“I know no other way but to sing joyfully. I suppose there are songs meant to be sung sadly, but I choose not to sing them, or at least seek out a thread of light so in them I can smile and communicate my heart’s joy in countenance and bright tone. I will sing joyfully at beginnings and endings, in failure and victory, in trial and in blissful joy, for I rejoice in my Savior and all He has redeemed for me. I sing joyfully in Him.”Daniel Joseph Malcolm, 14 October 2023
Joy is defined as a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. How else might I describe the autumn morning feeling of the warm sun on my face, or the twinkle of starlight amidst the scent of pine, a warm hug, or an approving glance? True joy is found in contentment with Christ, a state of profound joy, happiness and satisfaction.
There is much in music that makes me feel joy, especially as it relates to the kingdom of God. Just this week I was listening to my daughter Jodie sing with her middle school choir a triumphant Baroque period selection from George Frideric Handel’s oratorio ‘Saul.’ I love the words set to music arranged by Douglas E. Wagner, “Sing joyfully! Sing joyfully this festive day! Let music fill the sky!” Simplistic and direct, just like the true gospel of Jesus Christ, it fills my heart with joy. Seeing these young children sing praises with joy in their eyes and light in their countenance, brought heavenly light to my soul.
My Sanger High School Choir director, Norman Wiens, taught me to sing always with an inside smile. It positively affects the brightness and energy of our song. I have never forgotten this wise counsel in music and in life, in sorrow and rejoicing.
President Russell M. Nelson shared of joy, “When the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation… and Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening—or not happening—in our lives. Joy comes from and because of Him. He is the source of all joy. We feel it at Christmastime when we sing, ‘Joy to the world, the Lord is come.’ And we can feel it all year round. …Jesus Christ is joy!” (General Conference, October 2016).
“Jesus Christ is joy!”
President Russell M. Nelson
It is not always easy to have joy, but when we seek happiness by living and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ, distilled through our trials and tribulations is a fine nectar that can only be described as true joy in Christ. It is happiness that begets happiness, a joy which fills the world with inextinguishable light.
From a worldly standpoint, the Apostle Paul had every reason to complain in his trials. He was constantly on the move, traveling great distances in difficult circumstances, to preach the gospel to often ungrateful and disobedient saints. He was pursued by enemies of many different faiths, cultures and occupations. He was falsely accused and imprisoned many times and for many years. He was tortured and went hungry after walking away from a secured position of power in society, all to follow the Savior and to feed His sheep. Of men he could have easily been justified in complaining about his circumstances of trial and deprivation that he willingly endured. Instead, he rejoiced in his trials for he bore them with Christ, his Redeemer. From Jesus Christ and his ministerial trials came his strength, his peace, his joy.
From prison Paul rejoiced in his suffering and afflictions writing to the Colossian saints, “For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ” (Colossians 2:5). To the Philippian saints, in chains of bondage, he happily declared his joy that his trials had emboldened many of his brethren to speak out more willingly than they otherwise might without his example, “…waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (Philippians 1:14).
Paul could have complained, no compassionate soul would have blamed him, but instead he rejoiced.
“In grief, we can still lift up our hearts in praise.”
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf has asked and exhorted, “Brothers and sisters, have we not reason to be filled with gratitude, regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves? Do we need any greater reason to let our hearts ‘be full of thanks unto God’? ‘Have we not great reason to rejoice?’ When we are grateful to God in our circumstances, we can experience gentle peace in the midst of tribulation. In grief, we can still lift up our hearts in praise. In pain, we can glory in Christ’s Atonement. In the cold of bitter sorrow, we can experience the closeness and warmth of heaven’s embrace” (General Conference, April 2014).
I sang this week at the memorial service of a beloved friend Manuel. As I looked upon the lonely box enclosing his mortal remains, instead of feeling sad, singing sad, I sang for Manuel at his funeral as I sang for him in life, with joy.
When I leave this frail existence,
When I lay this mortal by,
Father, Mother, may I meet you
In your royal courts on high?
Then, at length, when I’ve completed
All you sent me forth to do,
With your mutual approbation
Let me come and dwell with you.
(“O My Father” — Eliza R. Snow, 1804–1887)
In life Manuel suffered great adversity, but shared with me always enduring faith and inexhaustible joy in Christ. His mortal life story ended well. How could I share any less in tribute to him? I could share no less of my joy in Christ.
My dear sisters, my beloved brothers, let us rejoice in our afflictions. They are as the Lord spoke, “but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:7-8). Let us have joy in our sorrows and our trials, for with us and in them stands our Savior Jesus Christ to strengthen and to bless with peace. “Sing joyfully! Sing joyfully this festive day! Let music fill the sky!” This story of our faith-filled lives and tribulations ends well. May we overcome with joy in Christ. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.