Getting Closer to the Lord
Introduction from "Managing Stress as a College Student" by: Michael L. Maughan
Stress can occur when we are casual in our relationship with the Lord. It is easy to slip into the mode of only praying when we need something, only attending church meetings when our roommates attend, only reading the scriptures when we have a test in our religion class, or only helping our roommates when we absolutely have to. This pattern may not bother us much until we are called upon to perform a spiritual function like accepting a Church position or administering to the sick or praying for the Lord's help when a loved one experiences a tragedy. It is then that we clearly recognize the distance between ourselves and the Lord.
When our level of spirituality is high, we feel at peace with ourselves, others and God. We feel the Lord will support us and that things will somehow work together for our good.(7) When our level of spirituality is low, we are likely to feel lonely and anxious about the future. If we feel this way, we can always increase our closeness to the Lord by repenting of our sins, praying for companionship of the Spirit, reading the scriptures, and performing acts of service for others. Feeling close to the Lord helps us encounter any stressful situation in life.
Eight Spiritually Centered Steps to Reduce Stress
1. Understand that it’s normal to experience stress, even if you feel you are doing everything spiritually right.
Stress in everyday life is part of the opposition in all thingsa. It allows you the opportunity to decide how to act. Consider the following quote by Boyd K. Packer in a meeting to church leadership:
“To suffer some anxiety, some depression, some disappointment, even some failure is normal. Teach your members that if they have a good, miserable day once in a while, or several in a row, to stand steady and face them. Things will straighten out. There is a great purpose in our struggle in life.”b
2. Identify purpose using the Lord’s help
Purpose will give you motivation and energy to live life to its fullest. Joseph Smith said, “Happiness is the object and design of our existence…”c In a life of happiness some stress, anxiety, and depression have their place, and can peacefully co-exist with our joy.
The Lord can help you find what it is that will help you to have the greatest balance of happiness. This will then enable you to create goals that help you achieve this purpose.
“If you would find happiness and joy, lose your life in some noble cause. A worthy purpose must be at the center of every worthy life.” -Jack H. Goaslindd
3. Identify specific goals to fulfill your purpose
Make goals to organize direction and fulfill your purpose in each day. Recognize your strengths as well as your limitations when setting goals. We may not be able to accomplish everything we want to or think we should, but identifying your top priorities may be helpful in being able to set realistic goals.
“See that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength...” -Mosiah 4:27
We should avoid comparing ourselves with others who can naturally deal with higher degree of stress in their lives. (Like roommates who take more credits or need less sleep than we do.) The Moroni felt like he was an inadequate writer next to the brother of Jarede, but his writings have significantly contributed to the increased spirituality of millions of people around the world. God calls each of us in our weakness to carry out his purposes.
“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” – Ether 12:27
4. Visualize yourself step by step completing your goals
Visualize yourself doing those things so that the plan becomes more solidified. Imagining yourself accomplishing those steps to reach your goals and remembering the feelings that it brings will make it more likely you will actually accomplish those things (because you’ve already practiced them in your mind). The Lord made a spiritual blueprint before his physical creationf, and you can do the same by making a mental blueprint of your day before you physically doing it.
Remember the Lord can help you in accomplishing that which you need tog, and it can be helpful to discuss with the Lord your plans for the day in your morning prayers and report back on them at the end of the day as part of your blueprinting process. It might also be helpful for you to visualize the added strength or comfort He can give you throughout your day so you can be more sensitive to those feelings when they come.
5. Enjoy the process not just the destination
Often times we get so caught up in trying to reach our goals or thinking about the future that we forget to enjoy the present moment or circumstances as part of our journey through life.
“We shouldn’t wait to be happy until we reach some future point, only to discover that happiness was already available—all the time! Life is not meant to be appreciated only in retrospect. ‘This is the day which the Lord hath made … ,’ the Psalmist wrote. ‘Rejoice and be glad in it.’
Brothers and sisters, no matter our circumstances, no matter our challenges or trials, there is something in each day to embrace and cherish. There is something in each day that can bring gratitude and joy if only we will see and appreciate it.” – President Uchtdorfh
(Steps 6-8 are helpful habits to supplement your journey)
6. Take care of the body
One of our purposes in coming to earth was to gain a physical body. Our spirit can affect our physiology and our physiology can affect our spirit, so it is just as important to take care of the body as it is to take care of our spirit. Remember to get adequate sleep, nutrition, and exercise.
Doing so will help you become, among other things, invigorated (D&C 88:124), will improve cognitive abilities, attentiveness, creativity, performance (D&C 89:19-20), motor skills, immune function, weight management, and decrease depression and anxiety.
The way we sit, stand, or hold our bodies can change our energy level and send messages to our spirit. By changing our posture to a more upright, bold, and confident position, we can influence those processes. As President Monson has said, “Remember, it is better to look up,”i both in the spiritual and the physical sense.
7. Taking time to be still, meditate, and pray.
Sometimes we may feel that we are too busy to take time to meditate and that we will become more stressed because of the lost time. But taking the time to meditate can improve our performance in all the other things that we do. Gordon B. Hinckley once said, “We are all so busy with our mundane pursuits which pull us this way and that. We all need, the whole world needs, the opportunity to meditate and reflect on the things of God and listen to words that inspire and help.”j
In addition, meditation can be a powerful resource in improving your relationship with the Lord, as David O. McKay has pointed out, “Meditation is one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord.”k
Finally, as God has said, “Be still and know that I am God...”-Psalms 46:10
8. Serve others along the way
“Service helps us forget our own travails; it enlarges our souls and gives us greater capacity to endure our own trials.” -Jack H. Goaslindl
Service also helps us to form positive relationships which can result in longer, healthier, and happier lives. As one neuropsycyhiatrist once said, “Relationships are the agent of change, and the most powerful therapy is human love.” – Bruce D. Perrym
a 2 Nephi 2:11
b Boyd K. Packer, “Solving Emotional Problems in the Lord’s Own Way,” Ensign, May 1978, 93.
c History of the Church 5:134–35
d Jack H. Goaslind, “Happiness,” General Conference, April 1986.
e Ether 12:24
f Moses 3:4-7
g1 Nephi 17:13
h Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Of Regrets and Resolutions,” General Conference, October 2012
I Carl B. Cook, “It is Better to Look Up,” General Conference, October 2011.
jGordon B. Hinckley “Let us Live the Gospel More Fully,” General Conference, October 2003.
k David O. McKay Man May Know for Himself, comp. Clare Middlemiss [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1969], pp. 22–23.
l Jack H. Goaslind, “Happiness,” General Conference, April 1986.
mPerry, B. D., & Szalavitz, M. 2006. The boy who was raised as a dog: And other stories from a child psychiatrist's notebook: What traumatized children can teach us about loss, love, and healing, New York: Basic Books.