Why do we suffer from unhappiness and depression when we are doing our best to be obedient to God’s commandments? Aren’t we supposed to be happy? Isn’t it called “the great plan of happiness?” (Alma 42:8) If “wickedness never was happiness,” (Alma 41:10) then does that mean unhappy people are wicked? Is disobedience and wickedness the source of our unhappiness?
We sometimes confuse what is TRUE and what makes us happy.
We know that eventually we will understand all truth, and that truth is independent of opinion, or emotion. In other words truth can stand alone, regardless of how we feel. We do not understand all truth in this mortal existence. We seek the truth and welcome any revealed truth, but in reality the circle of truth we understand is quite small.
The emotions we feel (although very real) do not always represent, nor are they in line with, the truth, especially in this mortal life. We are intended to feel a variety of emotions in this lifetime, some of them very acute at times. We are designed to be happy. We are intended to have joy. However, we are not guaranteed a life without unhappiness. We are not promised some utopian existence where we live in constant harmony and never feel the wide range of emotion attached to our mortal journey. We will feel negative emotions, but those emotions do not change the truth. Truth stands alone, independent, and unaffected by emotion. It does not feel. It simply exists. Knowing and applying truth can bring us happiness, but unhappiness in this life does not mean that we have failed to understand or apply the truth properly. God makes the rain fall on the just and the unjust. Unhappiness comes to the righteous and the wicked, at least for now.
If we follow the PLAN of happiness, eventually we will be happy. (That’s why it’s called a plan.) If we align ourselves with the revealed truth and follow the plan, we will eventually achieve a state of happiness that is unchanging. Just as our bodies will be resurrected and glorified, our spirits will be free from guilt, shame, and all the other impediments to eternal happiness. We will have a fullness of joy. But for many that will not be achieved in this lifetime because of the mortal limitations of our existence.
So what do we tell someone who is suffering from depression and unhappiness? How do we console them and reassure them when they can no longer be happy in spite of their best efforts to live a righteous life? What do we say to someone who cannot seem to find happiness for the moment?
First, testify of truth. The truth doesn’t change with our emotions. It is constant. People suffering from depression and anxiety often describe it as a state of uneasiness or instability where they can’t seem to find their footing. They are looking for something—anything—they can hold onto. Depression and anxiety can rob a person of hope, and hope is the seedbed of faith. Without hope it is difficult to wait on the Lord and difficult to believe in anything we cannot physically experience. Revelation becomes difficult. Truth is the ultimate anchor in this situation. When we testify of truth it gives a reference and an anchor point in the sea of emotion. Truth provides stability in an unstable moment.
Love. We must fill our bowels with charity and serve those who are suffering. We are instructed to “lift up the hands which hang down.” (Hebrews 12:12) No one’s hands are hanging lower than someone suffering from depression or anxiety. Depression often robs an individual’s ability to feel joy and love. It makes it difficult to give and receive love. Because of this, it is often difficult to love someone suffering from depression because they cannot reciprocate or appreciate the love that is offered. “Charity suffereth long.” (1 Corinthians 13:4) We must love, and continue to love in a variety of ways, all those suffering from depression and anxiety. Love will see them through the darkest days.
The truth about happiness is that in this life we may not always be happy, even when we are trying to be obedient to God’s eternal laws. “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Life is a journey full of tribulation and emotion, but if we follow the plan of happiness we will eventually overcome all the mortal impediments to happiness.
Truth stands independent of our emotions.