April, 2009. The Global economy is taking a nosedive. The financial outlook is grim, and it's near the beginning of what's now being referred to as "the Great Recession." In the next couple years, jobs will be lost, companies will go down, and people will lose some of what they have worked hard to gain. What's more, increasing suffering and discord is shown on the news every day.
What did President Monson have to say at this point in time? "Be of Good Cheer." How is this possible, you might ask? He didn't just start with this phrase. He explained the negative situation many people in the world were finding themselves in. He was sensible, and admitted that there were problems. President Monson explained,
"It would be easy to become discouraged and cynical about the future—or
even fearful of what might come—if we allowed ourselves to dwell only on
that which is wrong in the world and in our lives. Today, however, I’d
like us . . . to focus instead on our blessings as members of the
Church. The Apostle Paul declared, “God hath not given us the spirit of
fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
April 2009 Conference address, Sunday Morning Session, emphasis added.
The Prophet then continues to explain that none make it through this life without problems, tragedies, and misfortunes. He admits this is for us to learn and grow while here on earth, and that as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we understand that we will have suffering and hardship in our lives. He then references 2 Nephi 2:25: Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy." How then do we find joy in our lives, despite all that we face? This is a good question--one which many of us ask ourselves each day.
And yet, I think sometimes we don't even ask that question. We just wonder why we're sad. But asking how we can find joy is important, because it shows a true desire to seek after it. After all, anyone who has struggled knows that joy doesn't just come when you want it to.
President Monson then answers his own question with another scripture, found in D&C 68:6 Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you.
It occurred to me the other day while reading Alma chapter 2 that one of the greatest themes of the Book of Mormon is that God is with us. How many times do we read about the Nephites vs a much larger army of Lamanites, and them prevailing because of their faith and righteousness? He will stand by us, so we should not fear. Instead, it becomes possible for us to be of good cheer. Notice we are not told to "feel of good cheer," or "strive for good cheer," or even "be open to the idea of good cheer." No. We are told quite clearly, "be."
Although it appears to be a command, I think that from this urging, we can know that it is possible to be of good cheer. It is attainable! We just need to focus on the good, instead of the bad, because there will always be bad. But with that, there will always be good, too.
President Monson later stated in the same talk:
The history of the Church in this, the dispensation of the fulness of
times, is replete with the experiences of those who have struggled and
yet who have remained steadfast and of good cheer as they have made the
gospel of Jesus Christ the center of their lives. This attitude is what
will pull us through whatever comes our way. It will not remove our
troubles from us but rather will enable us to face our challenges, to
meet them head on, and to emerge victorious.
Did you see that? Whatever comes our way. We have the assurance that we can deal with it when we have an attitude of steadfastness and good cheer--making the gospel the center of our lives. This assurance comes from a Prophet of God.
President Monson ends his talk with a beautiful testimony, saying that "the future is as bright as your faith." If one of your struggles is dealing with keeping the faith, or even feeling like you have any, this is also true for you: the future is as bright as your true desire to gain that faith. If you have a righteous desire to build your faith, God will bless you. "Ask, and ye shall receive. Knock, and it shall be opened unto you."
I really believe that whatever your problem, we can be of good cheer. The Lord loves us, and is with us. As agents, we are able to make the choice to focus on the good, and to look for the Lord's hand in all things. For me, I don't lack much. I am afraid for the future sometimes, what with taking a new job, graduating, and moving to a new place. But I am so grateful for the truths of the Gospel, which provide the light of my life. I hope I can always see God's hand in all things, that I may focus on the good, and be of good cheer.
The Lord stated,
"In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." John 16:33
He overcame all, so that we don't have to. But, if we must overcome some, we can be of good cheer, because He understands fully and infinitely.
*I've obviously drawn much from the talk given by President Monson referenced at the beginning of this post. I would highly recommend that you read it. It is wonderfully uplifting and faith-promoting.