by Annmarie Worthington
This morning I was reading in 3 Nephi. In the beginning of that book the prophesies concerning the birth of the Savior had not yet been fulfilled. Some people began proclaiming that the time was past for the prophesies to come to pass. It is interesting to me the words they choose to hurl at the believers, “therefore, your joy and your faith concerning this thing hath been vain.” I say it is interesting, because those are the exact words Satan has used with me lately.
I recognized him as the author even before I read this passage, and would consistently remind myself of that fact. Satan knows my weaknesses and my deepest fears and hurts. He plays on them. It is helpful that I recognize his voice does not sound like the Spirit’s, so I can tell the difference and know the source. However when I read that verse this morning I thought, “Wow. You’d think someone who’s been around as long as he has would get some variety in his playbook.” But, why should he, when the plays work?
Faith isn’t easy, and Satan knows that. Doubts creep in on the strongest of faiths. Therefore, all he has to do is find data that “fits” our doubts and feed it to us. I’ve seen a lot of unrighteousness since I joined the church. I’ve also seen great hypocrisy. Those are the data Satan uses to feed my doubts and fears. So what helps me when I’m barraged with doubt? The foremost is self knowledge. I am not perfect. I sin and make mistakes. And yet, I have a heart that yearns to be righteous. When I do make mistakes my heart and spirit weep. My desire for repentance is overwhelming. So, when I see unrighteousness, I try to make the assumption that these people are in the same boat. Maybe they long to be righteous as well, but fail like me.
So what if you run into the unrepentant? Those who do not long to be righteous? I know some of those too. Two in particular. By the way, you can forget it….I’m not naming names. I find in those cases it is better to remember the Lord’s time on earth. Was Judas not one of the Lord’s chosen Apostle’s? Did the Savior not spend the whole night in prayer before choosing them? Yet, Judas betrayed the Savior-- to His death. Does that mean the Savior’s ministry was false? That somehow He misread the Spirit? Of course not! It means that even in the truest church, there will be wheat among tares. Heavenly Father even planned it that way. For, “there must be opposition in all things.” 2 Nephi 2:11 What is most important is not to let them choke out our wheat.
What did the Nephites do when they were assaulted with doubt? I love this verse. “But behold, they did watch steadfastly for that day and that night and that day which should be as one day as if there were no night, that they might know that their faith had not been vain.” 3 Nephi 1:8. They kept their desire to believe and looked with hope for the Lord’s words to be fulfilled.
We can watch steadfastly too. We do that in prayer and Scripture study. The Scriptures bring me such peace when I read them. I love the interaction with the Spirit that comes with them. We also do it with looking for the good things about our faith. Yes, there are people that behave unrighteously, but there are also people that behave remarkably righteous, in complete unselfishness.
But what if our doubts have nothing to do with people? What if it is waiting on the words of God to be fulfilled, such as the Nephites had to deal with? Well, we do what they did. We wait and watch. There were things said in my patriarchal blessing that show no signs of being fulfilled in the near future. There are times my situation is so desperate that I cry out to God saying, “OK, now would be a good time to bring this to pass.” Then silence. Heaven seems unaffected by my tears. But, I know that is not true.
Deep inside me is this quiet voice that is confident God will bring it to pass at the right time. I just have to hold on. You have probably heard the saying, “It is always darkest before the dawn.” That is often true. Many times we are at our most desperate before God brings the blessing. I’m not sure why. I’m pretty sure I’ll appreciate it even if it comes sooner, but maybe He knows something I don’t.
The Nephites experienced this too. Not only were the unbelievers assaulting them with doubts, but when they kept their faith they became even more hostile. Verse 9 says, “Now it came to pass that there was a day set apart by the unbelievers, that all those who believed in those traditions should be put to death except the sign should come to pass, which had been given by Samuel the prophet.” Now, not only was their faith at stake, but their very lives.
Their prophet was in great sorrow because of these events, and did what all great prophets do. He “bowed himself down upon the earth, and cried mightily to his God in behalf of his people.” After much prayer God came to him and said, “Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given….” I love this. God has a plan. He will fulfill it. It was even coming sooner than now expected. They just needed to hang on and watch steadfastly. The Lord gave me a real picture of this with my first born son.
Some things went wrong when my first son was born. He was unable to nurse, and I had to pump all his breast milk. I remember a particular evening when my dear sweet newborn boy was lying on my bed, his whole body red from screaming because he was hungry. I had begun preparing his bottle of breast milk even before his tears began, but it is a slow process. All he knew was his stomach hurt, so he screamed. Tears streamed down my face as I tried to comfort him. Knowing he didn’t understand, I told him over and over, “Don’t worry, Dillon, your food is coming,” hoping somehow it would get through to him and bring him peace. It didn’t. He kept screaming, and I kept crying too. Then the thought occurred to me: How often is this similar to my interaction with the God of Heaven. Maybe I am screaming in pain, unable to hear Him, while He is saying, “Hang on, Dear child, it is on the way.”
I know my Heavenly Father loves all of us. I know He is working for our good. Let us watch steadfastly and see that our faith is not in vain.