Having a hard time? Stop what you’re doing and read Elder Holland’s message to BYU students from 1980, “For Times of Trouble”. Outdated, maybe, but it’s still just as applicable today as it was 33 years ago. One of the main points he makes in his address is that preparation for times of trouble is what will get us through the discouragement that we often times let accompany it. That’s another important point he makes as he quotes the ever knowledgeable F. Scott Fitzgerald, ”Trouble has no necessary connection with discouragement—discouragement has a germ of its own, as different from trouble as arthritis is different from a stiff joint” (The Crack-Up, 1945). Holland reminds students that we all have troubles, it’s just part of life, but it’s up to us whether we let them discourage us. This “germ” of discouragement, as Fitzgerald calls it, isn’t in the troubles themselves, but rather, it’s in Satan. And Satan wants it to be in us. We can’t let him put it in us though, because that’s the way it will grow and often times become habitual. How many times do we stop and throw ourselves a pity party when trouble hits? The pervasive statement of “wo is me” comes to mind. To quote another general authority, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Stop it.” Change is in our hands, I wholeheartedly believe that. If we let that “germ” germinate and grow, it can be responsible for destroying so many of our religious foundations such as faith, hope, and charity. When we let it grow in us we feel sorry for ourselves, we become unhappy, and then we in turn make the people around us unhappy as well. We lose our Christ-like attributes and begin to walk with our heads hanging low. And worst of all, we’re letting Satan get exactly what he wants as he simply sits back and laughs at the control we’re letting him exercise over us.
I refuse to let Satan win, so I’d like focus on those preventative measures now. Elder Holland quotes a line John F. Kennedy spoke in his inaugural address, “The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.” D&C 38:30 reads, “But if ye are prepared ye shall not fear”. A little preparation can go a long way when it comes to defeating personal discouragement and self-defeat. Elder Holland takes some time to address financial hardship, a burden that so many of us feel we are bearing. Being a college student, learning to become independent and self-sufficient is a huge responsibility I’m facing. Elder Holland recognized that and counseled students to “ Plan. Prepare. Budget. Work. Save. Sacrifice. Spend cheerfully on things that matter. Smile at an old pair of shoes. Pay your tithing. Cherish a used book.” He promised there would be a way, a light at the end of the tunnel.
He also addressed schoolwork, sin, unpopularity, insecurity, and a myriad of other difficulties, all with proper consideration and advice. However, in the end, I think it all comes back to those primary answers we repeat so often as though they aren’t good enough responses to our daily challenges. But they are. They’re only primary answers because they are primary, or in other words, essential, to our salvation. Scripture study, prayer, service, faith, patience, fasting. They’re the keys to happiness and they reveal answers to the questions we ask so deeply. When thoughts of discouragement and self-defeat come my way, I pray that I will always have the strength to turn back to those answers. I know they will lead me to my loving Father in Heaven. I pray the same prayer that Mormon prayed for his son Moroni, “May Christ lift [me] up, and may his sufferings and death, … and his mercy and long-suffering, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in [my] mind forever” (Moroni 9:25).
In Elder Holland’s closing remarks he said, “In the gospel of Jesus Christ you have help from both sides of the veil, and you must never forget that. When disappointment and discouragement strike—and they will—you remember and never forget that if our eyes could be opened we would see horses and chariots of fire as far as the eye can see riding at reckless speed to come to our protection. They will always be there, these armies of heaven, in defense of Abraham’s seed.”
I love that. I love the image that gives me to cling to when I’m struggling. Chariots of fire at reckless speed coming to my protection. How cool is that? That’s how much God loves us all and wants us to succeed.