Thursday, February 3, 2011

Service Makes Me Happy! (and charity never faileth)

I've had a really rough time this week. The best description I've come up with is "depressive symptoms". Not chronic depression or anything, but like a mild, short-term version: hopelessness, despair, cynicism, lack of motivation, apathy/recklessness, and indulging in self-destructive behaviors like ice cream binges and going to bed super late. These feelings formed the backdrop to the functioning of my everyday life over the past few days. I didn't like it, but I didn't know how to fix it. I felt consumed and preoccupied by unresolved emotional pains and fears.

As I reflected on it Wednesday, I realized that it could be a serious problem and definitely one I didn't want to continue. Somewhat reluctantly, I followed a couple spiritual promptings that I had: after feeling a little random and foolish, I texted my local bishop and asked if he knew anyone I could serve. I also talked to one of my home teachers (every man has an assignment to visit a couple families - or single students, in a student ward - with a partner once a month, and is available to help them as they may need it) and asked if they could give me a priesthood blessing. By the time I ran to my evening class, I'd made about 45 cookies to anonymously deliver to 6 individuals recommended by my bishop, and I was excited about it.

After my home teachers came by several hours later and gave me a priesthood blessing, I wrote a short journal entry about the week and came to the conclusion that service has been a most consistent thing to pull me out of the dumps. People doing kind things for me helped, but it was when I got outside of myself to help others that really made a difference. When I was at work on Tuesday, I stayed an extra 20 minutes to prepare food for some sick missionaries who came by after the cafeteria had closed. Being busy is a good deterrent to bad feelings, but being busy for someone else is even better. Wednesday, it was when I was making the cookies, buying some apples, writing notes to each person and dashing across the street in the cold that I felt like I had a reason for what I was doing.

So what am I going to do now? The only answer that will get me the results I want is to immerse myself in service to others. That's going to be hard; knowing myself, my problems are likely to be having the self-discipline to put forth all my effort every day (instead of getting lazy) and remembering to do it. But I think that by doing so I'll have a more happy, steady, fulfilling life. As I serve others, I emulate Jesus Christ's example and He helps me to develop charity. God, my Heavenly Father, loves me, as does His Son, Jesus Christ. Love can bring so much pain, but it is also the most wonderful, pleasing, all-consuming, ennobling emotion we can have. God is love, and God leads us to happiness. I know that real happiness is worth the cost, and I know that I will be asked every day to pay the price. I just have to do it a day at a time, and as I do, I'll receive heaven's help. Things will work out in the end; if not, we have no reason for hope and nothing to live for. So what choice do I have than to either be miserable or to have hope? I might as well choose the better part - if I choose hope, then I have a chance for happiness, and I just need to trust that it's a sure chance. And trust I will.

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