Somehow in my youth experience growing up in the Church, I missed the principle that our purpose on earth is to find joy. We are to “rejoice, and be exceeding glad,” as Matthew 5:12 says.
When asked the question about the meaning of our existence, by Sunday school teachers and friends alike, I instead said we are here to improve ourselves. This is not wrong. I still believe we are here to learn, grow, and become better people.
But as someone who is already inclined to obsess over the illusion of perfection and stubbornly choose that as a goal, I saw my life as a series of points of improvement which eventually left me dissatisfied.
I actually believed that I could do the Savior a favor by taking care of myself and thus not making Him suffer so much. There’s a lot I still don’t understand about the Savior’s atonement, but this idea was off the mark.
I’ve read 2 Nephi 2:25 dozens of times.
“Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.”
But only recently did it sink in and feel like a scripture that applied to me now. To have joy, rejoice, be exceeding glad—these are things meant to happen in the present.
I used to spend a lot of time wondering about the future. I’d imagine how wonderful my life would be once I achieved whatever dream I was then obsessing over. Once I moved up in my career, moved houses, went on vacation, took a bath, survived a difficult project, had a week of afternoon naps, whatever. There was always some obstacle and happiness was on the other side, out of reach.
I never felt like I was unhappy, more that I could be truly happy if I had the things I wanted. I wasn’t exactly ‘rejoicing’ about everything I already had.
To anyone who has ever felt like this, I’d love to say I’ve figured it out. I don’t have the perfect answer, but allow me to share a couple of my thoughts about how to rejoice when you have an anxious brain.
- I think of 2 Nephi 2:25 and now Matthew 5:12 when I find myself forgetting my purpose. Naturally I will always strive to improve myself. I need more reminders to relax and be happy.
- I’m trying to find joy by serving other people instead of thinking about myself all the time. Cue #LightTheWorld.
- Notice the good moments. When I’m wrapped up in waiting for the good thing in the future to roll around, I miss all the positive things that are happening now. I’m trialing out writing them down, taking a picture, or telling a friend who won’t see it as bragging.
- I’m trying to change my morning prayers to stop saying ‘help me to be the best I can be,’ which enhances that perfectionist feeling. How about I just be a good person? The best isn’t happening.
- I am learning to accept myself when I can’t flip a switch and suddenly be happy. Sometimes it’s a process.
Today, this is what I’ll be doing for my part in ‘lighting the world.’ Maybe you already have your own ways of counting your blessings, serving, or sharing your joy. Go for it. We each have our imperfect parts of our lives, but we also have a living Savior who gives us reason to rejoice and be exceeding glad.