“Life is filled with detours and dead ends, trials and challenges of every kind. Each of us has likely had times when distress, anguish, and despair almost consumed us. Yet we are here to have joy?” said Russell M. Nelson.
The answer is a resounding yes! Joy is a guiding force for all men. As you have joy are given more light to confirm your path is the right one and to keep following it.
I believe that we are all children of a Higher Power. There is evidence of this in that there are similarities in all human beings. We of course all have the same physical make ups; two eyes, two legs, a heart and lungs to name a few. We all have the same feelings of happiness, sadness, pleasure and pain. We all have to fuel ourselves and drink water to survive.
The most perfect gift that everyone has is the right to choose our existence and state of being through thought. And with this similarity we are the most different because we all choose our own reality about life differently. While circumstances, cultures and our environments may all be different, we are still choosing to think how ever we may. These circumstances perhaps shape our thoughts and we are led away from this one truth; we choose our state of joy even though we may suffer.
How, then, can we claim that joy?
Russell M. Nelson said, “the joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.” Focus is a function of choice and thoughts.
Joy is powerful, and focusing on joy brings our Creator’s power into our lives. If we focus on the joy that will come to us, or to those we love, what can we endure that presently seems overwhelming, painful, scary, unfair, or simply impossible?
Victor Frankl is well known for having endured the horrors of imprisonment in Nazi concentration camps and remaining joyful. He wrote perhaps one of the greatest books titled, “Man’s search for happiness.”
According to the account in Wikipedia,
“After enduring the suffering in these camps, Frankl validated his hallmark conclusion that even in the most absurd, painful, and dehumanized situation, life has potential meaning and that, therefore, even suffering is meaningful. This conclusion served as a strong basis for his logotherapy and existential analysis, which Frankl had described before World War II. He is quoted as saying, “What is to give light must endure burning.”
An example of Frankl’s idea of finding meaning in the midst of extreme suffering is found in his account of an experience he had while working in the harsh conditions of the Nazi concentration camps:
We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the one road leading from the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with very sore feet supported himself on his neighbor’s arm. Hardly a word was spoken; the icy wind did not encourage talk. Hiding his mouth behind his upturned collar, the man marching next to me whispered suddenly: “If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps and don’t know what is happening to us.”
That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife’s image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.
A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which Man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of Man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when Man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way – an honorable way – in such a position Man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, “The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.”
Frankl was focused not on himself, but his loved one. His thoughts were focused away from his suffering and on joy.
Certainly in the worse situation man could ever endure, one with immense suffering, Frankl found joy.
What weakness will become a strength? What chastening will become a blessing? What disappointments, even tragedies, will turn to our good?
Our Creator offers an intensity, depth, and breadth of joy that defy human logic or mortal comprehension. For example, it doesn’t seem possible to feel joy when your child suffers with an incurable illness or when you lose your job or when your spouse betrays you. Yet that is precisely the joy the He offers. Confirming Frankl’s discovery,“What is to give light must endure burning.” His joy is constant, assuring us that our “afflictions shall be but a small moment” and be consecrated to our gain.
Anything that opposes His doctrine, principles and laws will interrupt our joy.
When we follow against these natural principles and laws, designed by our Creator to give up peace and joy, we receive guilt and shame. These two emotions can’t coexists with joy. Therefore being focused on the joy of finally being clean and right—the joy of being freed from guilt and shame—and the joy of having peace of mind is restored and almost immediately.
Why would our joy return immediately? Why wouldn’t our Creator “punish” our bad behavior and make our return of joy wait? Because He wants us to live in joy! He wants us to learn how to focus on the right ways. If he made us wait we might be confused as to what behavior or actions caused our joy. Our Creator is not a Creator of confusion.
What will you and I be able to endure as we focus on the joy that is “set before” us?
I believe, like Frankl, we can endure any hardship placed before us.
Take the experience of Aron Ralston who said when asked about amputating his own arm to free himself from 127 hours of being trapped in freak hiking accident where his arm was lodged between two boulders and he could not free himself.
Ralston said about the amputation, “It was the most beautiful moment of my life! The intensity of emotion, the euphoria… It was ecstasy!”
You might be having trouble believing him. The most beautiful moment of his life was amputating his arm? “Think of it like this. Take every instance of joy, happiness, pleasure, delight and fun you’ve ever had in your life, and pack it into one moment. Then multiply that moment by the power of every piece of joy and happiness you’ve yet to experience… That’s how I felt.”
He’s referring to the joy he experienced after he’d sliced through the last tissue that had been attaching the useless limb to the rest of his body.
It was April 2003 and he was at the bottom of a dark, cold chasm, hundreds of feet beneath the Utah desert. What should have been an enjoyable afternoon’s exploration of this remote canyon had turned into a disaster when he dislodged a huge boulder, which then fell on him, pinning him to the rock wall by his forearm and hand.
Joy with suffering is created with focus on your dreams. Ralston wanted to live big. He had big dreams to accomplish. Amputating his arm was the path he had to take to live free. To even live at all.
There are many philosophies of men, so abundant online and in the blogosphere, which do exactly the opposite of joy. Short-term strategies that are meant to cause you to separate your money in the pursuit of pleasure instead of joy. Sometimes these are so subtle that if we are dreamless, are deceived into thinking they will create joy.
If we look to the world and follow its formulas for happiness, we will never know joy. The unwary may experience any number of emotions and sensations, but they will never experience joy! Joy is a gift for the faithful. Joy is a gift of the dreamer warriors who work toward them every minute of every day! It is the gift that comes from intentionally trying to live a righteous life, as taught by our Creator.
Joy is one of the greatest emotion we can have. It is even above happiness, laughter and pleasure. Joy is a state of being that transcends suffering.
“Joy isn’t the absence of suffering. But suffering is the absence of joy.” ~ Michael Lantz
Find joy in your life. Focus on all that is good and of worthy pursuit. Dream big and has peace in the passion of a life well spent.