We gingerly pick our way through life’s options trying to minimize our distress and maximize our enjoyment. We flinch at the prospect of an all-vegetable dinner. We contort ourselves to reach each nutrient-free dessert. It would seem that the winners in life are those who navigate life on a cruise ship.
Yet few people experience such uninterrupted sweetness in life. We have a friend who fights an endless battle against numbing depression. Another struggles (with little success) to master compulsions that repeatedly have devastated her life. Another dear friend anguishes with doubts about life and God.
Adult realities are often quite different from our youthful dreams. In the course of our married life, Nancy has had many miscarriages. We lost count somewhere around twenty. In the midst of the early miscarriages, we prayed, got priesthood blessings, spent many hours in doctors’ offices, and fasted. But the miscarriages—and frustration—continued. At one time of keen disappointment, I even threatened heaven with permanent ill-will. “Why should so many people who don’t want children get them while those of us who yearn for them are denied them?”
As a result of our unanswered hope, I learned a very useful lesson: Be grateful in all things. I learned to say each time we lost another pregnancy, “That is great.” If asked why it was great, I could not give a reason. I merely knew that it felt good to go beyond accepting our disappointment with resignation to embracing it with joy.
Our experiences provided a priceless and timeless lesson. I no longer demand that God explain His purposes to me. It is enough that it happened. I trust that He will use it to bless us. Indeed, He already has. When I simply trust Him, I feel a keen joy in faith. Faith bathes every experience with sublime purpose. I still do not prefer miscarriages, but, when they come, I rejoice.
“Verily I say unto you my friends, fear not, let your hearts be comforted; yea, rejoice evermore, and in everything give thanks” (D&C 98:1).
In everything give thanks, for the good, the bad, and the baffling.
“Waiting patiently on the Lord, for your prayers have entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, and are recorded with this seal and testament—the Lord hath sworn and decreed that they shall be granted” (D&C 98:2).
Somehow, in ways we cannot comprehend, God is doing exactly what He has promised to do. He is blessing us. It is possible that the only purpose of the miscarriages was to teach us faith. If so, that is reason enough to bear the pain. Our friend who struggles with depression is inexpressibly grateful for glimpses of light in her life. Our friend who is troubled by compulsions has learned to hold to cherished family members. The friend beset by doubts finds simple ways to serve.
“Therefore, he giveth this promise unto you, with an immutable covenant that they shall be fulfilled; and all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good, and to my name’s glory, saith the Lord” (D&C 98:3).
A cynic may scoff, “Your pain, your afflictions, your suffering work for your good and His glory? Life is only a senseless tangle of anguish with merciful periods of numbness.” So it may seem.
Yet the universe is packed with irony. The keenest may be that God has so structured the universe that believing and disbelieving are equally viable. Only a very brave God would do such a thing. But He has woven assurances of His redemptiveness into the fabric of the universe. Only a compassionate God would do such a thing. When we put on the mantle of faith, a quiet confidence distills upon us.
Many Nephites found that as they grew in their humility and faith, their souls were filled with joy and consolation (Helaman 3:35). On top of present comfort, God offers eternal blessing to those who look beyond the immediate pain.
“And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more” (D&C 78:19).
Our national tragedies can unite us in faith. Our family struggles can join us in love. Our personal disappointments can refine our purposes and strengthen our faith. Perhaps the surest sign of faith in a believer is that tragedy evokes submission and praise.
Lord, I know not what I ought to ask of thee; Thou only knowest what I need; Thou lovest me better than I know how to love myself. O Father! give to Thy child that which he himself knows not how to ask. I dare not ask either for crosses or consolations: I simply present myself before Thee, I open my heart to Thee. . . . Smite, or heal; depress me, or raise me up: I adore all thy purposes without knowing them; I am silent; I offer myself in sacrifice; I yield myself to Thee; I would have no other desire than to accomplish Thy will. Teach me to pray. Pray Thyself in me. Amen. (François de la Mothe Fenelon, quoted in Fosdick, Meaning of Prayer, pp. 58–59).
Adversity is a sacred trust. It is the raw material for making gold. When we put our earthly experiences on the altar of faith, He transforms them into glory.
“He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him” (2 Nephi 26:24).
Armed with faith we see the blessing in adversity.
This reminds me of a scripture I like because it gives a progressive list of the blessings when we “glory in tribulation.”
Romans 5:3-5 – “…but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And Patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”
Perhaps this is the gospel process in a nutshell.