Today’s Reading: Ether 1
38 And it came to pass that Jared spake again unto his brother, saying: Go and inquire of the Lord whether he will drive us out of the land, and if he will drive us out of the land, cry unto him whither we shall go. And who knoweth but the Lord will carry us forth into a land which is choice above all the earth? And if it so be, let us be faithful unto the Lord, that we may receive it for our inheritance.
For as long as I can remember, I have been a serious, somewhat pessimistic and anxious person. I’m not exactly morose, but I do admit to identifying with Eeyore of Winnie the Pooh fame from time to time. And even with my understanding and testimony of the gospel, I’ve often looked at life more as a collection of challenging experiences than as a joyful journey. After all, isn’t this mortal life often described as a “vale of tears”? And isn’t it emotionally unwise to expect things to be awesome all the time?
The answers to each of those questions is undeniably yes, and yet there is still reason to be optimistic and cheerful in this trying world. That reason is that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are anxious to bless us in ways that are more personal and more abundant than we can even imagine. It is Satan that wants us to believe otherwise. He would have us believe that trials represent permanent darkness, rather than temporary cloud cover. He it is who would have us live with the expectation of hard and scary times, for it is that expectation that turns into debilitating discouragement.
The truth is that we as covenant-keeping people should be some of the most optimistic people in the world. I like the example of the Jared in the Book of Ether. Faced with the possibility of leaving the land he loved with his family and friends, Jared must have felt some apprehension. Instead of giving into discouragement and expecting that the Lord would make them pass through awful things, Jared asked his brother to “inquire of the Lord” about whether they would be driven out and, if so, where they should go (Ether 1:38). And then Jared says this, “And who knoweth but the Lord will carry us forth into a land which is choice above all the earth? And if it so be, let us be faithful unto the Lord, that we may receive it for our inheritance.” In other words, why shouldn’t we expect the Lord to give us something even better than what we now have? Let us have some faith (which often manifests itself as optimism), and, more important, let us BE faithful (obedient) so that we can receive whatever blessing He has prepared for us. He’s not out to get us; He’s out to bless us!
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught this principle of faithful and obedient optimism in his classic talk “An High Priest of Good Things to Come” (October 1999). Acknowledging that life can indeed be very difficult at times, he said that “for emotional and spiritual stamina,” all of us need to know that there are brighter times ahead, whether in the immediate or the not-so-immediate future. Consider Elder Holland’s beautiful testimony:
My declaration is that this [a brighter future] is precisely what the gospel of Jesus Christ offers us, especially in times of need. There is help. There is happiness. There really is light at the end of the tunnel. It is the Light of the World, the Bright and Morning Star, the ‘light that is endless, that can never be darkened.’ It is the very Son of God Himself. . . . To any who may be struggling to see that light and find that hope, I say: Hold on. Keep trying. God loves you. Things will improve. Christ comes to you in His ‘more excellent ministry’ with a future of ‘better promises.’ He is your ‘high priest of good things to come.’
I know that Jesus Christ lives and that He offers us more light and more goodness than any other person who ever walked the earth. I have felt His light penetrate my own personal darkness on many occasions, and I can now optimistically declare, “Who knoweth but what He has something even better in store for me? I will be faithful so that I may receive His blessings.”