”The challenge of the time in which we live is no longer how much pain we can endure, but how big we can dream, how much joy we can hold, and how long we will let it be that way?”-Carol Tuttle, Remembering Wholeness
A more joyful life is within our immediate reach, but too often we don’t reach out and receive it—because we’re not used to it, or because we think life is supposed to be hard, or because we think we don’t deserve it.
Two months ago, I went to General Conference with the question, “How can I stop being weighed down by the feeling that I’m not good enough?”
My answer came when Elder Holland said, “Our only hope for true perfection is in receiving it as a gift from heaven. We won’t earn it.”
Since hearing that talk, I’ve devoted a large portion of my scripture study to specifically studying the word “receive.” That word is everywhere in the scriptures, and I’m finally realizing what it means. (For more details and scripture examples see my post entitled “Good Enough” from October 3rd: http://journeyinthejoy.com/2017/10/03/good-enough/ )
I’ve discovered that our capacity to receive is in many ways more important than our “worthiness.” Everything has changed for me since I’ve shifted my focus from trying to be “good enough” to instead striving to increase my capacity to receive.
This is a much more joyful way to live, because trying to be “good enough” is a never-ending war that we can’t win, but “receiving” is a battle that we can win every single day at a moment’s notice—the moment we reach out and open the gift.
There is never a moment when God is not trying to give us something, and it is always within our ability to receive it in this exact moment, because God customizes each gift to fit our current receiving level.
“I will order all things for your good, as fast as ye are able to receive them” (D&C 111:11).
What makes some people faster at receiving than others?
I’ve compiled a list of 15 different factors to consider as we figure out how to increase our capacity to receive. (My list in my previous post only had 10.) I invite you to ponder how you can grow and expand in at least one of these 15 areas, and let me know if you think of additional factors to add to the list.
15 Ways to “Reach” to Receive:
”For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift” (D&C 88:32–33).
1. Want It
There are so many things we could receive that we don’t receive simply because it never occurs to us to want them. In The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis says, “Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about. . . . When infinite joy is offered us, [we’re] like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
If you do want something, prove it by visualizing it and dreaming about it and believing that it’s possible. If you don’t spend time doing that, then you won’t feel at home when that something arrives, and your subconscious will reject it.
2. Ask for It
“Ask and ye shall receive . . . for he that asketh, receiveth” (3 Nephi 27:29). Asking for a gift shows not just that you really want it but that you’re humble enough to stop trying to get it all on your own. Asking shows you’re willing to receive it and you won’t reject it out of pride. Asking also means that you’ll notice it when it shows up.
3.Make Room for It
Suppose you want more friends, but you haven’t made room in your heart to love those friends, even if God placed them in your life. Michael Wilcox once said that when God gives you an answer, He’s not just going to give you the answer, He’s going to give you a life experience to carve out a place in your heart to make room for the answer.
Asking questions is one of the ways we make room to receive. The act of asking a question creates a place in our mind for the answer.
4. Cast Out Fear
“There were fears in your hearts, and verily this is the reason that ye did not receive” (D&C 67:3). Sometimes we want a better life, but even when an opportunity for a better life presents itself, we do nothing. We’re afraid to leave our current life because our current life is more familiar. Sadly, misery can become comfortable. Joy can seem too scary.
In the scriptures, we learn that God created all things spiritually before He created them physically (Moses 3:5). As sons and daughters of God, we also have the ability to create things spiritually, which then calls those things into existence physically. We do that through our thoughts, emotions, and beliefs, all of which are very real energies and powers. Fear and faith are both forms of spiritual creation. Whenever we have a reoccurring pattern in our lives of either drama or of miracles, that cycle is being invisibly orchestrated by either our fear or our faith in something. Our fear can attract and call into form the very thing that we fear, and it can also cancel out the spiritual creation of things that bring lasting happiness. But the good new is that the same is true of faith. To receive only the very best things, cast out fear and replace it with faith.
5. Free Up Space
This is similar to step 3, making room for a gift, but in this case you already have the room for it but the room is already occupied. Another way to say this step is that when we want to receive a certain thing we should give up our preoccupation or contentment with the fake equivalent of that thing. (Leslie Householder would call this “The Law of the Vacuum”.)
For example, one of my favorite stories is about a little girl who had a plastic pearl necklace which she loved and which she never took off for anything. Her father asked her one day if she loved him enough to give him her plastic pearl necklace. Initially she said no. But one day she finally came to her father and handed him her plastic pearl necklace. He put it in his pocket, and then from the other pocket he pulled out a real pearl necklace and put it around her neck. (http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~wkw/inspirational/pearlnecklace.txt)
6. Be in the Place where It Can Be Given
For example, sometimes we ask God a question, and God inspires a friend or a speaker to give us the answer to that question in a conversation or a talk. But if we don’t spend time with that friend or if we sleep in and don’t go to church the day that the talk is given, we miss out on the chance to receive.
7. Allow It
One way to allow the gift to reach you is to accept it, despite awareness of unworthiness. Being preoccupied with being “good enough” can be an obstacle to receiving. God may be trying to give us something, but we unconsciously block it because we feel we don’t deserve it.
In the Bible we read the story of Saul who went about destroying the church. But after seeing a vision, he changed and became the church’s strongest defender. What made Saul great was his capacity to receive. Specifically, he chose to receive forgiveness and the chance at a new start. He accepted it overnight and moved forward. If he had moped around trying to punish himself, or if he had said the gift was too good to be true, then he never would have reached his full potential. Ironically, sometimes the people who are the least “worthy” can have a greater capacity to receive than those who are “more worthy.” That’s why your capacity to receive is more important than being “good enough.”
Another way to allow a gift is to notice it. Not every wonderful gift is something we specifically wanted and asked for, and that could make us blind to it. But if we raise our awareness that God is always trying to give us something, then we’ll be on the lookout. With a heightened awareness, we have eyes to see how a trial is actually a blessing in disguise. Without this awareness, all trials will remain as trials, and we will never receive the ideas of how we can benefit from them.
On this list, I thought of making a section about patience and timing, but I decided not to because even though some things do take time to receive, there is always something we can receive right now! If we allow it, that is. So ask yourself, “What can I receive right now?” A little bit of meditation and prayer will give you the answer in no time.
8. Know What to Do with It
Suppose someone gives you a pony, and initially you’re thrilled, but you don’t know how to ride a pony, how to feed a pony, how to groom a pony, how to train a pony, etc., and so you’re simply not capable of receiving it permanently. This is one of the main reasons God gives us commandments. All of the commandments God gives us are tools to knowing how to handle the blessings that He wants to give us.
9. Take Action
In the parable of the talents, the master gives each of his three servants talents, and all of them receive the talents. The first two servants take action and use the talents productively, but the third servant hides his talent and does nothing. When the master finds out, he takes the talent away. We can’t receive if we’re not willing to act.
“They shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received” (D&C 88:32). If we’re not going to love the gift, admire the gift, use the gift, and have fun with the gift, why have it at all?
11. Share and Give
Whatever you give to others, you receive yourself, only multiplied. “For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored” (Alma 41:15).
12. Appreciate It
“He who receives all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious” (D&C 78:19).
13. Receive Previously
“ . . . unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have” (2 Nephi 28:30). Gifts tend to build on each other. For example, suppose someone tried to give you some horse property, but you chose not to receive it. Later, someone tries to give you a pony. You have no choice but to turn down the pony because you didn’t receive the horse property earlier.
Receiving previously ensures that we’re prepared. When Christ told His disciples to cast their nets on the right side of the ship, there were so many fish that the nets broke and the ship began to sink (Luke 5:6). How many more fish could they have received if they had a bigger net and better boat? It’s interesting to note that when the same thing happened three years later the nets didn’t break (John 21:11). Maybe they learned their lesson and got stronger nets.
14. Love the Giver
Gifts mean the most when they come from those we love the most. God understands that, so when God commands us to love Him, it’s not because He needs our love. It’s because we need our love for Him in order to fully receive.
15. Have Faith in Christ
This one should be used first and throughout all the other steps. “. . .men began to exercise faith in Christ; and thus by faith, they did lay hold upon every good thing” (Moroni 7:25). The whole universe obeys and honors Christ because He is the Creator and the only perfect man to ever live, so we ask for and receive gifts in His name because the universe will respond to us for His sake, not for our sake.
Word of Caution
The only danger I can see in following the 15 steps above is that we could become motivated by selfishness, wanting to see how much we ourselves can receive. That’s why the most important thing we should want to receive is charity, the capacity to love others and to know how to express that love. We could receive the whole world and still be nothing if we don’t have charity (1 Corinthians 13:2). But if charity is our primary focus, then we can’t go wrong.
With charity also comes a love for ourselves and an understanding of how much God loves us. And once we understand that, we won’t be so shy about receiving more.
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ” (Moroni 7:48, emphasis added).
Notice the word “bestowed.” Charity, like perfection, can only be achieved by receiving it as a gift. We can’t acquire it on our own.