The daily headlines rarely fail to deliver their heavy litany of bad news. Staggering economies and job woes. Terrorism and war. Tsunamis and earthquakes. Flu pandemics and health care worries. Broken homes and broken lives.
Indeed, there is darkness about. For many, getting through the day means navigating an obstacle course of worry and dread. Hope can seem a vague, even unattainable concept.
Yet even amidst the all too real troubles of the day, hope exists. Despite the din of cynicism, a spirit of optimism can, and is, sustaining the lives of many.
In both ancient and modern times, Christ's followers have endured trouble and woe. Difficult challenges have fogged the paths of even the most faithful, including the Lord's prophets and apostles.
Even Joseph Smith, the Prophet of the Restoration, would find himself on the business end of hard, lonesome periods of imprisonment and persecution. Joseph's despair was evident in his query, "O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?"
But the Lord had not forgotten His servant.
"My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
"And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high" (Doctrine and Covenants 121: 1, 7-8).
Our modern-day Church leaders reassure all who are troubled that the Lord's comforting words to Joseph Smith are extended to each of His children. Stop seeking out the storms, implored President Gordon B. Hinckley. Enjoy the sunlight.
"Many of us are troubled with fears concerning ourselves," wrote President Hinckley in the September 1993 issue of the New Era. "We are in a period of stress across the world. There are occasionally hard days for each of us. Do not despair. Do not give up. Look for the sunlight through the clouds. Opportunities will eventually open to you. Do not let the prophets of gloom endanger your possibilities.
"The Lord has said: 'Wherefore, lift up thy heart and rejoice, and cleave unto the covenants which thou hast made' (Doctrine and Covenants 25:13).
"I believe He is saying to each of us, be happy. The gospel is a thing of joy. It provides us with a reason for gladness. Of course there are times of sorrow. Of course there are hours of concern and anxiety. We all worry. But the Lord has told us to lift our hearts and rejoice. I see so many people ... who never see the sunshine, but who constantly walk with storms under cloudy skies. Cultivate an attitude of happiness. Cultivate a spirit of optimism. Walk with faith, rejoicing in the beauties of nature, in the goodness of those you love, in the testimony which you carry in your heart concerning things divine."
In an address during the April 2009 general conference, President Thomas S. Monson said: "I testify to you that our promised blessings are beyond measure. Though the storm clouds may gather, though the rains may pour down upon us, our knowledge of the gospel and our love of our Heavenly Father and of our Savior will comfort and sustain us and bring joy to our hearts as we walk uprightly and keep the commandments. There will be nothing in this world that can defeat us.
"My beloved brothers and sisters, fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith."
Optimism and hope are not synonymous with naivete. One can look to happy days ahead while fully recognizing and acknowledging the challenges and difficulties of the moment. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, explained that hope is the abiding trust that the Lord will fulfill His promise to us.
"[Hope] is confidence that if we live according to God's laws and the words of His prophets now, we will receive desired blessings in the future. It is believing and expecting that our prayers will be answered. It is manifest in confidence, optimism, enthusiasm and patient perseverance.
"In the language of the gospel, this hope is sure, unwavering and active. The prophets of old speak of a 'firm hope' and a 'lively hope.' It is a hope glorifying God through good works. With hope comes joy and happiness. With hope, we can 'have patience, and bear ... [our] afflictions' " (October 2008 general conference).
In that same general conference, Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve noted that today's challenges are comparable to those that the faithful have faced in the past.
"The recent economic crisis has caused significant concern throughout the world. Employment and financial problems are not unusual. Many people have physical and mental health challenges. Others deal with marital problems or wayward children. Some have lost loved ones. Addictions and inappropriate or harmful propensities cause heartache. Whatever the source of the trials, they cause significant pain and suffering for individuals and those who love them.
"We know from the scriptures that some trials are for our good and are suited for our own personal development. We also know that the rain falls on the just and the unjust. It is also true that every cloud we see doesn't result in rain. Regardless of the challenges, trials and hardships we endure, the reassuring doctrine of the Atonement wrought by Jesus Christ includes Alma's teaching that the Savior would take upon Him our infirmities and 'succor his people according to their infirmities.' "
Indeed, this is the day — dark clouds and all — that has been spoken of by those who have gone before, wrote President Hinckley.
"Let us live worthy of our birthright. Keep the faith. Nurture your testimonies. Walk in righteousness, and the Lord will bless you and prosper you, and you will be a happy and wonderful people."