It doesn’t happen for everyone. But for many, the time arrives in life, sooner or later, where the realization takes hold that there must be more to life.
For some, when there has been no teaching or example beyond how to engage in worldly pursuits, this realization leads to the age-old questions, “Why am I here? What’s the purpose of my existence?”
In relating his experience finding the gospel of Jesus Christ, a man named Jean says as a 27-year-old he felt unfulfilled but he couldn’t put his finger on exactly why, other than he remembered some feelings from attending a church when he was a child. So he began a search.
This dissatisfaction comes to many people because they realize that entertainment, money, or the like don’t give them fulfilling purpose.
Elder Neal Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles called this “divine discontent” because it’s a deep-seated need to seek out a reason for existing that leads people to find Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ and His gospel give purpose and meaning to life—it’s the reason we’re here at all.
For those who have a knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ, a parallel realization may take the form of needing to get (more) serious about living the gospel.
Michelle Craig, First Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency, quoted Elder Maxwell and added, “Each of us, if we are honest, feels a gap between where and who we are, and where and who we want to become. We yearn for greater personal capacity. We have these feelings because we are daughters and sons of God, born with the Light of Christ yet living in a fallen world. These feelings are God given and create an urgency to act” (“Divine Discontent”).
This is not, of course, the same discontent that Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve described, where “every day we see allurements of one kind or another that tell us what we have is not enough. Someone or something is forever telling us we need to be more handsome or more wealthy, more applauded or more admired than we see ourselves as being. We are told we haven’t collected enough possessions or gone to enough fun places. We are bombarded with the message that on the world’s scale of things we have been weighed in the balance and found wanting” (“The Other Prodigal”). Rather, divine discontent is the opposite, waking up to the fact that these things aren’t the reason for existence. What Elder Holland describes is Satan’s covetous counterfeit.
In the Parable of the City and the Ranch, Heinrich and his wife recognized that with all the worldly possessions they had, they were losing their children. The only way they could think of to save their family was a major change of scenery. So they purchased a ranch in the country and moved their family.
In their particular case, they mentally kept the door open to returning to old ways. But the longer the family stayed away from the city, the less they wanted to go back.
This of course can remind us of Lot’s wife, who did look back, longing for a life of sin (Genesis 19:24–26). Instead, God wants us to move forward with a desire to increase our discipleship, even though we will frequently fail and need to repent. “Wherefore,” wrote the prophet Nephi, “ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life” (2 Nephi 31:20). That brightness of hope means that not only are we pressing forward, but we’re looking forward.
The changes needed to align ourselves with Heavenly Father’s desires may be small or they may be major. Either way, the Lord would have us do whatever is necessary to walk His path and be His disciples, to let our divine discontent drive us closer to Him. As we do so, we will find there is certainly more to life.
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