There was a point in my mission when I was really struggling—I was training, but felt inadequate for that responsibility; my companion was fighting homesickness and depression; we weren’t having as much success as we would have liked; etc. I found myself getting discouraged easily. My prayers at that point were pleas to the Lord to help me have a positive attitude.
Those prayers were answered in a missionary training meeting. An inspired elder reviewed with us a talk by Elder Bednar about the tender mercies of the Lord and a talk by President Eyring encouraging us to recognize and record God’s kindness.
He told us that he had started keeping track of the tender mercies he saw as a missionary in a “happy thoughts journal” and it had helped him recognize the support the Lord gave him as a missionary. He ended his training with a promise that if we focused on the good parts of our missions, we would be able to get through the hard parts.
The idea of happy thoughts really resonated with me. After that training I started a happy thoughts jar. I cut some paper into strips and used them to record not only tender mercies, but also funny moments and missionary successes, however small. Many of them ended up being “this is why I’m serving a mission” or “this is why I love being a missionary” moments.
Just to give you a taste, here are a few of my happy thoughts:
- The moment of peace after sharing the First Vision when the Spirit is so strong you could reach out and touch it
- Vanessa’s favorite commandment—“the one that says you gotta relax on Sundays”
- When my Spanish Preach my Gospel became more useful and full of notes than my English one
- Watching Roger pass the sacrament for the first time
I recorded at least one happy thought every day for the last ten months of my mission. When I was struggling I would just start pulling slips of paper out of my jar—as many as it took to turn my attitude around.
Each happy memory I revisited chipped away at discouragement and doubt until I felt ready to face whatever the missionary challenge of that day was. That became my way of dealing with hard days.
When I counted my happy thoughts after coming home, I had more than five hundred, a lot of which ended up pasted into my mission scrapbook. They’re the 500+ reasons that, for me, being a missionary was awesome, and the 500+ reasons I wouldn’t trade my mission experience for the world, even though it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
Yes, serving a mission is hard. But the Lord will be there supporting you every step of the way. If you pay attention, you’ll be able to see the tender mercies that the Lord sends your way and stockpile happy thoughts to combat doubt and discouragement. You can start now to develop the habit of asking yourself: What tender mercies have I seen today? What is my current happy thought?
And if you decide to write them down, at the end of your mission you’ll have your own list of your 500+ reasons being a missionary is awesome.