The Righteous Path is a Joyful One

“Many times did the Lamanites attempt to encircle them about by night, but in these attempts they did lose many prisoners.

And many times did they attempt to administer of their wine to the Nephites, that they might destroy them with poison or with drunkenness.

But behold, the Nephites were not slow to remember the Lord their God in this their time of affliction. They could not be taken in their snares; yea, they would not partake of their wine, save they had first given to some of the Lamanite prisoners.” – Alma 55:29-32

Still in the thick of the war chapters, I have come to a kind of conclusion.

We see the Lamanites and their anxious reactions to the stresses of war.

Now, I know that I’ve never experienced a physical war. I can appreciate the fact that I can’t appreciate the stress of war. Still, we can learn a powerful lesson by comparing the righteous Nephites and the wicked Lamanites.

How we react to stress can tell us a lot about ourselves and our spiritual standing with God.

The wicked react to stress with fear. This is usually a rather irrational and overly-emotional response. Most often it includes poor choices that might actually worsen their situation.

The righteous, blessed with the Spirit, are comforted during stressful times. They are able to detach from their emotions, and then make smart and educated decisions. The righteous, through the comfort of the Holy Ghost, are blessed with a hopeful response to stress. They will understand that stress and afflictions aren’t causes to mourn, but are opportunities to experience the Atonement, and that their afflictions will be consecrated for their gain.

This hope results in joy – even in the midst of trial. I believe that this hope and joy enables the righteous to then make the critical decisions that will lead to their success.

The righteous path my not be the easy one, but it is the joyful one.

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The Paradox of Affliction and Joy

Like so much of life, the gospel is full of “paradoxes” – not inconsistencies, but oppositional forces – yin and yang situations.

One of these yin and yang moments of the gospel has to do with joy.

We, the faithful, can have joy, but this life isn’t always a joyful experience. It is kind of hard sometimes. We must have patience in our afflictions, in fact, if we want to have any peace and joy. Alma teaches this to his son:

“But that ye have patience, and bear with those afflictions, with a firm hope that ye shall one day rest from all your afflictions.” – Alma 34:41

There will be a point when we can rest from our afflictions, but while we are still experiencing mortal life, then the joyful life is rife with affliction and adversity.

Often, the Lord comforts along the way, but joy is not about a life free of opposition or difficulty. In fact, it is through overcoming adversity that we often feel joy.

I like to think of it this way – think of hiking up a mountain or running a race. It’s hard work. You can’t do it without putting for real effort. You might sweat. You might get short of breath. You might feel uncomfortable and ready to stop.

But you put your mind over matter, push through it, and endure. Then, when you make it to the top of the mountain, or to the finish line of your race, you feel extreme joy and satisfaction. You have overcome the opposition, and you have succeeded. You are joyful because of the opposition not because of a lack of opposition.

We can apply this knowledge to our lives. Instead of balking at affliction or complaining during trials, we can remain grateful and we can seek comfort. We can take time to notice the little blessings on the way and remain full of hope for the joy we will experience when we can rest from these afflictions.

Afflictions, Meaning, and Joy (Alma 31:38)

In chapter 31 of Alma, Alma gathers a team of missionaries to preach the gospel. Before they start, Alma blesses them to have the Spirit to do the work, then they proceed.

We read:

“And the Lord provided for them that they should hunger not, neither should they thirst; yea, and he also gave them strength, that they should suffer no manner of afflictions, save it were swallowed up in the joy of Christ. Now this was according to the prayer of Alma; and this because he prayed in faith.” – Alma 31:38

This verse teaches us something about the Lord and what happens when we exercise our faith.

Though several things are listed, I’d like to focus on one part:

The Lord will Give Meaning to our Afflictions

This is the part that really stands out to me in this verse: “that they should suffer no manner of afflictions, save it were swallowed up in the joy of Christ.”

The Lord doesn’t promise us an affliction-free life. We will face affliction. This is a simple fact. Faith isn’t affliction-repellant, and the sooner we accept this truth, the sooner we can actually receive what the Lord does promise us.

The Lord promises us that any of the afflictions that we suffer will be swallowed up the joy of Christ. This is an interesting statement. Maybe it could still be misinterpreted – that Alma wouldn’t experience any affliction that brought him pain. Instead, these afflictions would magically be joyful because of the joy of Christ.

It’s important to consider what this statement really means. It may help us to shape our expectations and be willing to be faithful to the Lord even during times of affliction. (Remember, this is a blessing of faith, so if we aren’t faithful during our afflictions, then this result can’t be rewarded to us!)

This phrase shows that there is meaning in our afflictions. The Lord isn’t letting us experience random afflictions. In fact, He won’t let us faith an affliction that won’t have some kind of potential for joy. We may not feel the joy he promises during the affliction, but if we stay faithful, then eventually that affliction will be swallowed up in the joy of Christ.

What else in this world can give us this offer? No one, no amount of money, no amount of education – can promise to take our affliction and in return give us joy.

I have experienced this very miracle in my own life. During some of my deepest trials and afflictions, I did turn to the Lord. And because of my willingness and His mercy, I have been blessed. My greatest sorrows turned into the paths toward my greatest joys. I know that it is the Lord who made this miracle possible.

I know that the Lord wants us to be happy, and for this very reason He offered us His son – so that to us all, He could offer to take our afflictions so we could then have joy.