Monday, January 4, 2010

Onto the New Year

I always rejoice in the beginning of a new year. There are endless possibilities and countless opportunities that lie ahead. I've decided that this year I'm keeping my New Year's resolution simple: Enjoy each day as it comes and make the most of it.

As the fearless leader in our ward's YW organization, it fell to me to teach yesterday's group lesson. It is a new tradition in our realm (we started doing this 3 years ago, actually) to begin the new year in YW by breaking down the new scripture theme into layman's terms. This helps us all to understand and treasure the new theme, savoring the comfort it can bring into our lives on a daily basis.

I've loved all of the scripture themes for YW so far, but this year's selection is a particular favorite. It is as follows:

"Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest." Joshua 1:9

There is such comfort to be found in those inspiring words. No matter where we are, no matter what is going on in our lives, God is with us. There is no need to fear.

At the time that this scriptural gem was given, Joshua was in the process of taking over the helm from Moses. Moses had passed away and it fell to Joshua to lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land. This was a daunting task. I'm sure in the beginning, Joshua lay awake at nights, worrying over everything bad that might take place. I suspect most of us are guilty of doing that when a tremendous challenge lies ahead. ;)

What Joshua learned, and what each one of us must realize is, we never face trials alone. It is important to be strong and of a good courage, to avoid feeling depressed or discouraged, knowing that the Lord is in our corner and all things are possible with His guidance and help. We simply have to place our trust in Him.

I recently read a wonderful article in the December 2009 issue of the Ensign magazine. (It is entitled "The Prince of Glory," by Elder Bruce D. Porter, pages 26-30 if you'd like to take a gander.) In this inspiring article, we are reminded that our Elder Brother descended below a world of light and glory into extremely humble circumstances. He did this for two reasons: to provide the means for all of us to eventually enjoy eternal life, and to experience every trial, heartache, and challenge anyone of us would ever face. He endured more than we can ever imagine during the time He spent in the Garden of Gethsemane. I tear up whenever I ponder the sacrifice He made on our behalf.

In Elder Porter's article he states: " . . . the power of Christ is not limited to payment for our sins. Through that power, He also took upon Himself the pains and sicknesses of His people, and He took upon Himself every negative consequence of a fallen world. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926-2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, 'Since not all human sorrow and pain is connected to sin, the full intensiveness of the Atonement involved [Christ's] bearing our pains, infirmities, and sicknesses, as well as our sins.'

"Serious illness, family tragedies, and emotional struggles do not happen necessarily because we have sinned. Adversity and heartbreak happen to good people; such is the fruit of a fallen world. But having experienced tragedy, sickness and disappointment in His own life, the Savior knows how to strengthen us in such trials as well . . . We pay no eternal price for things over which we have no control, including harm done to us by others. The Atonement can heal us. The only thing for which we pay a spiritual price is misuse of our own agency, and for that the Savior has given us the Atonement."

The comforting peace that fills my heart whenever I think about all that our Elder Brother makes possible for us is a huge spiritual boost. The knowledge that no matter what happens in my life, I will have the help of heaven to survive, gives me the strength to continue forward.

Other ways to attain the strength we need for the challenging days ahead:
prayer---truly a life-line to our Heavenly Father. I remember hearing several times that there are numerous blessings our Father longs to give us, but we need to ask for His help to receive those blessings.

Reading the
scriptures daily fills my heart with peace, and strengthens my testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It also helps me keep an eternal perspective when life happens and things don't turn out the way I had envisioned.

Temple Attendance is crucial during these turbulent latter-days. There are moments when I wish I could live within those sacred walls. And while I don't always receive the answers I might have been seeking while there, I always come away feeling fortified. More often than not, though, my heart and mind receive important promptings with regard to current challenges.

Keeping a positive outlook. I, for one, think this is important. Attitude is indeed everything in mortal mode. I suspect we often sink our own boats when we dwell on the negative side of things. Believing in ourselves and others is the way to succeed in life.

Build others up, don't tear them down. Emulate the Savior's example in reaching out to those around us who are struggling. We forget our own pain when we help someone else.

I could go on and on, but I think by now you're getting the gist of what I'm trying to say. This new year will be what we make it. True, we can't control the actions of others, but we can control ourselves. And in my opinion, if each one of us tried to make a positive difference this year,
2010 will be a year we'll remember fondly.


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