There is good to be done when feeling bad.
Recently in my daily scripture study I have been paying attention to the overall cheer of various scriptural characters. I started looking for overt things like Jacob’s statement that he lived with “a lonesome and a solemn people” who “did mourn out [their] days”11 Jacob 7:26 or Nephi’s that he “lived after the manner of happiness,”22 2 Nephi 5:27 but I quickly realized that there is a much more pervasive mood indicator in holy writ.
Some praise God for the wonderful things He gives us and encouraged others to do the right in order to find joy and qualify for marvelous blessings. Others praise Him for saving us from the horrible things and warn others to do right lest they become miserable and find themselves smitten. Most do some amount of each, but often with a leaning toward one or the other.
I don’t know why some people are basically cheerful and others not; it seems to be at least partly biological, but saying that doesn’t answer “why”, just “how”. However, I find that I can learn much even during my own cheerful periods from how those in a low period or living a low life react to stimuli, and likewise learn from the cheerful during times I am glum.
Sometimes when I am cheerful I am tempted to goof off, play around, and just enjoy the smiles. Sometimes when I am glum I am tempted to sulk, murmur, and wonder why anyone bothers. But as I read the scriptures and observe those around me, I find a much better way. Cheer provides the basis to be grateful for what we have and the energy and motivation to strive to better the world, lifting others to a happier plane. Glumness provides the basis to be grateful for what we aren’t yet suffering and the perspective and motivation to strive to better the world, saving others from a worse fate.
I have long been annoyed by many of the ways people try to cheer others up. Statements like “every cloud has a silver lining” seem to suggest that those who are glum would be cheerful if only they looked a little more closely, as if it were their fault they were glum. The phrase “if it makes you feel any better” is almost always followed by pointing out a bad thing that you can’t fix, making you feel worse. Things like “It’s not that bad,” “Cheer up!”, or “Smile!” are each annoying in their own way as well.
No one wants to be sad, and it makes sense that people try to defeat sadness, but a bad day or even a gloomy life is also an opportunity to do good. It was Jacob, whose writings are often of a darker mood, and not his cheerful brother Nephi, who was able to share with Enos about “the joy of the saints”33 Enos 1:3 in a way that resonated when Enos was feeling low and led him back toward God. It is not coincidence or some kind of cruel karma that so many of the great figures of history were deeply sad people. Christ himself “descended below all things”, I believe emotionally as well as in other ways, “that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth.”44 D&C 88:6
Since I noticed this, I don’t find myself liking sad days any more than I did before; but I do find them going by a little faster as I am more engaged in a good cause, even when I feel bad. I’m not often gloomy, but when I am I find that knowing my gloom can be an asset, even though that gloom keeps me from seeing how in the moment, helps me keep moving.