Monday, March 5, 2018

The Difference between Happiness and Joy.

  I remember lying down next to my mom at night as she scratched my back in hopes that I would fall asleep. “Tell me the story,” I would whisper, not wanting to wake up dad. So, for the 4th night in a row and without hesitation she would tell me my favorite bedtime story. “Once upon a time in a land far far away there lived a beautiful princess named princess Gabrielle.” She started every story the same way, but she always came up with different endings. At a young age, I was taught to believe in “Happily Ever After,” but up until now did I realize the meaning of that phrase.

             I often times catch myself saying, “once I graduate I will be happy,” or “once I’m married, once I’m rich, once I get that job, once I can afford that car, or live in a foreign country… then I will be happy.” Every time I let myself believe that happiness is dependent upon circumstance, I was taking away my ability and gift to CHOOSE for myself. 

"And men are, that they might have joy."
(2 Nephi 2:25) 

            It doesn’t say, “And men are, that they might be happy.” It says that we might have “joy.” I tend to confuse the meanings between happiness and joy. I feel happy when I eat a slice of pizza, or when I do well on a test I studied for, but similar to moments of feeling sad, frustrated, and/or confused, the feeling of happiness comes and goes. Our ability to feel joy depends on our ability to feel pain, or our ability to allow ourselves to feel pain. This is why God said that our purpose here on earth is to have joy, not just to be happy. One cannot feel joy without first experiencing pain in some way, but the beautiful thing about joy is that even when you’re in pain you can still feel it. Joy isn't the absence of pain, but the presence of God.

“The deeper your pain, the greater your capacity to feel joy.”

           It’s easy getting caught up in the opinions of others. It’s easy to look at a picture on our phone screen and assume that the person in the photo doesn’t suffer like we do. The more we compare ourselves to others the easier it is for us to feel sad, annoyed, or even angry at God because of the trials we’ve been given and the absence of trials in the lives of those around us. The poison of comparison starts with the idea that God loves someone else more than you, but when you stop comparing yourself to others and start looking within you will come to find that God is indeed aware of YOU. He loves YOU, and YOU are His son or daughter.

          One of my favorite poems teaches me that the test of life isn’t for us to get what we want, or what we  think we deserve. The test of life is learning to survive and finding joy in the very things that we didn’t want to happen.

“The tree that never had to fight
For sun and sky and air and light,
But stood out in the open plain
And always got its share of rain,
Never became a forest king
But lived and died a scrubby thing.

The man who never had to toil
To gain and farm his patch of soil,
Who never had to win his share
Of sun and sky and light and air,
Never became a manly man
But lived and died as he began.

Good timber does not grow with ease:
The stronger wind, the stronger trees;
The further sky, the greater length;
The more the storm, the more the strength.
By sun and cold, by rain and snow,
In trees and men good timbers grow.

Where thickest lies the forest growth,
We find the patriarchs of both.
And they hold counsel with the stars
Whose broken branches show the scars
Of many winds and much of strife.
This is the common law of life.

Going back to my mom’s bedtimes stories of “Princess Gabrielle," she never talked about the fabric of the princess’s dresses or the beautiful furniture inside the castle. She always talked about the people who lived right outside the castle walls who needed the help of Princess Gabrielle. Her stories always had problems that needed solving and friends who needed helping. My mom taught me early on that your happily ever after doesn’t start when you meet your Prince Charming. It doesn’t start when you get the beautiful castle with the silk sewn dresses. Your Happily Ever After starts the moment you understand that is has nothing to do with your circumstances and everything to do with who you are inside, and who you want to become. Happily Ever After’s might include periods of depression, grieving over a loved one, or family struggles. But it's important to remember that the poet doesn’t make beautiful poetry simply by looking through rose-colored glasses. He makes beautiful poetry by choosing to see the good in the first place. You have to choose to turn straw into Gold, and lemons into lemonade. It doesn't just happen on its own. 

           The test of life has always been to rise each time you fall. There’s no prize for the one who never falls. In fact, there was only a price to be paid. The one who never fell paid the price for all of us who fall every single day. President Thomas S. Monson said, “It’s about finding joy in the journey.” I have to constantly remind myself that joy will always come on Sunday, but first we must spend Friday in the outskirts of Calvary. The only perfect one suffered more than anyone. So why do I sit here and think that I’ve done enough suffering, enough hurting, enough grieving, and enough waiting for one lifetime? When in reality I will always be the one in debt to Him, not the other way around. 

"The greater the distance between the receiver and the giver the more entitled the receiver feels."

 All I know is that sometimes I get caught up with what the TV commercials, social media posts, and magazine articles are telling me. That I need to,  “get rich fast, eat this to be healthy, and buy this to make life easier and happier!” The only thing that will make anyone’s life easier is the knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, because when it comes down to it we all came to earth to learn specific and important lessons and none of those lessons can be bought or fixed with protein powder. Just as my mom taught me in her bedtime stories so did Cinderella when she had to sweep up the cinders before trying on her glass slippers. Or Belle when she befriended the beast before learning he was her Prince. Even though Sleeping Beauty lost both of her parents she was blessed with 3 magical best friends. Each and every one of us will have to pass through sorrow before discovering our full potential. Happiness will come and go, but joy lasts forever. It can be felt during the worst of times, and the best of times, but only if you choose to let God in. The chance to return to live with our Heavenly Mother and Father is the plan that provides us with a Happily Ever After. More than it being the Plan of Happiness, I choose to look at it as the Plan of Joyfulness. 

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