Soldiers in a military vehicle giving a demonstration on a beach

Finding Joy on the Battlefield: How to Be Happy Even When Life is Really Hard

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I am hurting tonight.

I don’t like writing about being sad, because my goal is to encourage and inspire. Writing about my woes always feels like a pity party to me, and I’d rather focus on the joyful parts of life. The good parts. But I’ve felt like I needed to write this post for a long time, so maybe there’s someone out there who needs to walk this journey with me. I don’t know. All I know is that the Lord keeps telling me to write this story, and today, He gave me the words I needed to do it.

*Deep breath*

Here we go.

Because Brett and I were both “older” when we got married (he was 34, I was 31), we knew that we did not want to wait long to start a family. We both want kids—so, so badly—and we knew that the fertility game was stacked against us. And clearly, we were not wrong: it has been over a year, and no luck yet.

So I went to see a doctor the other day, hoping for some answers. Instead, I came away with more questions and more despair. I’m a natural worrier, so I’m fully aware that I may be jumping the gun a bit on the whole panic mode thing. I know plenty of families have dealt with the challenge of infertility—and overcome it—so it’s probably silly to be this worried so “early” in the game. But when the doctor starts talking about tests that cost thousands of dollars and aren’t covered by insurance, I can’t help but feel the dream of becoming a mother slipping through my fingertips. I never imagined that dream could be denied me because we can’t even afford getting pregnant in the first place.

On my way home from the doctor’s office, I was listening to an NPR piece on poetry books that make good gifts, and one of the books they listed was The Carrying by Ada Limon. It’s about a woman trying to conceive, and they quoted a line that summed up my worries better than I ever could: “What if, instead of carrying a child, I am supposed to carry grief?”

Hello, Niagara Falls Face.

I’ve pondered on the way we so often promote this notion that obedience to God means everything will be hunky dory. Sometimes, we remind ourselves that we have to be tried and tested no matter how righteous we are, but it’s usually glossed over like an afterthought. “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” we say, waving our hands at the idea of hardship. “But God will save us in the end, and that’s all that matters.”

But is it? Those hardships—the numb grief of shattered hopes, the unanswered questions, the Niagara Falls Face moments listening to a radio story that hits too close to home, the moments of thinking, “Not again! Haven’t I gone through enough?”—that’s the whole reason we’re here. I’m not trying to say that God sent us here to suffer, because I believe that “men are that they might have joy.”[1] I’m just saying that God sent us here to make us better, and it’s only through doing hard things that we become stronger. More faithful. More trusting. Part of how God saves us is by helping us become the type of resilient, humble, faithful people that trust Him enough to let Him save us.

And yet, sometimes it feels like we’ll have to wait until the next life to find that promised joy. When your life seems like one long string of trials, it’s easy to wonder if joy is not a thing meant to sit long with us in this life. Like a social butterfly, Joy chats with us for a bit, compliments our new shirt, then flits off to shine on someone else’s life while we’re left to wonder if we have something stuck in our teeth.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m working on completing the Prophet’s challenge to read the Book of Mormon before the end of the year. While reading the so-called “war chapters” at the end of the record of Alma, I learned an important lesson about finding joy in the midst of trials. In these chapters, the righteous Nephites, led by a man named Moroni, are locked in a vicious war with the wicked Lamanites for eighteen years. There are a few brief periods of respite, but they use that time to prepare for the next battle. Thousands of them are killed or injured. Women are left widowed. Children are left fatherless. Hundreds are taken prisoner. Dissenters at home try to stage a coup to overthrow their own government, and the men fighting to protect their freedom from the Lamanites are neglected while their political leaders try to restore order. Things are not good in the Land of Nephi.

But in the midst of all that, we get this spark of hope: Alma 50:23 says, “But behold there never was a happier time among the people of Nephi, since the days of Nephi, than in the days of Moroni.”

I had to do a double-take on that one. They’re in the middle of a major war, and yet they’re happy? How could they be happy? Because, as we learn in v. 22, “Those who were faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord were delivered at all times.”

They knew that God would save them if they had faith in Him.

Here’s a righteous people faced with a pretty terrible trial. They had to go into battle again and again and again. They had to fight for their very lives. And yet, they were happy because they believed God would deliver them if they didn’t lose faith. They didn’t wait until that deliverance came (which it did) to be happy. They built cities. They worked. They started families and raised children. They kept the commandments of God. They prospered, and they were happy.

Sometimes, we have to fight battles. Sometimes, things are really hard or sad or dangerous or disappointing or whatever.

Sometimes, you don’t know if you’ll ever get pregnant and fulfill your lifelong dream to be a mother.

But thanks to the divinely inspired lessons of the Book of Mormon, you don’t have to wait until things get better. You can trust that the Lord is fighting right alongside you. You can find hope in the fact that He will deliver you (even if you have to wait 18 years for it). And you—and I—can find joy even on the battlefield.

How do you find joy in the midst of trials?

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Soldier on wet sandy beach

[1] 2 Nephi 2:25