When Life Weighs Us Down

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(This is an excerpt from the book Look Up, My Soul: The Divine Promise of Hope.)


More and more people describe themselves as being dissatisfied, frustrated, discouraged, desperate, stressed out, dejected, melancholy, gloomy, weary, helpless, and hopeless. They feel disconnected, doubtful, disengaged, disheartened, disillusioned, distressed, and despairing.[1] My goodness, the list alone is enough to leave anyone feeling overwhelmed and downhearted. But there is some light out there in what seems to be a growing darkness. First of all, this isn’t the way things should be. Nor is it a natural state of affairs. President George Q. Cannon made this observation:

Whenever darkness fills our minds, we may know that we are not possessed of the Spirit of God, and we must get rid of it. When we are filled with the Spirit of God, we are filled with joy, with peace and with happiness no matter what our circumstances may be; for it is a spirit of cheerfulness and of happiness.12

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland quoted a famous American novelist to make another important point:

I wish to ... fortify you, if I am able, against doubt—especially self-doubt—and discouragement and despair... .

I wish at the outset to make a distinction F. Scott Fitzgerald once made, that “trouble has no necessary connection with discouragement—discouragement has a germ of its own, as different from trouble as arthritis is from a stiff joint” (The Crack-Up, 1945). Troubles we all have, but the “germ” of discouragement, to use Fitzgerald’s word, is not in the trouble, it is in us... .

It’s frequently a small germ, hardly worth going to the Health Center for, but it will work and it will grow and it will spread. In fact it can become almost a habit, a way of living and thinking, and there the greatest damage is done. Then it takes an increasingly severe toll on our spirit, for it erodes the deepest religious commitments we can make—those of faith, and hope, and charity.13

I love that concept. Discouragement, depression, and despair may be common companions of adversity and tribulation, but they are not inherent within the nature of life’s challenges.

_________________________

[1] We should note here that sometimes depression and despair stem from physiological causes or mental illness. These manifestations require professional help, including constant monitoring, prescription medicines, and professional counseling. While I hope this book might provide all readers with hope, this discussion about overcoming depression and despair should not be seen as a substitute for professional help where needed.

12. George Q. Cannon, Gospel Truth, edited by Jerreld L. Newquist (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1974), 17.

13. Jeffrey R. Holland, “For Times of Trouble,” in 1980 Devotional Speeches of the Year (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1980), 39. Brother Holland was the Commissioner of the Church Educational System at the time he gave this talk.

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