Last week I was stunned by the news that a man had been murdered and left in his car only a few blocks from my old home in Southern California. Then, only a week later, I was shocked when I heard of the tragedy in Orlando, which left 49 dead and 53 injured, and brought the number of mass shootings in America this year alone to 134. It seems the world is getting increasingly darker; with daily reports of bombings and terrorist attacks, abuse, crime, addiction, and war. With darkness threatening to overcome at every turn, sometimes it can feel like maybe we were sent to this earth to be brought down by our burdens and crushed by our hardships.
As a mother, there are times when I want nothing more than to move my little family to the middle of nowhere so they can’t be influenced by the world. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. But even as I have these thoughts, the realization comes over me that although the world is filled with darkness, if I choose to withdraw, it will only get darker for my family and those I love. I have the power and responsibility to make a difference, and so do you! The Savior has taught us that we are to be the lights of the world, and it helps no one when we hide our light under a bushel! (Matthew 5:14-16) As parents, teachers, sisters, brothers, and friends, we have an obligation to bring light into this ever-darkening world. But how do we do this? Below are four simple ways to do just that.
1. Spread Light Through Service
I really love this quote by Dieter F. Uchtdorf, which teaches us that as we draw closer to God and serve others, His light will shine through us. “As we seek to increase our love for God and strive to love our neighbor, the light of the gospel will surround and uplift us. The darkness will surely fade, because it cannot exist in the presence of light. As we draw near to God, Hewill draw near to us. And day-by-day, the hope of God’s light will grow within us.”
To me, shining brighter means giving my light to others. Sometimes I start by telling myself, “Self, today we’re going to shine a little brighter.” So today, forget about yourself! Pray to find someone to serve, and be specific in your prayer. Ask to find someone to serve who needs your light today, and God will provide. Trust in the answer you receive, then get to work. You can involve your family by inviting them to pray about finding someone as well. Everyone out there is in need of something, and even if they aren’t, no one can deny a nice warm batch of cookies.
- Focus on the Good
With all the negative headlines in the world, it can be easy to forget how much good is out there! Focusing on the good is about filtering what comes into your life, and changing your perspective to think more positively.
I’ve found one of the best ways to focus on the good is to concentrate on things in my own control. Sure it would be nice to change the world in one day, but as a wife and mother, I personally believe the most powerful place I can make a change, is in my own home.
As a simple example, my husband really loves to leave the cap off the toothpaste, and I really love to be annoyed by it. I found myself cursing him every day as I brushed my teeth. A few days ago as I went to brush my teeth I thought, ”What a gentlemen, he left the lid off so I didn’t have to twist it off myself.” Though the comment was laced with sarcasm, (as most of my thinking is) it helped me change my perspective. By changing my perspective, I now see that my husband is doing me a huge favor every day by saving me a couple seconds of cap-twisting time. And that time adds up! Over a year I’ll have saved maybe a whole 12 minutes. Joking aside, the cap thing really truly does not bother me anymore and all it took was a slight change in perspective.
Something else I have to work on daily in order to focus on the good is my struggle with anxiety. I can get so worked up about the littlest things and before I know it, the world is coming to an end and I’m the worst human being onthe planet. This is not a fun place to be! I’ve learned that if I want to stay positive, I need to actively pursue it. I do this by making “Positivity Checkpoints” throughout my day. It sounds so cheesy, but it works! On my drive home from the gym in the morning, I think about all the things I’m grateful for. During lunch or nap time, I take a few seconds to list all the good things that have happened so far that day, or how I can make the day better. Before bed, my husband and I talk about our favorite parts of the day. This little activity is perfect for me because it changes my perspective multiple times throughout the day, takes up just a few minutes of my time, and I can do it on the go. I’m not perfect at it, but when I do this, it makes such a huge difference!
- Make Christ the Centerpiece
If there was ever someone who could have been overcome by all the evil in the world, it was the Savior. There was no one that faced more darkness, yet never let it overcome Him. As we study the Savior’s life and make Him our center, He will illuminate all darkness and help us know how to do the same.
I love the accounts of the Savior in the scriptures, and marvel at how he responded to so much opposition and darkness. Though many doubted and mocked him, He spent His time lifting others, and even in the midst of His sorrow He continued to heal the sick and even raise the dead. Even as He hung on the cross, He pled with the Father to “forgive them, for they know not what they do.” I can’t imagine what kind of love that must have taken for Him, when He was suffering so terribly, to not think of Himself or his pain, but of sharing his light with others. His life was and is the perfect example of selflessness and love, and as we center our lives on Him, His light will shine from us.
- Choose Faith Over Fear
I was recently studying in Mark, when I came across the account of Christ calming the stormy seas. “And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.” (Mark 4:37) Confession: I’m pretty scared of the ocean. And it’s not necessarily all the crazy fish down there, it’s the water itself. Sure, the ocean is totally fascinating and beautiful and fun to play in…but hurricanes? Tidal waves? Are you kidding me?! I read this passage and imagined myself upon the ship that had just filled with water, completely overcome with fear.
The scripture reads as follows: “And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?” (Mark 4:38-41)
Just like in this scripture, from time to time we have all felt the need to ask our master,“Carest thou not that we perish?” Because let’s face it, sometimes it may feel that He doesn’t care. Why do bad things happen? Why is there cancer and death and crime? It’s easy to place blame on God, or use our energy to focus on questioning and doubting. But I think we have so much to learn from this scriptural account. How often do you think Jesus has asked us, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?” Faith and fear cannot coexist, so any time we put energy towards focusing on our doubt and fears will only stop us from focusing on our faith. We must remember that faith is a choice that we must choose each and every day. I love the words of Neil L. Anderson, “Faith is not only a feeling, it’s a decision.”
Though your fears may be as a great storm, with waves beating and threatening to bring you down, I testify that just as Christ calmed an angry sea, so too can he calm your spirit. Fear not. Let your faith in his simple words of “Peace, be still” diminish all fear and bring comfort to your soul.
Yes, there is darkness in the world, but each of us holds a divine power within us to be a light and an example, maybe even for generations to come! Instead of becoming part of the darkness, fearing it, or running away from the world, we can have courage and face the darkness head on. In our own lives, homes, and families, we can be the light that not only holds the darkness at bay, but pushes it back! We do this by spreading light through service, focusing on the good, making Christ the center of our lives, and choosing faith over fear. I know that Christ lives! He alone can help you overcome darkness, for He truly is “the light of the world.” (John 8:12)