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If you could go back and give counsel to your 18-year-old self just on the threshold of adulthood, what would you say? What have you learned through the years that might have made a big difference for your earlier self?
There are some important things I wish I could go back and tell myself at 18. Although I wonder how I would have received them. Would I have resisted those insights? Would I have been perplexed? Would I have accepted them and been wiser along the way? I don’t know. But it feels right to “inventory my insights.” Here is counsel I would give my younger self.
Find peace in faith. Every day you will choose to see the hand of God or choose not to. God is so generous that He has given us lives that can be seen through the eye of faith—or not. He does not force us to see or acknowledge Him. I love His promise: “And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more” (D&C 78:19). Look for His hand. He is busily blessing you every day, every hour of your life. Notice. Taking notice of God’s hand in your daily life will bring a greater sense of faith and peace during good times and bad.
Find joy in gratitude. The Lord instructs us to “live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you” (Alma 34:38). Often we notice blessings in passing. But, with our busy lives, do we quickly forget those blessings and fail to acknowledge God’s tender mercies? I recommend taking notes on God’s goodness. Every day write down two or three (or more) ways that God enriched your life. Maybe it was seeing the face of a friend or the beauty of creation. Perhaps it was a new insight. Maybe a peace intruded into your soul. Notice and record it. Review your record regularly to better see the pattern of God’s mercies and blessings in your life and “let your heart be glad.”
Use your gifts. “To every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God” (D&C 46:11). That includes you. God has given you specific gifts. Some are obvious. Some you may not discover for years. But receiving them and being thankful to God for them launches the process of filling the measure of your creation. Using your gifts to bless people will fill your life with purpose and meaning.
Understand difficulties as gifts from a perfect Teacher. You will have various pains and challenges in your life. When you are spiritually immature, you will be tempted to use faith to force God to bless you in the way you think He should. That is a mistake. With greater maturity you will learn not only to trust Him but to welcome all His gifts to you—including gifts of challenges that will cause you to grow and deepen your faith. Sometimes you won’t understand the purpose of a challenge or trial. But thank Him nonetheless. It feels so good to trust Him in all things—good and “bad.” “He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world” (2 Nephi 26:24).
Use the power of humility. Humility is badly under-rated. Most people think of it as weakness. It is actually recognition of our need for God. Ammon had it right: “I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things.” Humility about the limits of your personal power will open you to the power of God. Humility about the limits of your wisdom and understanding will open you to the wisdom of God.
Understand your fallenness. You might think you are leaving stupidity behind as you move into adulthood. You are wrong. You will make a surprising number of mistakes. Some of them will be serious. All of them will be disheartening. But they should never cause you to despair. “Because of the fall, our natures have evil continually.” When we chose to come to this earth, we chose to be mired in sin. But as we chose to come to earth we were also provided a way out of that mire—always welcome God’s gifts of repentance and redemption.
Repent gladly and often. We often think of repentance as disagreeable business that involves having our noses rubbed in our foolishness. That is one of Satan’s favorite lies. And it is a lie! Repentance is actually the process by which we give our mistakes to Jesus and He grants His holiness to us. It is an amazing gift! One of the best ways of accessing His grace is to use Alma’s cry: “O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me” (Alma 36:18). Try it. Often. There is amazing power in calling out for His grace and mercy.
Build on His redemptiveness. Elder Neal A. Maxwell testified that “His relentless redemptiveness exceeds my recurring wrongs.” God is not an accountant in heaven keeping score of our good and bad deeds. He is a devoted father who loves us with all of eternity. He intends to save us and fill us with joy beyond measure. In our mortal lives we will fail often. Yet God will never give up on us. He intends to redeem us. That is comforting and exalting news!
There is power in His truths. Seek to know Him through life, the world, scripture, His messengers, and His spirit. Find your own unique way of coming to know and connect with Him. Don’t worry if your way is different from some other people’s ways. Just keep going toward the light. “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (D&C 50:24). Seek His light.
Life is a sacred gift. Cherish the invitation extended by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.
You will make it—not because you have so much potential or because you are so determined. You will make it for one reason: You know where the power is. “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him.” He has the power and He gladly uses it to redeem you. Call on Him.
God will bless you with a joyous and purposeful life. He knows what He is doing. As He beautifully said: “I am able to do mine own work” (2 Nephi 27: 20, 21). And that work is to get you home to His arms filled with wisdom and glory.
Well, those are the chief things I would tell my youthful self. I wish I had learned them sooner. I am glad I know them now.
I hope you will create your own list of lessons for your youthful self. Blessings to you in the journey!
Thanks to Barbara Keil for her insightful editing.
Would you like to give a gift that teaches the principle of finding joy in gratitude? (It would make an excellent Easter gift!) My book, God’s Trophies, features a wonderfully illustrated, joyful story that helps children to learn about gratitude for all of God’s creations and teaches them that they are each God’s most beloved creation. If you decide to purchase this book, would you be willing to post a review on Amazon? I would greatly appreciate it! And, if you think your friends might be interested in the book, perhaps you could share the Amazon link with them.