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What Does God Really Mean When He Says “Be of Good Cheer”?

In scripture, God tells His saints to “be of good cheer.”

“Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you; and ye shall bear record of me, even Jesus Christ, that I am the Son of the living God, that I was, that I am, and that I am to come” (D&C 68:6).

We live in a world where our senses and our sense of reality are assaulted daily to the point where we might wonder how anyone can be cheerful. So when God commands us to be of good cheer, does that mean we simply smile and “fake it till we make it,” hoping that these tricks will somehow bring us lasting happiness?

Perhaps there is another way.

I believe that we can be of good cheer when we remember who the Lord is and that He is with us.

Consider similar statements from the Old Testament where God tells his people “to be strong and courageous” and be not dismayed:

“Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper withersoever thou goest . . . Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest . . . Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left” (Joshua 1:7, 9; 23:6).

In the days of Joshua, God prepared His people to conquer the Promised Land. The people needed to be strong and courageous in order to engage in battle to possess the land.

Such strength came from the Lord. Courage grew as the people remembered that God Himself is the “Lord of Hosts” or the “Lord of Sabaoth” (a Hebrew word that means hosts). This phrase “Lord of Hosts” describes God’s heavenly powers as the God of the universe who sits in council with heavenly attendants who do His bidding. Some of these heavenly attendants join Him in battle to defeat His enemies. If you are going to do battle, why not fight with the Lord of Hosts at your side instead of relying only on the arm of flesh?

Our battle today isn’t a war of swords and shields and arrows. It is a fight for our time and attention. Will we spend our time on things that are merely amusing or the things that matter most?

When God is with us, the Lord of Heaven and Earth, we can be strong, courageous, and of good cheer.

We see positive examples of this principle in action throughout the scriptures.

In the days of the prophet Elisha, the king of Syria waged war against Israel, encompassing the city where Elisha was, causing Elisha’s servants to be deeply fearful. In response, Elisha declared:

“Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (2 Kings 6:16-17).

The Lord of Hosts had come with His heavenly hosts to protect His people.

In the Book of Mormon when the Nephites did not keep the commandments of God they no longer had the protecting power of the Lord of Hosts. In the days of Moronihah, Lehi, and Nephi, the Nephites had grown wicked,

“And because of this their great wickedness, and their boastings in their own strength, they were left in their own strength; therefore they did not prosper, but were afflicted and smitten, and driven before the Lamanites, until they had lost possession of almost all their lands” (Helaman 4:13).

The Nephites could not be strong and courageous for they did not “keep and . . . do all that is written in the book” of God’s law (Joshua 23:6). They had lost the presence of God in their lives:

“For behold, they saw that the strength of the Lamanites was as great as their strength, even man for man. And thus had they fallen into this great transgression; yea, thus had they become weak, because of their transgression, in the space of not many years” (Helaman 4:26).

How does one become strong? Courageous? Of good cheer?

By keeping all of God’s commandments.

Yet how do we press forward when we struggle to find joy despite living righteously? When we experience the realities of depression or the death of a loved one or any other challenge experienced in this fallen state, what is there to be cheerful about?

The strength of the Lord is with us when we make faithful commitment to God a way of life. We must trust that God’s promises are sure, that God goes before us opening the way. We take hold of our covenants made with God, those two-way binding commitments ensured by God, and we place our all on the altar to God, we serve those around us, we act with empathy, we give and forgive with fullness. The Atonement will slowly but surely heal the broken areas of our lives.

When we do exercise such faithfulness the sacramental covenant and promise is in force, “they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to be with them” (D&C 20:77, emphasis added).

If God is always with us, how can we fail?

That is exactly what God promises the faithful who will be strong, courageous and of good cheer “for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you” (D&C 68:6).

Lead photo from Getty Images.

Be Happy

Check out Hank Smith's new book, Be Happy, for more on this topic. Available at Deseret Book stores and deseretbook.com.

Face it: it's not always easy to feel happy. With all of the worries and trials of day-to-day life, the cares of the world can seem overwhelming. But as popular speaker and author Hank Smith demonstrates, no matter your circumstances, you can be happy—the kind of happy that illuminates you from the inside out, a joy that does not depend on what happens to you, but what you do with what happens. With his characteristic humor, Hank offers readers a fresh perspective on finding joy in the journey with a collection of tools and strategies designed to inspire genuine happiness.

Taylorhalverson

Dr. Taylor Halverson

Taylor Halverson is a BYU Teaching and Learning Consultant. He recently helped edit the new book Knowing Why: 137 Evidences that the Book of Mormon is True and has published and presented widely on scripture, innovation, entrepreneurship, technology, teaching, and learning and has PhDs in Biblical Studies and Instructional Technology. Click here to request a free eBook Memoirs of the Ward Rumor Control Coordinator, a light-hearted look at our beloved Mormon culture. More at taylorhalverson.com.

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