In some ways, I’m a little worried about writing this post. But seeing that I don’t have too many people reading the blog, I hope I’ll be okay. 😉
In Helaman, we read:
“Nevertheless, the people of the church did have great joy because of the conversion of the Lamanites, yea, because of the church of God, which had been established among them. And they did fellowship one with another, and did rejoice one with another, and did have great joy.” – Helaman 6:3
The people of the church had joy and rejoicing – one with another. This is fellowship at its finest.
I find this interesting. This is how we should feel in our social interactions at church and with our brothers and sisters at church. I hate to admit this, but I’m not sure that I always feel the kind of joy described in this verse.
Many times, I go to church and feel a measure of pressure and stress. I worry or have concerns about something or another. Admittedly, this is my choice.
It is easy to start to get wrapped up in the “programs” of the church. It is easy to worry about our plans and all of the other pressures we feel. Then, I often react with – repugnance – when I feel such an emphasis on all of these “programs” and “goals.” It just doesn’t always jive with my personality.
Obviously, I need to change my focus. And what is the secret? I think that our fellowship with one another turns into joy and rejoicing when our worship is based on truly worshipping God – praising Him and focusing on the covenants we have made with Him. I think that our worship becomes more joyful when we are principle based in our Sunday Meetings. Our worship becomes more joyful when it is focused on the Spirit of God – who is the true teacher, testator, and comforter.
So how do we do this?
Sometimes, we are blessed to live in a ward where this happens naturally with the leadership of the ward. Sometimes, we are blessed to live in a place where the “mix” of people lends itself to service and pure love with one another. The feeing of pure love that we feel in wards like this are such a blessing. Then, we can have the blessings of our covenants and worship without some kind of strange strife.
Other times, we face different challenges. Maybe no one is at fault, specifically. Maybe it is just a different dynamic between people. I mean, we can even face this in our families. In any case, there are times when we are members of a ward where feeling this kind of love and Brother/sister-hood isn’t as clear. We go to church to renew our covenants and show our love to God, but then we have to fight through the feelings of inadequacy, strife, or even sadness. We aren’t always welcomed with open arms. Some wards feel “clique-y” other wards feel over-zealous. And, as I said – I don’t think it is the fault of a single person. It may just be a strange combination…or a full moon.
But this happens. And what do we do? It’s a real challenge.
Some people might say, “Well, you don’t go to church for the people, and if you are offended, then you just don’t have a strong enough testimony.” I kind of used to be this type of a person. The truth is, this is not a charitable sentiment. In fact, it is probably the sentiment of a person who has had the luxury of never feeling hurt or challenged by the dynamic found in their ward.
OKAY. So what do we do?! How can we experience the great joy of fellowshipping with other saints?
- Take it to the Lord. I know this seems obvious, but here’s what I mean. It’s okay to feel how you feel. Tell the Lord how you feel. As you pray, try to seek in your heart why you are feeling this way. Dig deep, though. Don’t just say, “People are mean.” So people are mean, what else. What does that matter if people are mean to you? What does it matter if you feel like an outcast. Keep probing, and if you do this probing in the form of a meditative prayer, then the Spirit will be able to help you to understand your emotions, detach from them, feel His comfort, and then find a solution.
- Serve others. I have found that the quickest way to care about someone else is to serve them.
I was in a ward where I was having a particularly difficult time. The worst day/time of my week was church. It was hard to want to go. I struggled to feel the Spirit. It was a source of pain for me, and I was tempted to take the easy out.
As I went to the Lord, I had the impression to serve. And I did it in secret. Though I didn’t forge any new friendships, and I still felt somewhat “left out,” I would overhear people talk about the ways that they had been secretly served. I witnessed that the Lord is aware of His children. And I felt joy knowing that I was able to be a part of answered prayer. I never got direct credit for anything I did. And I don’t want it now. I just share it because it was a real solution for me.
It was the only way that I was able to stop thinking about church as a way to feel good. Instead, it was a way to listen and think of ways to serve others. And, in serving others, my love and concern for them grew, and I started having a joyful time at church – even though none of my conditions at that ward actually changed much.
Anyway – long post. I just want to say that I know that the joy of fellowship with our brothers and sisters in our wards can be such a blessing. It can be a bright part of our days and weeks. I also know that the opposite is destructive. I know that Satan knows it, too, and that he is always trying to deter us from loving one another.
We can choose to focus on what’s important – instead of getting distracted by little programs. We can choose to focus on the Savior, on loving and serving one another. We can choose to allow our pain be swallowed up by Christ, even if it is something still being inflicted upon us. We can feel joy – even if the circumstances we experience aren’t like those of the people in the Book of Helaman.