Have you had a family member, someone you minister to, or someone for whom you have stewardship struggle with anxiety, depression, or a lack of self-worth?
At times, it is a challenge for each of us to get sucked into worrying about the future, which can create anxiety. Other times we may be angry, sad, or have our thoughts stuck in focusing on mistakes from the past, which can lead us to depression.
Imagine how overwhelming these feelings can become if they are not occasional, situational events but instead something that fills our thoughts daily.
Whether it’s an occasional, situational event or a daily plague of thoughts, there are a few treasured insights that can help us. First, let’s look at what was wisely said by President Nelson in the October 2016 general conference:
“My dear brothers and sisters, the joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives. When the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation, which President Thomas S. Monson just taught us, and Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening—or not happening—in our lives. Joy comes from and because of Him. He is the source of all joy.”
Thus, by keeping our focus on the present and God’s plan of salvation, we will both find joy and discover we are on a path of hope.
However, knowing and doing are sometimes difficult. Let’s look at how the Savior taught His disciples to not just endure but learn during the storms of life.
The Great Calm
Our thoughts are critical!
We have 60,000 to 70,000 thoughts a day! If you are reading this in the morning, you’ve probably had about 15,000 thoughts for the day already. I’m going to share with you a secret for success in managing and guiding our thoughts so that they serve us, inspire us, and bring us peace during difficult times.
Let’s transport back a few thousand years to a small ship that the Savior was in on the sea of Galilee when a huge storm comes up. He’s sleeping on a pillow during the storm – no worries. His disciples awaken him with their cries and concerns and here’s what happens:
“And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” Mark 4:39
As we see this miracle of how Christ seemed to easily calm the storm, we may miss the formula He used to calm the elements and the hearts of his disciples.
Let’s break down this scripture to see how we can do this and experience the great calm throughout our life and help others to do the same.
Great Calm Tip #1- Rise Up
We cannot sit back and let the storm rage around us and think it will be ok – eventually. We need to arise and strive to discern what our role is in creating a “Great Calm” in our hearts and in our homes. Our greatest defense is to be in the present, not worry about the future or get stuck wallowing in the past. Let’s strengthen our faith so that it can act as a shield for us every day. With the confidence that God will guide our actions, our faith-filled efforts will help us to rise to whatever may come our way.
We all have challenges, many of us may have had a difficult home life growing up, others may have been bullied at school, some may be financially poor, others may have struggled with learning difficulties, mental health challenges and more. Yet, as we focus on ways to rise up out of those challenges, we can find peace. This rising up may include seeking help from family members, friends, leaders, or professional help. It requires action on our part and effort to find the best resources for our unique challenge.
With that said, as leaders, ministers, and children of God, we need to be seeking Father’s guidance for those He may place in our path to help in their efforts to rise up.
Great Calm Tip #2 – Rebuke the Wind
As we use faith and personal revelation to protect ourselves and those we love, we will discover things that we are no longer willing to allow in our life. We may need to “rebuke” certain activities, friends, television shows, movies, music, and games that have come into our lives that are not in harmony with our mission of peace.
President Nelson invited the women of the Church in October 2018 to a unique way to discover what to rebuke in their lives. He said,
“First, I invite you to participate in a 10-day fast from social media and from any other media that bring negative and impure thoughts to your mind. Pray to know which influences to remove during your fast. The effect of your 10-day fast may surprise you. What do you notice after taking a break from perspectives of the world that have been wounding your spirit? Is there a change in where you now want to spend your time and energy? Have any of your priorities shifted—even just a little? I urge you to record and follow through with each impression.”
This inspired counsel would well serve any woman, man, youth, and child. If it wounds our spirit, we need to rebuke, or remove it from our life.
We may also need to “rebuke” some of the non-eternal activities that steal away quality time from our most important relationships, even though these endeavors may not be “bad.” We may also need to “rebuke” some of our behaviors and words that create emotional storms and not peace.
Great Calm Tip #3 – Peace be Still
A review of our interactions with our loved ones, those we serve, or co-workers may reveal areas we need to soften. If we have created hurt feelings or a dissonance by our words and/or deeds then we need to take the necessary steps to evolve into an ambassador of peace. Taking time to listen with our heart in our interactions with those we love and rub shoulders with. This will help us know if we bring a waring or peaceful heart to the table. A focus on the positive impact we have on others rather than if we were “right” or wrong can be extremely helpful.
Jesus’ words “Peace, be still!” invite us to calm our anxious words, deeds and hearts and trust in the One who can not only sleep during the storm but can help us do the same.
Great Calm Tip #4 – The Wind Ceased
Recognize when progress is made, realize that we may have to take measures to stop the storms in our life and help others find refuge in our love and caring so that the wind can cease in their life as well.
There is an amazing young adult in my ward who struggled with anxiety and depression that raged like a storm when she went away to college. She realized that she needed family support and professional help to cease that wind, so she moved back home for a time to calm the storm.
This wise woman discovered that,
“Life happen FOR me NOT to me and that I was growing from failure to failure. It is okay to not be okay, we just need to take action.”
She arose, rebuked the storming thoughts and feelings, and found peace as the winds of anxiety and depression ceased in her life, but it took action and focus on her part.
Great Calm Tip #5 – The Great Calm
Peace is something we experience in our own hearts, not something dependent on our circumstances or achieved by others’ actions or inactions toward us. And stillness is a divine gift that we can experience if we will only embrace it. Yet, it’s so difficult to just be still today, isn’t it?
Have you ever considered that our relational God would rather have us spend time with Him, than busying ourselves doing things for Him? As the primary songs wisely instructs us,
“Search, ponder and pray, are the things that I must do.”
Thus, a sincere study of the scriptures that includes pondering their truths and how to apply them, and prayers for understanding will serve us well in growing our relationship with God. When we apply the truths of the “Great Calm,” we can embrace peace regardless of our circumstances, and experience stillness instead of feeling guilty for not “producing.” It’s in the stillness and calm of our hearts that allows us to know who God really is and understand His instruction thousands of years ago to “Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
Life Happens FOR Us
We read in Alma 62:41:
“But behold, because of the exceedingly great length of the war between the Nephites and the Lamanites many had become hardened, because of the exceedingly great length of the war; and many were softened because of their afflictions, insomuch that they did humble themselves before God, even in the depth of humility.”
It was the same war, the same afflictions, yet there were two very different results because of where their focus remained during the war.
I’d like to invite each one of us to use some of our 60,000 thoughts each day to focus on what brings true joy, stay in the present and remember that everything happens to us is for our highest good.
Beth Young is a convert of 44 years; served a mission in North Carolina; has been married for 34 years to her sweetheart, Bob; has five adult children and two grandchildren. She raised her family in Texas for 25 years where she served in various capacities in church and in her community. She moved to Utah four years ago and loves writing, teaching and inspiring others to make changes to their physical, mental, and spiritual health. Beth is the owner of 5 Pillars of Health, a company focused on improving the health of their clients one simple change at a time through seminars, classes, and coaching. Additionally, she serves as the written content manager at Leading Saints, is a certified Tai Chi Instructor and a master gardener.