(find the talk here)
If you read our family blog, you’ll know that the past several weeks have been pretty trying for me. Which is probably why I haven’t been writing much over here (or on any of my blogs, for that matter). Writing is good for me, and somewhat therapeutic, and so when I don’t write, things have to be going really badly. But I’m back to writing again, which means things are getting better. I hesitate to say everything is good again, because I’m still not sure that is the case. It’s a lot of ups and downs right now, and I’m hoping that I can sort all this out soon, because I don’t really like ups and downs.
So this talk is actually perfect for me to read and study in my current situation.
Elder Paul V. Johnson’s talk about adversity, trials, and growth have helped clarify some things in my mind and I hope I can apply them to the trials and adversity I face daily. None of us is exempt from trials and suffering, and most of us encounter trials every day of our lives.
Recently I read an article about marriage that mentioned something that has kind of stuck with me. The author said, “The act of enduring difficult circumstances without feeling like a martyr, or without seeking reward or sympathy, can be a soul-expanding experience. It can bring new levels of character development attainable only when patience, tolerance, and a nonjudgmental attitude are practiced consistently over time.” The thing that struck me the most was when he suggested that we endure “difficult circumstances without feeling like a martyr.” Too often, when faced with trials and adversity, I find myself feeling like a martyr. Elder Johnson also addressed this, when he pointed out that “Some obedient Saints may ask, ‘Why me? I’m trying to be good! Why is the Lord allowing this to happen?’” I often feel this way – “I am trying to be a good person, I am doing my best! I am enduring trials because of the wickedness of others, and it’s not fair!” When instead I should be practicing patience, tolerance, and a nonjudgmental attitude. Elder Robbins reminded us that “If we handle these afflictions properly, they will be consecrated for our gain.” He then quoted Elder Orson F. Whitney who said, “All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable.” Notice that in both cases growth, character development, purification and soul-expanding only happen when we “handle [adversity] properly” and “patiently.” We cannot grow in our adversity and trials when we are acting like a martyr, taking one for the team, as it were. Elder Robbins also reminded us that “Since personal growth is an intended outcome of these challenges, it should come as no surprise that the trials can be very personal—almost laser guided to our particular needs or weaknesses.” Heavenly Father didn’t put us on the earth to become martyrs. He put us on the earth to grown and learn and become even as He is.
I love that Elder Robbins pointed out, “Even very rich ore needs refining to remove impurities.” The best among us have trials. Just to make sure we didn’t miss that point, Elder Robbins told a story about Elder Robert D. Hales, an apostle of the Lord, who endured difficult circumstances. “We don’t seek out tests, trials, and tribulations. Our personal journey through life will provide just the right amount for our needs. Many trials are just a natural part of our mortal existence…” Because this world is mortal and fallen, we are guaranteed to have trials and tests. But this is the reason we are here! We are experiencing this life so that we can practice patience, tolerance, and a nonjudgmental attitude in the face of adversity, so that we can become more like the Savior. It is a refiner’s fire we are in, not a trash incinerator. The Lord doesn’t intend for us to be burned to ash. He intends for the impurities to be burned away, leaving only the most precious metals behind. But if we don’t have the right attitude through our trials, we will feel like we are in a trash incinerator, instead of in a refiner’s fire.
My favorite part of the talk was this statement by Elder Robbins, “Sometimes we want to have growth without challenges and to develop strength without any struggle. But growth cannot come by taking the easy way… We must be careful that we don’t resent the very things that help us put on the divine nature.” Sometimes in the midst of my trials, I forget why we have trials. I want to be strong and mature and have a testimony – but I want it without the pain, suffering, and trials. Elder Robbins had a few words for me about that - “[The Savior’s] suffering was a prerequisite to the empty tomb that Easter morning and to our future immortality and eternal life.” In Doctrine & Covenants 122, even Heavenly Father reminded us of the fact that even the Savior had to endure trials on this earth, “The Son of Man hath descended below [all things]. Art thou greater than he?””
“Someday when we get to the other side of the veil, we want more than for someone just to tell us, ‘Well, you’re done.’ Instead, we want the Lord to say, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant.’”
I want to endure my trials with patience and a good attitude – I want to be more than conqueror. I want to be refined and molded so that when I return to the Father I will hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”