2 Nephi 2:25 states, “Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy.” I have always thought one obtained spiritual joy through overcoming hardships. However, God doesn’t put every scrap of joy and peace just beyond a stumbling block.
Everybody’s Meant for a Mission, Right?
When I turned 19, I thought about serving a mission. I loved the gospel and everyone I admired was going. However, try as I might, I had no desire to go. Living for 18 months without family, coping mechanisms, sleep, a stable support network, my native language, and time to myself seemed to be my worst nightmare.
Don’t get me wrong—I felt selfish, weak-willed, and cowardly for not wanting to go. I shuddered at stories about people who, in spite of fear, were humble enough to ask if that was God’s plan for them. Many had studied and prayed, then had a road-to-Damascus experience and couldn’t deny the call—whether they liked it or not. They struggled, but never regretted it. I wondered if I would.
These stories cut me to the core. I feared that if I asked God, He would demand that I serve. Initially, I resisted asking. Because a mission would break me, I knew God would make me do it. I was ashamed of myself and thought I needed to learn and be humbled—the hard way. That’s how God works…right?
Eventually, I worked up the courage and asked God if I needed to serve. Over and over. I woke up every morning, studied my scriptures, and prayed for the desire to go if I needed to go. I felt nothing—then guilt—then nothing again. A righteous person would want to serve, even if it would make them miserable. Why wasn’t God just telling me to be miserable already?
a mission would break me, SO I knew God would make me do it. I was ashamed of myself and thought I needed to learn and be humbled—the hard way. That’s how God works…right?
After months of wrestling, it dawned on me: God doesn’t want that for me. God doesn’t want me to be miserable.
God is Infinite. So is The Plan.
We often share tearful, joyful, and reflective stories about the trials we endure from God. God always has a design. There is always a lesson to learn and a reason for us to rejoice in hardship. Our patriarchal blessings outline what privileges, gifts, and obstacles will shape our experience on earth. God lives the details. This, I believe, is true.
However, I do not believe there is only one way to please God. If I believed God had a single, merciless path for me, and that was my only chance of happiness, how could I exercise agency? What would be the point of my own unique desires and gifts? Why would our Heavenly Parents set his children up to disappoint the heavens so easily? They wouldn’t.
The plan our Heavenly Parents have in store for each one of us is multifaceted and infinite. They, like all loving parents, want us to live righteous, pure lives and do what we love. They do not design our lives to be difficult for the sake of “building character.” (Recall the father from Calvin & Hobbes, and his insistence that bug bites, diarrhea, and doing things you hate “build character.”)
At any given point, Our Heavenly Father and Mother seek to bless us, comfort us, and help us be happy. Life on a flawed planet is imperfect and our mission on earth has strict parameters, surely—after all, God wants us to be Godly. Nevertheless, as God is infinite, so are the ways and habits of Godliness.
I didn’t end up serving a mission. That decision was at one time a tangled knot of shame, insecurity, and fear in the pit of my stomach. However, once I allowed it to be my decision, as the Lord intended it to be, it eased. I went on with school. Jobs, friends, and relationships taught me great lessons about myself, the Divine, and God’s plan for me. I am still learning and loving life. My life is a happy one.
I do not regret not serving a mission one bit. I know my own mission, and I know my God.