Help for Life Challenges

Peace can be a choice. 3 ways to re-center on Christ when worry sets in

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The Spirit can help us learn to choose thoughts of faith and hope, a practice that can transform our lives.
I Am Enough, by Kate Lee.

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the July/August issue of LDS Living magazine. The theme for the issue was Finding Peace in which we explored the incredible reality that when our hearts are in tune with the Savior, personal peace is possible.

I really didn’t want to miss this flight.

My husband and I were traveling to California for a business conference when our first of two flights was delayed by an hour, making the chances of catching our connecting flight frustratingly slim. I held on to the hope that we would make it, though, because there was an opening reception for the conference with speakers I wanted to hear. Missing our flight would make that impossible.

We weren’t the only ones feeling worried. Reactions from our fellow travelers varied from slightly annoyed to extremely angry. And some of them likely had good reason to be upset! I was going to be inconvenienced and miss out on something I had paid money for, but that could be minor compared with others’ situations.

Regardless of our reasons for traveling that day, we all had one thing in common: we were thinking thoughts about the delayed flight and those thoughts were stealing our peace and happiness.

Most people don’t frame it this way. Instead, people would say, “The delayed flight made us so mad.” But this is not accurate. The decision to delay the flight was actually made long before the other passengers and I were notified. Think about it—someone in authority made the choice to delay and likely went through the process of notifying various airline personnel long before we were told. If it was the delayed flight that had upset us, we would’ve all started feeling upset without knowing why as soon as the decision was made. But we didn’t feel bad until we got the news, had the opportunity to give it meaning (i.e., think thoughts about it), and then stole our own peace with these thoughts.

If you’re thinking this is just a technicality—that it doesn’t really matter if we credit our upset feelings to our thoughts or to our circumstances—let me suggest otherwise. (After all, proper diagnosis of a problem is the easiest and fastest way to find the proper treatment.) To properly diagnose a lack of peace, we need to look at the internal battle of thoughts and emotions we all face as humans. Fortunately, this means the remedy for a lack of peace is also internal: we find peace by learning to choose what we think, which will change how we feel. And I have three strategies to help you do just that.

I believe we don’t have to learn to choose what we think on our own: we can rely on the Savior and His Atonement to help us all along the way.

Keep Ownership of the Cause of Your Pain

Heavenly parents sent us to earth to have a full human experience, and negative emotions are part of that experience. I don’t find it possible or useful to try to always think positively. But telling ourselves the truth about the cause of our pain can help us find peace sooner and treat others better in the meantime.

For example, if I tell myself the delayed flight is what has upset me, I will spend a lot of time thinking about how the airline messed up, blaming and finding fault with the people or processes I see around me. This is a waste of time and energy since I don’t have control over any of those things. Those thoughts leave me in a place of judgment and negativity and make it tough to be kind to the airline employees I still need to interact with to get to my destination.

On the other hand, if I tell myself the truth about what is upsetting me, I have some control when I’m ready to feel better. So I could say, “My mind wants to go to a very negative place right now. I’m tempted to feel sorry for myself. I’m having a lot of thoughts about missing out.”

This kind of internal dialogue is accurate and still allows me to be human, but without moving into judgment or blame. This way I will have an easier time being kind to others and to myself. And I will be more receptive to the Spirit’s promptings because I am in a place of kindness. Those promptings may help me notice ways I can do good in my situation and see ways I can feel at peace sooner.

Don’t Feel Bad About Feeling Bad

Missing part of my event is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. I have many family members suffering with more serious problems, such as depression, anxiety, co-parenting challenges, financial uncertainty, and even cancer. It’s tempting to tell ourselves we don’t have any right to feel bad when we look at the problems that exist in the world at large.

And while keeping life in perspective can be useful, the reality is that we are all going to feel bad at times. When we feel bad about feeling bad, we do not feel better. We feel doubly bad. We feel the original disappointment and then we layer guilt or shame on top.

Starting today, try giving yourself permission to remember that as humans we will have thoughts that make us feel bad, and that’s OK. Christ gave us the example of what it means to be a perfect living person, and even He felt negative emotions in his day-to-day life and in the Garden of Gethsemane.1

Instead of feeling bad about our feelings, I recommend we learn to allow them. I personally do this in several ways. First, I focus on my breathing and consciously relax my shoulders, neck, and torso. Then I try to envision what the chemicals and hormones of my emotions might look like and where they are in my body. I also find movement (such as going for a walk) helps; so does talking through my thoughts with a friend. And if nothing else, allowing myself some time to feel bad allows my body to process the emotions. Then I can seek more peaceful thoughts from the Spirit.

Give Yourself Permission to Believe in Miracles

As humans, we strongly prefer having evidence before we will believe something. We are constantly looking around us to discover what’s true, what’s real, or what’s going to happen next. This instinct helps us stay safe and be successful in some cases. But the reality is we are often wrong about what the future holds or what’s actually true. If we can learn to choose to believe in things we can’t see or explain, we can create a lot more peace in our lives.

If we can learn to choose to believe in things we can’t see or explain, we can create a lot more peace in our lives.

As our first flight landed, my husband and I ran to the gate of our next flight. We could see that the plane was still there, but unfortunately, the boarding doors were closed, and we were not allowed to get on. The next flight wasn’t for another five hours. After allowing myself to feel some disappointment for about 20 minutes, I decided to think of something more peaceful.

“We’re going to arrive at the perfect time for us,” I thought. “Or maybe we’re going to meet someone we wouldn’t have otherwise met or avoid an accident on a freeway or something.”

The truth is we’ll never know for sure whether the path life puts us on is more or less beneficial than the one we originally planned to take. But even if I didn’t know if my thoughts at the airport were true, they brought me back to a place of peace while I waited for my next flight.

This practice of choosing our thoughts also applies to other more challenging times than a missed flight. Because of Jesus Christ, there is always good news we can center our thoughts on. And, unlike my thoughts in the airport, this is good news we can wholeheartedly trust is true.

Because of Jesus Christ, there is always good news we can center our thoughts on.

Always allowing space for our emotions, we can think truths such as “Heavenly Father can make all things work together for my good” after disappointment (see Romans 8:28). Or in a period of loneliness, we can think, “The Lord has not forgotten me” (see 1 Nephi 21:16). Or in grief we can remember, “God will one day wipe away all my tears” (see Revelation 21:4).

Alma in the Book of Mormon teaches us, “Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true” (Alma 32:21). We can practice choosing to override our innate desire for evidence and just believe something, even though our brains will want to remind us that we could be wrong. This is a life-changing concept, one I know the Spirit can help us understand how to implement in our lives.

If you are in a place on your spiritual journey where you don’t yet know if a gospel principle is true, that’s OK. Remember Alma’s teachings: “Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things.” I invite you to start practicing overriding your evidence-loving brain by choosing to think thoughts of faith and hope. Those thoughts, though like little seeds now, can bring you an ever-growing sense of peace. As Elder Neil L. Andersen taught us, “Your faith will grow not by chance, but by choice.”2

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Thoughts of faith and hope, though like little seeds now, can bring you an ever-growing sense of peace.
Nourish the Word, by Kate Lee.

I believe the Lord is aware of me and is in the details of my life. If I choose to turn my thoughts and heart to Him, He can lead me to find peace through the challenges I face. Along the way, He can even guide me to impact someone’s life for good or to receive blessings I seek. He doesn’t need ideal situations to do His work—believing in the magnitude and perfection of His plan is part of having faith.

The Savior reminds us that peace is available to all: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

This kind of peace is an inside job; inside our hearts and minds is where the Savior can refine us and guide us. The outside world will always contain challenges and disappointments, but inside we have all the access to the peace we need through our Savior Jesus Christ.

▶ You may also like: What if I pray for peace and feel nothing? We love these therapists’ comforting explanation


1. See Hebrews 4:15, Alma 7:11, Matthew 26:37–39.

2. Neil L. Andersen, “Faith Is Not by Chance, but by Choice,” Ensign, November 2015, 65–68.

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