Thursday, July 6, 2017

Joy without Affliction and Sorrow

Alma 7: 5-6
5 And I trust, according to the Spirit of God which is in me, that I shall also have joy over you; nevertheless I do not desire that my joy over you should come by the cause of so much afflictions and sorrow which I have had for the brethren at Zarahemla, for behold, my joy cometh over them after wading through much affliction and sorrow.

6 But behold, I trust that ye are not in a state of so much unbelief as were your brethren; I trust that ye are not lifted up in the pride of your hearts; yea, I trust that ye have not set your hearts upon riches and the vain things of the world; yea, I trust that you do not worship idols, but that ye do worship the true and the living God, and that ye look forward for the remission of your sins, with an everlasting faith, which is to come. (Emphasis added)

The chapters of Alma comprising his leaving the office of Chief Judge and acting only as high priest over the church are filled with insights about the need for authority to administer ordinances and ordinations; the need for repentance, being born again, retaining the Spirit in our lives, and the power of testimony, among other important principles. As I re-read these chapters, I find my focus is not as sharp as it ought to be, because I have already read, highlighted and commented in the margins about those principles and concepts. I have tried to be alert to promptings as I read, now, because I have a good deal of experience that tells me that I will learn more that I missed in previous reading.

Yesterday, I read chapter 7 and was struck by the verses above. Again, experience has taught me that 2Nephi 2:11+ is true. Without opposition in all things, we would not appreciate the good, happy, building, strengthening experiences in life. I have wondered, however, if joy must always follow affliction. I remember distinctly a few years (now they seem like short years) when life was particularly abundant. I also remember being exceptionally grateful at that time. I knew it could not last forever, because life is meant to be a test and we have to struggle if we are to grow. But for that time I felt happy, content and very grateful.

Here, Alma expresses a similar feeling. The people in Gideon were open and receptive to his message. They were willing to listen and to repent. They were prepared to receive counsel, to establish the church with proper offices and the Spirit confirmed to Alma that they believed the words he taught.  and in v. 17 he concludes, "...great is my joy."

Alma had experienced joy in Zarahemla, but only after a good deal of contention, affliction and sorrow. He would experience persecution, affliction and sorrow again in spades as he entered Ammonihah, but for this brief period in Gideon, his joy was full.

We do have to experience affliction in order to appreciate joy; that is obvious. I am grateful for Alma's insights, however, that we do not have to always have affliction precede joy. Previous experience will sometimes suffice. The key, it seems to me, is to be constantly open to joy, whether it is fleeting or lasts for a longer period. We are open to joy, when we are constantly grateful. Being available to others with the love of Christ increases our opportunities for both the harsh and the joyful.

"They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." Psalm 126: 5-6

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