Good afternoon y’all!
Do you ever have one of those experiences where you hear that still small voice telling you that it’s time to listen up, or in my case, write it down? That was me a few weeks ago when early one Saturday morning the Lord told me I needed to write and so I did. I wrote my first complete talk. In my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, members give talks each week during the first hour of Sunday services. Other denominations typically refer to these as sermons; we just have a different, less intimidating in my mind, title for them! I’ve started writing and abandoned a few talks in the past, but this time was different. This time I sat down and an hour later I had an entire talk complete with scriptural references. Because I tend to avoid public speaking at all costs, especially if it’s over a podium or pulpit, I’ve decided to share that talk with you today on my blog. Fair warning; it’s on the long side but well worth a read!
So without further ado:
Facing Trials, Overcoming Opposition, and What To Do When God Says No
I think it’s safe to say that at one time or another we’ve all dealt with trials, opposition, challenges, tests of our faith, and times when we have received an answer to our prayers that was not the answer that we had hoped for; perhaps it was a blatant “NO” or maybe a more gentle “wait a little bit longer”.
I hazard this guess because as we’ve been told countless times in the scriptures, and in numerous talks given by the church presidency, that is just the lord’s way. In Mosiah Chapter 23 Verse 21 we read “Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith” (https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/mosiah/23.21-22?lang=eng#20). In 2 Nephi Chapter 2 Verse 11 we learn of Lehi teaching his son Jacob about opposition when he says “It must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so … righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad” (https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/2-ne/2.11?lang=eng#10). We could go on and on for most of the day about how the lord has told us there will be opposition as it is central to his plan; the plan of salvation.
But more importantly than the fact that there will be trials is how we respond to them. How do we react when those situations arise? What are we more apt to do, and is that response the one our heavenly father would like us to have?
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that for most of us our reactions to these trials are not the best that they could be; at least at first. My guess is that if we were faced with a trial, say getting a flat tire on our way to work or some other important event (perhaps when we were already running late) that our first response would be one of annoyance, anger, irritation, or upset. I sincerely doubt that many of us would look skyward, and with an attitude of gratitude, thank our heavenly father for this challenge. If we did it would, more likely than not, be tinged with sarcasm and irritation rather than honest to goodness gratitude. I doubt that we’d be positive about these circumstances and that few would see the benefits until this opportunity for growth is long since past. Maybe once the challenge has come and gone and we look back over its events we can see, with a glimmer of positivity in our eyes, that perhaps it wasn’t so bad or so hard. That we did have the necessary tools and support to overcome that obstacle. But hind sight is always 20-20 right?
Age, income bracket, education level, gender, religion, race, place of employment, place of residence, marital status, childbearing/child rearing status, missionary history, sexual orientation, ability level, disability status, hobbies/interests/etc; none of these things bar you from experiencing trials. Although some may make it so you experience fewer trials that isn’t always the case. Now I may only be 23, which to many is rather young and makes me just a spring chicken when it comes to trials and opposition, but I too have faced my fair share of these situations. Trust me on this one; healing from an unhealthy relationship that left many scars, figuring out what you want to do in life and obtaining the skill set and education to get there, starting out in a new marriage and new home that you are building from the ground up, learning how to make it this ever-changing fast paced society, joining a new church that is thought of as controversial by many, facing one blue line on the pregnancy test month after month when all that you want is two lines/a plus sign/a yes, trying to climb the employment ladder, working to gain stronger financial footing; none of these trials are easy. Yet, as I’m coming to learn, they are manageable and can be faced with poise and zeal.
What if we faced each trial, each test of faith, each opposing force, and each answer that wasn’t what we wanted to hear with that same positivity, same hope, and same confidence that we have when we look back? What would that look like, what does the church/scriptures have to say about it, and how could it (potentially) change the world?
Choose Your Attitude:
The LDS.org dictionary on adversity (https://www.lds.org/topics/adversity?lang=eng&old=true) says this “Each person’s success and happiness, both now and in the eternities, depend largely on his or her responses to the difficulties of life”. Wow! That’s huge right?! Your success, your happiness depends on how you respond; you are in control of your own happiness, you are in the driver’s seat, and you can control your outcome. This same thought was referenced in a January 2012 First Presidency Message from Thomas S Monson titled “Living The Abundant Life” (https://www.lds.org/ensign/2012/01/living-the-abundant-life?lang=eng). In this message President Monson shared his “ABCs” for obtaining an abundant life; “a life filled with an abundance of success, goodness, and blessings”. The “A” of his “ABCs” was ATTITUDE. He shared that “So much in life depends on our attitude. The way we choose to see things and respond to others makes all the difference. To do the best we can and then to choose to be happy about our circumstances, whatever they may be, can bring peace and contentment…We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails”.
Ask The “Right” Questions:
Also shared in the LDS.org dictionary entry on adversity is this; “When some people face adversity, they complain and become bitter. They ask questions like “Why does this have to happen to me? Why do I have to suffer this now? What have I done to deserve this?” But these questions have the power to dominate their thoughts. Such questions can overtake their vision, absorb their energy, and deprive them of the experiences the Lord wants them to receive”. So what questions should we ask when faced with such challenges then? How about asking Heavenly Father “What am I to do? What am I to learn from this experience? What am I to change? Whom am I to help? How can I remember my many blessings in times of trial”?
Have Faith and Be Believing:
President Monson’s “B” of his “ABCs” is for “believe—in yourself, in those around you, and in eternal principles…You can achieve what you believe you can”. If we believe that we can face opposition and trials with positivity than we can! If we have faith in our Heavenly Father, in his unfailing, unwavering love and support for us, and in his teachings than we can climb any mountain put forth before us no matter how great it may seem at first. This is highlighted in Doctrine and Covenants Sections 121 Verses 7 & 8 (https://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/121.7-9?lang=eng#6) where it says:
“7 My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
8 And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.”
No matter how grave or insurmountable our afflictions may feel they are “but a small moment”. Though that fact is often hard to remember when deeply entrenched in a trial it is unfailing true; heavenly father loves us and will not forsake us. Our trials on this earth will be but a mere speck on the timeline of eternity, and what we gain from enduring them is so much greater than any injustice, loss, or pain caused by them.
Go Back To The Basics:
When all else fails, where you are so far down that rabbit hole, so consumed by your trials; go back to the basics. Back to where it all began when you joined this church or decided to be baptized. Get down on your knees (if you’re able) and pray; ask of God what he would have you do. Pull out your scriptures and read. Too overwhelmed to absorb the language of the scriptures? Then pull out the Ensign/Liahona/Friend, books written by church members or the church presidency, sunday school manual, or devotionals. Listen to a talk or some hymns. Reach out to a trusted brother or sister. Al Fox, commonly know to many as “The Tattooed Mormon”, stated this in her book More Than The Tattooed Mormon when she was facing many trials one after the other “All I had were the simple things of the gospel…Sometimes all you have is Heavenly Father, but in everything, that’s all you really need. The gospel is not our last option: it is our only option” (Cedar Fort Publishing, 2015).
Y’all, I know that we will face trials in this lifetime. I know that they will be different for each of us and will come at different times and during different stages of our lives. But I know that we can overcome them, and that we can learn to do so with gladness in our hearts and maybe even a smile on our faces as “men are that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25; https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/2-ne/2.25?lang=eng).
A few years ago I read a quote by John Lennon that has profoundly impacted my life and how I face trials and make big decisions, much to the chagrin of my family I’m sure. He stated “When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand the meaning of life” (http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/282517-when-i-was-5-years-old-my-mother-always-told).
So today I leave you with the words of Elder Jeffery R Holland to “Keep loving. Keep trying. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Keep growing. Heaven is cheering you on today, tomorrow, and forever” and a challenge from President Gordon B. Hinckley to “try a little harder to be a little better” (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2016/04/tomorrow-the-lord-will-do-wonders-among-you?lang=eng) (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1995/04/we-have-a-work-to-do?lang=eng).
In Jesus name, Amen.