In movies, there is periodically a discordance in the soundtrack that warns us that something terrible is about to happen. It makes us feel unsettled. We usually don’t notice the sounds consciously but our bodies and minds tense up. We prepare for disaster knowing that we can’t avoid it.
That is the very soundtrack Satan plays for our lives throughout mortality. “Something terrible is about to happen. And there is nothing you can do about it.”
He says other things as well: “Your life isn’t going well. You aren’t happy. And no matter what you do, you likely will not overcome your challenges. You are stuck.”
For each of our lives, Satan develops a customized soundtrack to keep us living with an unsettling sense of worry, fear, sadness, or discouragement. We feel anxious and unhappy without any apparent way of escaping it.
We can all site historical evidence for our uneasiness: “It seems like every time I feel like things are finally going well, something rotten happens.” Or, “I have tried to fix my life, but it never seems to work out as I hoped.” The background noise of anxiety becomes the defining soundtrack of our lives.
Yet we Saints of God shouldn’t be playing a horror movie soundtrack to accompany our lives.
If we sat down with God, I think He would counsel us, “The threatening soundtrack is not from Me. That comes from the father of lies and misery.” He would reassure us, “I want you to feel joy and peace. That is my design for you.”
We might inquire, “But how can I find joy and peace? It all seems so unattainable.”
This is a great place to insert an idea from a wise scholar. Reuben Hill found that people could have very similar experiences, but very different reactions. Challenges might undo one family while propelling another family forward.
Hill found two specific factors that decided how a challenging event would impact a family: resources and meaning.
We are equipped with more powerful resources than we realize. Research has identified religious faith and community as some of the best resources for managing challenges. When we recognize our resources and use them, we keep challenges from becoming crises. Having supportive friends and meaningful work can make a big difference. Even previous experiences with challenges can prepare us for new challenges.
This may be the single most important tool for dealing with challenges. When we are feeling overwhelmed, we can interpret our experience in any of several ways.
1. My life is off-track. I didn’t get any breaks. It will never turn out the way I hoped.
2. I haven’t created the life I wanted. And I don’t have the ability to change things.
3. I have been treated unfairly. People have robbed me of opportunities.
We can blame our circumstances, blame ourselves, or blame other people. None of those lead to peace or growth.
Spiritual problems require spiritual remedies.
We throw away Satan’s soundtrack. We cast Satan out of our lives. We recognize that a constant sense of worry, fear, and anxiety does not come from God. He does not send us hopelessness. So we replace Satan’s discordant soundtrack with God’s edifying one.
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
We fill ourselves with the Light of Christ. As President Uchtdorf taught, “If you open your mind and heart to receive the Light of Christ and humbly follow the Savior, you will receive more light. Line upon line, here a little and there a little, you will gather more light and truth into your souls until darkness has been banished from your life… Darkness vanishes in the presence of light.” (Bearers of Heavenly Light, General Conference, October 2017)
As we seek a deeper relationship with the Savior and allow Him more fully into our thoughts, we can experience feelings of hope and peace. We can see the potential for growth. We can trust that we will be led through our challenges.
Rather than the three messages above, we might play God’s messages:
1. “God can help me learn from this. It will turn out.”
2 “Life is going to be messy, because humans make mistakes. But God will turn all things to my good. God is looking after me.
3. “When others treat me unfairly, it gives me the opportunity to grow in charity and wisdom. God and I can create different outcomes.”
God is looking after us. We can hear His soundtrack of love, joy, and peace. That changes everything.
Invitation: Notice when you feel unsettled, anxious or discouraged. Don’t allow that disturbing soundtrack to play in your life. Turn to God and call on His power.
Note: Those dealing with clinical depression or anxiety should also seek professional assistance.
Thanks to Barbara and Emily Ruth for their excellent additions to this article.