During the last few years in Washington when I was in financial trouble, I didn't pay my taxes, thinking I could pay them from the equity when we sold the house. (I chose to make the house payments instead of paying my taxes--huge mistake.) So, on top of everything else I had a mountain of debt to deal with. I once calculated the overall financial losses related to my divorce at about a quarter million dollars.
In four years I went from a young man with a promising political career, a beautiful family, and a relatively successful business that I started from scratch to a middle-aged man without a home, a family, or an income, and losing all my savings and replacing it with debt. I lost everything Job (in the Old Testament) lost except my health. Job lost his children and his wealth in a single day. That felt eerily familiar to me. I know many of you in this audience have lost everything just as I did, and feel like you have been cast into the pit of despair with no lifeline and no hope.
From January 2009 when I gave up on my marriage to the end of 2012, I was in a very deep depression. I had basically given up on life. Unless you have been there, you have no idea how soul-sucking that can be. Some people commit suicide when they feel they have nothing left to lose, and the thought crossed my mind more than once. Maybe that's what Job's wife was encouraging him to do when she said, "curse God and die." (Job 2:9.)
For the four years of that deep depression, I told my hard luck story, in more detail than I have in this essay, to anyone who would listen. I dated when I could to ease the loneliness, but resisted getting into a relationship because of my dire financial situation. It was a lonely life and I felt like I had no one--which wasn't true but felt true. Have you felt this way? Have you felt overwhelmed, like the trial you were facing was way too big for you? Have you felt abandoned by God?
At the end of 2011, again around new Years, after a frightening experience being stranded with my kids with no money, I made a vow that I would never be in this situation again. But I lived most of the next year in poverty of wallet and spirit. I was deeply disappointed when I got to the end of 2012 and my life was not much different. I spent considerable time around that new year in prayer asking God why I was so stuck. The answer that kept coming to me was, "You are not meant to hide your light under a bushel. You are meant to shine brightly."
I started to take stock of the things the world could not take from me, like my education, my experience in life and in my profession, my bright mind, my love for people, and whatever thoughts I could choose to adopt as my own. Most importantly, the world could not take away the divine gift of being a child of God, anointed to become a king. I created a vision board, which was really a prayer. Within a week of creating it, I was dating a beautiful girl that looked like the woman on my vision board. Within a couple of weeks I made a bold Facebook post about my expertise in certain areas, which led to a new career opportunity.
My oldest son and I moved to Texas for a 3-year adventure. I got rid of my old clunker and was able to get a nice car. I never drove that car without feeling grateful. Every time I got behind the wheel I would think about how wonderful it was to have a reliable car that was fun to drive. I felt that way about many of the blessings that came to me after that. In Texas, I found my feet again, and my life energy started to replenish. I was not done experiencing trials. But I was done wallowing.
The turning point in all of this was the new year in 2013, when Our Father in Heaven revealed to me that I was not meant to hide my light under a bushel, but was meant to shine. It was similar to when Alma was told, "lift up thy head and rejoice" (Alma 8:15) and it changed everything for him. I began to lift up my head and live in gratitude and see the world for its possibilities instead of its trials.
The way we think determines the way we feel. The way we feel determines the life energy we can bring to any endeavor. That life energy determines our outcomes.
I counsel you to "lift up thy head and rejoice." If you can shift your thinking from darkness to light, things will start to get better in your life pretty much immediately. I'm not suggesting that your circumstances will change all at once. That usually takes some time. But your attitude can change in a moment, and that is the beginning of happiness. It is also the beginning of action.