Saturday, June 18, 2011

Wasting Trials

Handcart-on-the-Plains

I’ve heard it said that each thing God allows into our lives is filtered through His hands. I have at times gotten discouraged and angry about that sentiment, wondering how God can love me and not filter better. Maybe that is normal, especially when dreadful things happen. Times when it might be tempting to say, “How can you love me and allow that?” I used to wonder that, beginning in childhood. My assumption was that He didn’t love me. I always worried that I was somehow not good enough for Him to love me. Maybe I was a disappointment to Him. That was a frightening thought to me because I didn’t know how to be any better than I was. I still don’t. I’m me, and that is all I can be.

As an adult I am learning that He does love me, even while inflicting trials. I still feel insecurities at times, but the Lord always blesses me with some assurances to give me hope.  I used to worry that God was disappointed in how long it took me to convert. Three years of constant investigation does seem to be excessive. Why doesn’t faith come more easily to me?  During my patriarchal blessing that fear of being a disappointment was in the back of my mind. There was a handful of people there who came to hear my blessing. I was a little afraid they were all going to hear what I disappointment I was. The patriarch answered my fear with wonderful assurances about God’s feelings towards me during my investigation.  It took such a weight off my shoulders.  I was so grateful the Spirit told him my secret fears. He did that several times throughout my blessing- telling the patriarch my thoughts. It was a precious and sacred experience. I wish I could say that took away all my insecurities, but it didn’t.

I was feeling wobbly about my worth this week also, combined with feeling very alone. Isn’t it funny how we only see where we come up short?  I was sure there was nothing about me currently that could make me worthy of His love, no matter how desperately I wanted it, or how much I wanted to please Him. However when I pulled out my Scriptures I was greeted with these glorious, comforting words:

“For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.” John 16:27

I wrote in my Scripture journal, “God love me!”  He loves me because I love and believe on His Son! That is very exciting and takes a lot of pressure off of me. He didn’t stop there though. Remember, at the time of my Scripture reading I was feeling frightened about God’s love for me, but I was also feeling alone. In that same chapter he addressed both issues.

“Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone:  and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.” John 16:32

What a blessed reminder that we are never truly alone. It was a tender mercy of God to remind me of that. Every once in a while I become a petulant child and think I’ve given enough and it is time for me to get some blessings instead of constant trials. There are occasions when I have had evil thoughts. I’m ashamed to admit that I have occasionally asked the Father if He did not think I have given enough yet. Isn’t a marriage, all my close (and not close) friendships, my dreams about child rearing, and my financial support enough of a sacrifice? Is it really necessary to keep suffering? Isn’t it time for some blessings? What an ungrateful child I am. I’m both blessed and thankful He always gives me time to fix my perspective, when He has every right to just strike me with a lightening bolt.

When I’m behaving as a rational human being I realize the trials are a blessing in themselves. Each difficulty helps me learn and grow in ways that would have been challenging to without them.  President Kimball was once quoted as saying, “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted.” What an important thing to remember. Of course, without any disrespect to President Kimball, it might be better said, “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience need be wasted.” It all depends on how we handle the trial. A person can get beaten and respond by leaning on the loving arms of their Heavenly Father, feeling His comfort and presence, using the physical pain to relate to the Savior’s sacrifice on the cross, or they can respond by shaking their fist at heaven and blaming the evil on God. One wastes the trial. The other uses it to grow.

I can say with certainty that each trial I have endured and responded to correctly has taught me something wonderful about God and has brought me closer to a beautiful, eternal, and correct relationship with Him. I would not trade those experiences for anything. Brother Webster, a survivor of the Martin Handcart Company put it best.  “The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay….” Not everyone who made that journey felt the same way. Some turned around. Others became embittered against the gospel. Without repentance, those were wasted trials.

Have you ever noticed in Alma 62:41 the two opposing responses of the Nephites? “Because of the exceedingly great length of the war between the Nephites and the Lamanites many had become hardened, because of the exceedingly great length of the war: and many were softened because of their afflictions, insomuch that they did humble themselves before God, even in the depth of humility.” Both groups faced the exact same afflictions, and yet they had totally different responses.

What was the key to their successful navigation through their afflictions? Humility. They humbled themselves under the mighty hand of their God. That requires trust. It requires knowing our God is allowing it, knowing He is going through it with us, and knowing He is doing it for our good. Humility uses the trial to get to know God better. To love Him more. Pride says we deserve better. I don’t want to waste my trials. I want to know my God.

2 comments:

Don Nance said...

You are an inspiration to all of us. I am amazed by what you pull from the scriptures that I had never noticed. I recommend and article called "The Currant Bush" by Hugh B. Brown.

Annmarie Worthington said...

Actually, Don, I find you and Mary Ellen to be the inspirations. Your faithful honesty and commitment to your covenants and one another brings me joy. I am also always astounded and blessed by both of your generosity and service to others. I love the both of you very much. Can't wait to read the article you recommended!