Posted by: 2thdocbob | 20 February 2017

Joy in Trials and Adversity

dscn1825

I was privileged to give this talk twice yesterday, February 19, 2017. I spoke in the Lake Arrowhead Ward as well as in the Running Springs Branch. The talk was very much the same in both services.

Good morning, brothers and sisters.

I have prayed fervently that what I say today will be what the Lord wants you to learn at this time. I pray that I may speak through the power of the Spirit, and that you may be able to listen and learn by the power of the Spirit, so that we may all be edified.

I have enjoyed the stormy weather this week, and I am grateful for the rain. But yesterday was such a glorious day, and so is today. I am also grateful for the clean air after the rain and the sunshine we enjoyed. I found it hard to prepare this talk because I became distracted by the many birds in our back yard.

And that is a good illustration for my talk today, because after the gloom and darkness of the storms came light and beauty, even if only for a brief moment.

In a sense, I find joy in the storms that we have had. In our lives, we all face storms. But can we face them with joy?

Elder Holland has quoted this poem in the past. It might even be his own.

If you can smile when things go wrong
And say it doesn’t matter,
If you can laugh off cares and woe
And trouble makes you fatter,

If you can keep a cheerful face
When all around are blue,
Then have your head examined, bud,
There’s something wrong with you.

For one thing I’ve arrived at:
There are no ands and buts,
A guy that’s grinning all the time
Must be completely nuts. (“Smile, Darn You, Smile”)

I begin with this poem because it ties in well with my topic, which is somewhat serious. Truthfully, Heavenly Father does expect us to be cheerful in our trials.

The Savior repeatedly encourages us in the scriptures to “be of good cheer” (Matt. 14:27; Mark 6:50; D&C 61:36; 68:6; 78:18; and others).

One of my favorite hymns was written by Eliza R. Snow. I don’t think we sing it often enough. But it gives me great hope.

Though deep’ning trials throng your way,
Press on, press on, ye Saints of God!
Ere long the resurrection day
Will spread its life and truth abroad.

Though outward ills await us here,
The time, at longest, is not long
Ere Jesus Christ will reappear,
Surrounded by a glorious throng.

And then the powerful third verse:

Lift up your hearts in praise to God;
Let your rejoicings never cease.
Though tribulations rage abroad,
Christ says, “In me ye shall have peace.” (Hymns, 122.)

Each one of us faces trials and challenges throughout our lives. I don’t think we can escape that. We live in challenging times. This is a wicked world. Values and standards that have been honored for thousands of years are being cast aside. Selfishness is replacing service. Evil is being called good and good is being called evil.

And yet Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
“We are persecuted on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
“Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:8-9).

In the midst of our trials, the words to the Primary song may come to mind: “Heavenly Father, are you really there?” (Children’s Songbook, 12).

I testify to you that Heavenly Father is indeed there. I know that He lives, and that He loves us. He is aware of our individual challenges and wants us to overcome them.

The Savior told us:

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

So how can we be of good cheer with all these difficulties?

It is helpful to remember some important doctrine:

Before this life, we lived with Heavenly Father as His spirit children. He knew that in order for us to have the opportunity to become like Him, we would need to receive a mortal body and experience the challenges of mortal life. Because He knew that we would make mistakes, He provided a Savior for us, His firstborn spirit Son, Jesus Christ.

God loves us, so He gave us trials to help us grow. He has blessed us with adversity and with challenges to test our faith and our willingness to follow Him.

Jesus also needed to have a mortal body. The vital part of Heavenly Father’s Plan was for Jesus to take upon Him our sins and infirmities and atone for us. This act was a ransom from the bondage of sin and weakness that comes upon each of us.

Alma described it this way:

“And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:12).

Think of that, brothers and sisters: not just our sins, but our infirmities: our weaknesses and illnesses have been overcome by the Atonement of Jesus Christ! All we have to do is turn to Him.

The Atonement and resurrection enable us to return unspotted to our Heavenly Father if we will repent of our sins, make and keep sacred covenants, and endure in faith to the end.

Do you have faith in Heavenly Father’s Plan and your part in it? Do you have a firm testimony of its reality? Honestly, we really don’t know how strong our faith is until it is tested. It isn’t something we can measure, as we do with so many other aspects of our lives.

The journey of mortality wasn’t meant to be just a pleasant walk in the park, without any danger.

In our lives, we face trials and adversity from many sources. Some of it is just a normal part of living. At any given time, we may face physical and mental challenges; we may face trials from family and friends; we may have to endure trials through financial or employment concerns; even our church callings may test and try us.

Then how do we find joy in trials and adversity? How do we deal with the challenges we face?

I would like to offer six suggestions to you, based on gospel truths from the scriptures and from the words of the Prophets. There may be situations where professional help is needed such as counseling or medication. I believe very strongly that Heavenly Father has provided these for us as an adjunct to our faith in some situations.

An invitation from the Savior provides the foundation for these suggestions:

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).

The prophet Omni gives an appropriate follow-up:

“Come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption” (Omni 1:26).

This is the key to finding joy in our trials: come unto Christ.

Now, the suggestions.

First, don’t lose sight of the big picture.

Focus on Heavenly Father’s plan. Given an eternal perspective, our problems may seem smaller. But that doesn’t always make you feel better when all seems black.

Brothers and sisters, never give up! Even when you feel overwhelmed. Don’t lose faith; don’t lose hope! Don’t forget that you are a beloved child of our Heavenly Father! He will never forsake you; in fact, He cannot forsake you. Call on Him in faith for help.

There are some burdens that must be carried throughout our lives; they will not be removed from us. Paul taught this truth, then taught that through God’s grace, he could endure. God’s grace, His enabling power given to us, will make our burdens lighter.

Alma and his people learned this as well, when the Lord spoke to them in the midst of serious affliction and said:

“And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions” (Mosiah 24:14).

Have faith that the Savior will help you to bear your burdens. He will help you, for his yoke is easy, and his burden is light.

Second, call on others for support.

We don’t call each other brother and sister just because it sounds nice, or because we forgot someone’s first name. As children of God, we are literal brothers and sisters, as well as brothers and sisters in the faith. We have covenanted to sustain and support one another.

Remember Alma’s teachings in Mosiah, chapter 18:

“Now… ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
“Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:8-9).

This is what we do.

Today, I may strengthen you; tomorrow, I may need you to strengthen me. We must never feel that we have to suffer alone. I will admit that it takes a great deal of humility; a great deal of courage to call someone and say “I’m hurting; I’m struggling. Do you have a minute?” Even though some of your challenges might be deeply personal and private, we can still offer help and support without having to know any more than you wish us to know.

Do not try to bear your burden alone! And don’t deny your brothers or sisters the blessing of helping to bear your burdens.

Along with calling upon others, serving others helps to ease our own burdens. And that is my third point: Serve others.

People around us need a lot of help, and the Lord expects us to join him in that effort.

Peter testified that Christ “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38), and we should follow his example.

We have been commanded to “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees” (D&C 81:5).

Every one of us, from the youngest to the oldest, can provide some act of service or kindness that will help to heal others, and in the process, provide some healing for ourselves.

Something as small as a smile, a warm greeting, or even a listening ear can make a big difference to someone. As we step outside ourselves and our problems for a moment, we discover that our burdens have become lighter.

Be a healer, be a helper, make things better; make a difference!

Fourth, sing the hymns.

There is great power in our hymns and primary songs. There is great healing power in the hymns. Think about the words as you sing them. Particular phrases may touch your heart at different times and give you strength and comfort.

Find some comfort songs, songs that you can listen to or sing that readily bring the Spirit to you, or that simply make you feel better. Turn to them when your spirits need lifting.

In the musical Camelot, King Arthur sings to Guinevere as they discuss what “the simple folk do”

“Once, upon the road, I came upon a lad
Singing in a voice three times his size
When I asked him why, he told me he was sad
And singing always made his spirits rise” (What do the simple folk do? Lerner and Loewe)

You may not feel that your own voice will make you or anyone else feel better, but give it a try. If your singing is really that bad, you might even find that there is something worse than the trial you are experiencing.

Fifth, Study the scriptures, and particularly the life of the Savior.

Studying the five Gospels will draw our hearts nearer to Christ as we learn of Him. This will help us look to God and live. And we know that the purpose of the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Christ is to bring each of us closer to Christ.

As we study the scriptures, we invite the Spirit into our lives. Through the Spirit, we may receive inspiration that will guide us through the rough spots in our lives.

Finally, and most important, take the sacrament.

Each week, we are privileged to participate in this sacred ordinance. Worthy priesthood holders prepare, bless, and pass to us the sacred emblems that represent our Savior’s Atonement. Ideally, we have a few moments of quiet reflection on our own actions, and even more ideally, we remember Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice for us.

As we take the sacrament, we renew our covenants with our Heavenly Father, and we commit to do better. When we take the sacrament, we covenant to always remember the Savior, with the promise that we may always have His Spirit to be with us.

This is a dedicated time for personal healing and spiritual refreshment and renewal. This is an event that we should eagerly anticipate and prepare for each week, for here we truly find “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding” (Phil. 4:7).

Through our participation in the sacrament, we recall the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We remember that He suffered all things for us.

When you face challenges, and think of the Atonement, I pray that you will remember the lesson of Alma the Younger, who testified:

“And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.
“Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.
“And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.
“And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!” (Alma 36:17-20).

I don’t believe that any of have sinned to the extent that Alma had, so we can take hope from the fact that his prayers were answered. If Heavenly Father would listen his pleadings, he will certainly listen to ours. When we are struggling, we can call upon the power of the Atonement of Christ to ease our burdens.

Even Jesus Christ himself found joy in adversity. Paul taught us to look “unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2).

At the Sweetheart Dinner/Dance last night we shared a table with the Rohms and the Robbins, and the Butterfields. As many of you know, Tapie is battling cancer. Marilyn Robbins is a six-year cancer survivor. As we all talked, Marilyn said that her cancer brought her closer to the Savior than she ever thought possible. Tapie agreed, and added that this was unexpected.

That is a testimony to me that Christ knows each of us, and will support us in our trials.

President Nelson assured us that “the joy we feel [as we look to Christ] has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives … Joy comes from Him and because of Him” (Oct 2016, Joy and Spiritual Survival).

Elder Rasband counseled us: “In the midst of life’s greatest storms, do not forget your divine heritage as a son or daughter of God, or your eternal destiny to one day return to live with him” (Oct. 2016, Lest Thou Forget).

As we learn to respond well to our trials, we will influence our spiritual progress.

I know through my own experience that Heavenly Father stands with us in times of trial.

Twenty-three years ago this month, my wife gave birth to a beautiful son who only lived a few hours. We buried him on Valentine’s Day that year.

As we looked back on that event, we realized that the Spirit carried us throughout the experience. Through many sacred experiences, we knew that our sweet son still lives; we rejoiced in Heavenly Father’s plan, and we were comforted to know that one of our children had qualified for the Celestial Kingdom.

In spite of the deep sorrow we felt, and which we still feel on occasion, we felt that peace that passeth all understanding.

I testify that our Heavenly Father loves us, and that He will bless us with joy as we strive to endure and overcome our trials. His promises are sure.

I pray that we will all remember the Savior’s words to the early members of the Church:

“And now, verily I say unto you, and what I say unto one I say unto all, be of good cheer, little children; for I am in your midst, and I have not forsaken you;” (D&C 61:36).

“Fear not … do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if you are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail” (D&C 6:34).

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

I have made every effort to teach correct doctrine here. However, it should be noted that the opinions expressed are mine: I do not speak for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Any errors are my responsibility.

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