When my husband and I were college students, our lives were simple. Our apartments were basic. Those years I ironed everything I wore because our small selection of clothes were squished into an even smaller closet. In our drab apartment, a cheerful shower curtain defined the bathroom, and bright pillow created some color against the old couch and worn-out carpet. To this day, when I watch a house hunting show and prospective buyers insist the house must be “updated,” I cringe. “Can’t you make do?” I think.
Our great hope for the future may not have been evident in our early spartan lifestyle. We were learning. We were excited and forward-looking. We never defined ourselves by our drab apartments, but rather by our lively minds, our chance to learn, and our future work opportunities. We served others. We wanted to have a family, and we loved being together. We shared a deep faith in Jesus Christ and tried to live according to his teachings. Our lives were filled with joy.
Our joy stemmed from our faith in Jesus Christ. It turns out, “the joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives,” teaches Russell M. Nelson, prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My husband and I were focused on being disciples of Jesus Christ. After all, we met in college as team-teachers for a Sunday school class. As we prepared our lessons each week we also fell in love, literally in the service of the Master. Our lives before and since have been focused on following Jesus Christ. We have tried to live according to His teachings, which has brought us joy in every season.
During one season of our college years, we attended graduate school in a large city. The university was on the “south side” of town, surrounded by impoverished communities. Kerry and I spent some of our time in the service of three teenaged boys from our congregation. Their parents had split up. They were afraid of their father and lived with their mother and her friends. The kids said their house had a cold wind blowing through, and they didn’t get enough to eat. When we had them over for dinner, we served brownies for dessert. The boys each ate a brownie and then wanted to take the rest home. They wrapped the brownies in foil and insisted we gather every last crumb into their package. We took them to the natural history museum to see dinosaur skeletons and Egyptian mummies. Another time we drove them over to their father’s house to collect some of their clothes for wearing to school. When one of the kids ended up in jail, we visited him and purchased clothes and other items he needed. We still feel love for those boys. We couldn’t do enough, but we did what we could, and we felt joy in the chance to do something.
We experience joy both today and forever through Jesus Christ: “I have set the Lord always before me:…in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:8, 11). “Joy is a gift for the faithful. It is the gift that comes from intentionally trying to live a righteous life, as taught by Jesus Christ. He taught us how to have joy. When we choose Heavenly Father to be our God and when we can feel the Savior’s Atonement [Sacrifice] working in our lives, we will be filled with joy,” teaches President Nelson. “Every time we nurture our spouse and guide our children, every time we forgive someone or ask for forgiveness, we can feel joy.”
My husband and I have experienced joy in every season of our lives. A friend shared with my son how she was dreading raising teenagers. My son said, “in our family, the teenage years were great!” And they were.
Today each of us can choose joy by checking on an elderly neighbor, picking up groceries for a friend, or helping someone clear their driveway. In every circumstance, we can have joy through Jesus Christ.
Beth Wright is ready for Spring! She loves her husband, grandkids, and sunrises. She also loves being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.