Boot camp of the eternities

I talk to a lot of singles one-on-one. I hear a lot of stories, hear a lot of pain, and see the suffering in their eyes and hearts. I hear them often say they can’t understand why the Lord would allow them to suffer this way. They talk about having a temple marriage, going to church, doing what they believe was the right thing, yet they still end up divorced, lonely, and hurt.

Even people who have never married are lonely, but it is a different kind of loneliness. They have the same roots, but they don’t understand why the Lord doesn’t bring someone into their lives that they can stay with. They long for love and marriage but can’t seem to find the person that they can go through life with.

One thing in common that I hear, that all these stories boil down to is this: why is God doing this to me?

I have one answer to everyone: God isn’t doing anything to you at all. You are doing this to yourself.

Of course, no one wants to believe that. Yes, things happen to us that we aren’t in control of, like a spouses abuse, a boyfriend/girlfriend’s aloofness, job loss, or what have you. These are things that happen, not God doing things to you.

Life is hard. Life is suffering. When Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden, they weren’t sent among the rainbows and unicorns. They weren’t sent to the forest where money grows on trees. Thorns, thistles. and bread by the sweat of our brow. That’s all that was promised us in this life. That is what we have. We were promised great things for eternal life, and we are told that men are that they may have joy, but that joy is a choice.

The one resounding truth about this world is that we all have a hard life. For some it is poverty, for others, betrayal. Someone may have grown up in a very loving but emotionally distant family, one person may have grown up in utter abuse. Everyone’s challenges and hardships are individual, based on the lives we chose to live when we came here. Remember, you chose this life, telling Heavenly Father “Yeah, I got this, that doesn’t look so bad.” So we chose this, this isn’t God doing anything to us.

Since age 11, I had always wanted to be in the military. I was excited about it, studied it, stayed healthy, and was excited about going. I joined at 17 while a junior in high school. Everyone that joins the military knows it will be hard, we see the movies, seen documentaries, heard from friends the stories of being yelled at, running in rain, physical punishment through grueling exercise, but we still join, thinking “Yeah, I got this, that doesn’t look so bad.” In basic training, it is a much different thing. Seeing people getting yelled at or being told to run around a platoon marching is a lot different than being the person yelled at or running around the platoon while marching. It was grueling, it was hard, it was suffering. But I chose to accept it before I went in.

There were four types of people, though. The ones that got into the military and realized that it was not like the movies where you can walk out after 2 hours. They would make excuses, complain, tear down the morale of everyone. They constantly looked for ways of getting out, constantly complained, and even tore down the people, like me, that wanted to be there. They had regret for their decisions, but blamed it on the military or friends for joining. No one forced their hands on the contract.

The second type of person would do the bare minimum. Not wanting to be there, but not wanting to look like a quitter. They would quietly undermine their own experience, sometimes dragging people down at the same time. Some would beat on their knees with padlocks to get a medical release. They pretended to want to be there because they didn’t want to be rejected or despised, but were tearing down the platoon with their willful weakness and non-participation. They complained, were lazy, and expected the platoon to carry them because it was too hard and they were too weak to quit.

Then there were the guys like me, the ones that wanted to be there, that relished the physical challenge, the pain of pushing through and becoming better. The people that joined because they saw the honor of it, but also recognized they had no idea what it was actually going to be like. We knew it was going to be tough and recognized it was outside our capacity to truly understand until we did it. We complained sometimes, but only as an outlet. We pushed and excelled because we made a commitment and we were not going to dishonor ourselves and those around us by quitting when things got tough.

The fourth type are the people I respect and love the most. I had a passion and capacity for the military world. I thrive in a disciplined and regimented world. I like order, I like challenge, I like being pushed to be more. The fourth group of people are the ones that didn’t have my capacity, strength, or passion, but they pushed more than anyone. They could have very easily been in the first or second group, but they chose to be more than me. They were weaker, less capable, but they worked harder than any of us in the third group. Their misery was worse than mine because this world didn’t come easy to them. They pushed harder than I ever did because they were mentally and physically less prepared. They worked harder because it was harder for them. These are the people that I respected.

So how is it any different in this life? It isn’t. We all made a commitment to come here, knowing it would be tough. We all made a commitment to heavenly Father to do our best. Unlike the military, most people are of the first and second group. I have been in the second group myself a few times. Also, unlike the military, we have the atonement to pull us through and to make change.

If you are miserable, if you are suffering, if you are looking at your life and saying “Why, God, are you doing this to me?” snap out of it. Heavenly Father isn’t making you be a tool for anyone else. Heavenly Father isn’t depriving you of anything in this life. You are choosing to wallow in a fairyland view of what you think life ought to be. Heavenly Father didn’t promise that to anyone. Life isn’t what it ought to be, and never will be. Life is what we choose it to be. Life is what we make of it. The key is being in the fourth group, because we are all deficient for this life: this boot camp for eternal life. If you want love, then love. If you want accomplishment, then accomplish. if you want to be whole, choose to be whole. It really is that simple.

Heavenly Father has promised us support, love, guidance, and strength to bear the hardships. We get to decide how much of those hardships we continually bear the weight of. We can quit. We can check out. We can reject everything that seems like work. By doing so we reject joy and opportunity. Joy and opportunity are what Heavenly Father does for us by helping us understand the direction to it. Even that, he isn’t giving it to us, we get to choose it.

True happiness will come when our will is aligned with His will. Wallowing in self-pity and misery, being in group 1 or 2 will never get you there. Choose to be group 4. Choose to seek happiness and allow it in your life.