Not long ago there was a broken sprinkler pipe that flooded one room of my basement apartment. Nevermind the carpet and the expensive electronics in the room, the books and music and papers. I was worried about a stack of boxes on the floor filled with old photographs, some dated as early as the 1890s. I rushed to inspect them as soon as I realized, and found the bottom box soaked through. But the pictures inside, although they were a little damp, were unharmed. I had been wise to put each one in a plastic protective sleeve and they had been preserved.
Many of us are afraid of losing things. These things may be material possessions, computer data, memories, precious mementos, our youth, our health, our minds, and of course, loved ones. Anyone who has ever lost something valuable will remember that terrible feeling. The pain is most extreme when we have lost a loved one. We may be tempted to believe that when we lose something, the loss might be permanent.
“Much of the misery encouraged by Satan comes from losses. Satan experienced that kind of misery when he lost his [opportunity to receive a physical body]. Now he tries to inflict similar losses on those who have proceeded to mortality. Satan encourages a loss of virtue, a loss of integrity, a loss of reputation, a loss of ideals, a loss of wholesome associations, and even a loss of life. In contrast, our Heavenly Father created us to resist and to overcome such losses, to be whole, to have joy. He wants us to return to him, and he has provided a way for that reunion to be achieved.” (Dallin Oaks, “Joy and Mercy”)
I assert that the lie for this post is loss itself. We can feel like we’re losing something. We can feel really unhappy about it. But anything of real lasting value is never lost. It’s either temporarily in another place or it’s added upon. There is no lasting happiness in what we possess. Happiness and joy come from what a person is, not from what he or she possesses or appears to be.
There used to be this television show that I really liked. I lived for the opportunity to watch it each week. I was sad when it would be on hiatus and I would have to wait a few weeks for it to come back. I derived great pleasure from being involved in the characters and following the storyline. The characters felt like my friends. And then I made some changes in my life. They were good changes—changes that helped me improve and become a better person. In becoming better I began to see that this particular show wasn’t really beneficial to me. There was stuff that was good about it, but there was also stuff that wasn’t good, and if I was choosing to make changes, this show wasn’t going to help me in that direction. So I needed to make a choice to lose the show—to eliminate it from my life. I made that choice, and it was hard. I still wanted to watch it. I tried to justify that it wasn’t that bad, when I knew in my heart that it was promoting ways of life that I didn’t agree with. And if something doesn’t promote God’s agenda, then it’s promoting the devil’s. That’s all there was to it. So I gave it up. I was proud of myself, but it wasn’t an easy thing. It took me a while to realize that it wasn’t really a loss. It was a sacrifice, but it was a sacrifice that gave me strength. So really, I lost nothing. I gained.
“And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.” (King James Bible, Mark 10:29-30 and Matthew 19:29)
When we lose something for the sake of the gospel, in an attempt to become better, to be more perfect and more pure, are we really losing? I think Jesus is asking us to look for more lasting pursuits, and we will find blessings beyond anything we can imagine.
“It is true that men can find employment and considerable enjoyment in the acquisition of wealth, and in expending the same in the busy scenes of life, but after all, there is something unsubstantial and unreal about everything of this character. Decay is written upon everything that is human, death is written upon everything that we put our hands to and upon ourselves. We know that we are here but for a short time; we know that everything we possess will, like ourselves, perish and pass away; that our existence here is an ephemeral one—shortlived, therefore when we can contemplate the future and the life that is to come, and can understand anything connected with it that we can rely upon, there is something in the contemplation that lifts us above everything of a sublunary or perishable character. We are brought nearer to God, we feel that there is a spark of immortality within us, that we are indeed immortal and partakers of the Divine nature, through our inheritance as the children of God. And this is the effect that the principles of the Gospel, when properly understood, have upon mankind.” (“Universality and Eternity of the Gospel,” by George Q. Cannon, Journal of Discourses, Volume 15)
“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” (Luke 9:24)
“I believe the Savior is telling us that unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives. Those who live only for themselves eventually shrivel up and figuratively lose their lives, while those who lose themselves in service to others grow and flourish—and in effect save their lives.
“We become so caught up in the busyness of our lives. Were we to step back, however, and take a good look at what we’re doing, we may find that we have immersed ourselves in the ‘thick of thin things.’ In other words, too often we spend most of our time taking care of the things which do not really matter much at all in the grand scheme of things, neglecting those more important causes.” (Thomas Monson, “What Have I Done for Someone Today?”)
My injunction to you is to step back and ask yourself if there is some important cause that you are neglecting. We can always be better. We can always sacrifice something that doesn’t really matter for something of lasting value. It’s worth it.