Don’t you wish there was an easy button for applying the scriptures to your life? I do. Sometimes the analogies come easy, other times I really have to dig in and discover how a scripture relates to me and the realities of my life. The difficulty of finding these experiences doesn't dissuade me. Instead, it pushes me forward, as I know that I can grow closer to Heavenly Father through study and application of the scriptures. Reading in the Book of Mormon, I came across a verse in Helaman that caught my attention. This verse in Helaman 3:35 stuck out because I am always seeking ways to firm up my own foundation as a disciple of Jesus Christ, and it explains how to do just that:
"Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God."
This scripture in Helaman marks out a way for us to draw closer to God, increase the firmness of our faith, and sanctify our souls.
1. Fast often
What is often? Well, that is up to the individual. And what does fasting have to do with connecting with God? Do you mean I have to go without food? “Ugh,” I hear you say. Trust me, I love food as much as the next guy, just ask my waistline. Here's the thing: without spiritual preparation and prayer, depriving ourselves of food is just starving ourselves. However, sacrificing something with a prayerful intent to draw closer to our Heavenly Father can help us use the enabling power of Christ to overcome our mortal pains and weakness and strengthen the bond between us and Christ. Maybe it isn’t food. Maybe you fast from something else. Personally, I fast every Sunday from social media so I can keep my focus on studying the scriptures without distraction. The point is to find something to sacrifice and instead fill that time with drawing closer to God.
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2. Pray often
What is often? Does it have to be a formal prayer? While I think that formal prayer (prayer that is spoken out loud both in private and in public) is essential, it is also essential that we carry a prayer in our hearts. As Alma suggested in Alma 37:36: “Let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord.” As our hearts are set upon God, our thoughts will be naturally directed to him. Pray over everything. In all things give God thanks. When we pray often, we solidify our connection to Heavenly Father by inviting the constant companionship of His messenger, the Holy Ghost, who can provide continual personal revelation and direction for our lives.
3. Fill our souls with joy
Sometimes this is hard, or it may even seem downright impossible. Life occasionally seems like its only goal is to beat us down. We can feel like we are a participant in Super Punch Out!!, and King Hippo is about to deliver a blistering knockout punch. We need to do our best to eliminate those things in our life that do not uplift and brighten us, things that seem intent on dragging us down. Take a moment each day and ask, “What sunshine did I feel in my soul today? What were the joys?” Then increase those moments of reflection to twice a day, then every hour. Even in the darkest hour, if we look hard enough, there will be light, even if it is just a pinprick. Give thanks unto God for those joyous moments. And then, what do you know, you are fulfilling number two on the list.
4. Fill our souls with consolation
In this instance, I think the scripture in Helaman is referring to the comfort that can only come when we allow the Atonement of Jesus Christ to fill our hearts and begin to work its transformative power within our lives. In the pits of our despair, when we feel like a failure or that we are beyond love, we can have comfort if we call upon the Savior to lend us His strength.
5. Yield our hearts to God/wax strong in humility
Too often our pride can get in the way of us fully saying, "Not my will, but thy will be done." It is human nature to think that we know the best approach to handling our life, but that isn't always the truth. The sooner we humble ourselves, yield our heart to God, and fill it with the pure love of Christ, the sooner we can become sanctified through the administrations of the Holy Ghost.
Life can seem daunting, and applying these principles can be hard. Heavenly Father doesn't expect us to be perfect now. After all, it is His plan that we come to earth to be tried and tested, to experience the pains and joys of mortality so that eventually we can become perfected. Notice I said eventually. Perfection is a process. It is a mountain we must climb one step at a time. It can seem intimidating as we move forward, but the good news is that we don't have to climb it alone. Christ can and will stand beside us, encouraging our often sluggish and painful steps, helping us ascend to our highest potential.
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