, even during her trying, depressing times, she would admit, “Life sucks, but I love it.” She didn’t mean this in a sarcastic tone. She honestly meant that even though she wasn’t happy with life at the moment, she still loved it. She didn’t love life in spite of it sucking or despite it sucking. Instead, she had learned to embrace the sucky days, too. They were a reminder that she was alive, that she had a life. She was grateful for the core of her own life–even if it meant she had a bad day or two. She seemed to understand that the ups and downs are equally valuable; that they are inseparably connected; that they are all good because they amount to this gift called life.
I also love life. Sometimes I forget that I love life, and I let the doldrums or the trials of life get to me. Sometimes I get sad enough to forget the blessing it is to be sad and am tempted to think What is there to like about life when life is like this? Yet even misery is a blessing because it is connected to joy.
It can be hard to remember that our trials will bring us joy–especially as we are enduring them. Some of the trials that we endure don’t seem to have a silver lining. Sometimes it is hard to understand how we will grow from a trial. Sometimes it is hard to have faith and put mind over matter during these times of intense suffering.
To get through the most difficult times, I think that we have to come to understand the connections that Lehi teaches. We must learn from our past experiences–where we suffered then felt joy. We need to trust that the pattern we have experienced in life will repeat itself, and that we will feel happy as we faithfully follow Christ. Not only must we learn from our past experiences, but we need to remember what we have learned–read journals, post inspirational quotes around the house, frame pictures taken of accomplishments that you have completed after a time of trial and suffering (Graduation, marathon, brand new baby). Keeping these thoughts in the forefronts of our minds will help us to trust God and in His perspective–that though we experience exquisite misery we will at one point experience exquisite joy. (See Alma 36:20-21.)
What impresses you about these connections? What do they teach you about joy and thanksgiving? What do you do to choose joy and thanksgiving in your life?
Check out more thoughts on the connections between Righteousness, Joy, Sin, and Misery here.