Elder Quentin L. Cook pointed out that one of the questions General Authorities hear the most is “Why does Heavenly Father allow bad things to happen to good people?”
My husband and I have talked about this principle a lot. It is also spoken about in General Conference pretty frequently. There are three sources of suffering that we may experience in this mortal life.
1.) suffering caused by our own sins/disobedience to God’s commandments
2.) suffering caused by the sins of others/their disobedience to God’s commandments
3.) suffering caused by the mortality and imperfection of this world and our bodies – disease, natural disasters, etc
Elder Quentin L. Cook made a really good point when he said, “Adverse results in this mortal life are not evidence of lack of faith or of an imperfection in our Father in Heaven’s overall plan.” First of all – of course it is not evidence of an imperfection in Heavenly Father’s plan! His plan is perfect, and His plan and purpose for each of us is beautiful and perfect and will ultimately bless our lives in ways we never thought possible if we will have faith and turn to Him. I think that we are quick to judge both ourselves and others when we encounter adversity. It is easy to think that someone “brought upon themselves” their trials. But remember those three sources of suffering? Only one of them has anything to do with our own choices.
“The refiner’s fire is real, and qualities of character and righteousness that are forged in the furnace of affliction perfect and purify us and prepare us to meet God.” Lately I have been enduring some trials that have been caused by source #2. I have found myself staring at the floor, wondering what is wrong with me and why this his happening to me, and trying to figure out what I did to deserve this (that is, I was thinking that I was enduring these trials because of source #1). Elder Carl B. Cook asked, “Why is it a challenge to consistently look up in our lives? Perhaps we lack the faith that such a simple act can solve our problems.” I did not have the faith that looking up would solve my problems. My problems were being caused by the agency of another person. How could anything I could do change anything? I wasn’t the one making poor choices – I can’t make choices for other people. That was when I read Corine’s post on charity and I realized that even though the suffering was caused by another’s choices, I could choose how to deal with the trial.
Elder Carl B. Cook said, “As I thought of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ’s power, my heart found the comfort I had sought in vain from the floor of that descending elevator.” Notice that Elder Cook’s problems didn’t go away – but he did find comfort. He went on to say that if we “exercise our faith and look to God for help, we will not be overwhelmed with the burdens of life. We will not feel incapable of doing what we are called to do or need to do. We will be strengthened, and our lives will be filled with peace and joy.” I have really been experiencing a refiner’s fire lately, and as I have been turning to the Lord for strength, and practicing charity, I have been learning that these trials are the Lord’s way of perfecting me and purifying me. For what? Maybe nothing other than to live with Him again someday. But as I look to the Lord for strength in my trials, and as I learn to forgive and love, I am feeling myself grow and develop in ways I didn’t even know I needed to grow.
When Elder Quentin L. Cook spoke about songs that will not be sung, it reminded me of my older brother. My oldest brother passed away a little over a year ago. There were so many songs he didn’t get to sing – and yet, there were so many things he was able to do in his life. Elder Cook pointed out “A unique challenge for those who have lost loved ones is to avoid dwelling on the lost opportunities in this life.” For me, this lost opportunity would be the opportunity to encourage my brother to come back to the Church.
The prophet Joseph Smith said “The only difference between the old and young dying is, one lives longer in heaven and eternal light and glory than the other, and is freed a little sooner from this miserable, wicked world. Notwithstanding all this glory, we for a moment lose sight of it, and mourn the loss, but we do not mourn as those without hope.” The glorious part about loosing my brother is that he is not gone forever. He is in the Spirit world (which is all around us) and he can still learn and progress, and I feel like he may come back to the Church. I know at least that he is with our family – our grandparents and aunts and uncles, and they are looking after him and teaching him and testifying to him.
What did you learn about adversity and trial from these talks? Do you look up when you are feeling discouraged or when trials are in your way? Have you felt like you were in a refiner’s fire? Did you feel yourself growing? Did you see a more perfect version of yourself come out of the fire?