I have to admit that when I think of “cheerfulness” I often conjure this really cheesy – cheerleader-y image in my mind. (No offense to you cheerleaders. I know that it isn’t easy). But I hope you know what I’m getting at. For some reason, cheerfulness kind of connotes a sort of vapidity. It doesn’t seem helpful or smart.
Yet the Lord tells us to be of Good Cheer. And He is anything but vapid.
As I was reading the example set by Ammon, I think that I finally can understand what the Lord wants us to be when He tells us to be cheerful.
Ammon is a missionary to the Lamanites. The Lamanites are not really aware of this yet, but Ammon is living as a servant to King Lamoni. He has been commanded to help care for the sheep of the king.
From time to time a band of Lamanites scatters the king’s sheep – as a tactic to steal them. When this has happened in the past, the king, in his anger, kills his servants.
Now Ammon is helping to tend the sheep, and wouldn’t you know it – a group comes to scatter the sheep as they are drinking water. The other servants of King Lamoni become really worried and afraid…I mean – they “wept exceedingly.” They knew they were going to die.
Ammon collects his thoughts, then speaks to his fellow servants:
“And it came to pass that he flattered them by his words, saying: My brethren, be of good cheer and let us go in search of the flocks, and we will gather them together and bring them back unto the place of water; and thus we will preserve the flocks unto the king and he will not slay us.” – Alma 17:31
Ammon’s example shows us that Joy and cheerfulness can actually help us to think clearly in stressful situations.
Because of the good cheer that filled Ammon’s heart – on account of his faithfulness and his good habits (like scripture study and prayer) – Ammon was able to think during this moment of duress and then come up with a good solution.
This is a product of prayer – true prayer. Prayer teaches us to be still. It teaches us to breathe and listen and be in the moment. When we take the time to do this every day, it becomes a part of our nature.
Maybe you pray – and you’re thinking, “I’m a basket case.” Have you considered your prayers? Are they times when you peacefully commune with the Lord? Are you listening? Are you stilling your mind so that you can open your heart? Or are your prayers a time when you “vent” your fears, frustrations, and foibles?
I think it’s okay to go to the Lord with our difficulties, but I can also see how this kind of focus has been a problem for me. For a long time, my prayers suffered. The Lord has always answered them, even though my attempts were feeble.
Last year, I felt prompted to study meditation – in a traditional “eastern” sense (sitting on the floor, cross-legged, and controlling my breathing). As I began this practicing this meditation regularly, I noticed a change. I became more cheerful. Things fell into perspective. The Spirit could reach the deep recesses of my heart. And during times of immediate trial (the proverbial scattering of the sheep at the waters of Sebus), I had an automatic response of cheerfulness and hope.
Such cheerfulness and hope has helped my mind to be more active – in the right ways. It has helped me to see clearly and to discern between truth and error. It has helped me to find solutions to my problems, or to at least feel peace until a solution made itself evident.
Because of the good cheer in Ammon’s heart, he was able to make such an obvious and wise decision – gather up the sheep! None of the servants were killed, and soon Ammon’s bigger problem (preaching the gospel to the Lamanites) had a solution as well.
The Lord will empower us to find solutions to our problems when we will simply calm ourselves and choose to be of good cheer. Cheerfulness isn’t some cheesy-hokey-fake personality trait. It is a deep and abiding trust in God. It is retaining in our minds that nothing is too hard for the Lord.