By Emily Dickinson
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;I've heard it in the chillest land,
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
This weekend, as opposed to last, was kind of a downer. Times are tough. It seems like everyone is dealing with horrible and extremely hard trials right now. The economy is in shambles, the election isn't looking too promising, and I feel, as a whole, America is in a state of hopelessness. I say to you, America, be of good cheer!
I felt inspired tonight to post a talk I gave last week in sacrament meeting. I was asked to speak about enduring trials. For those of you who aren't familiar with my beliefs, I'm LDS, more commonly known as mormon. For more information about my beliefs, read on, e-mail me, or vist lds.org....or do all three.
Before I continue, please know my intent is not to belittle any feelings, emotions, or hardships any of you might be going through. Life is haaaaaard, especially lately, and I know that. My intent is only to offer some hope.
In nature, there are many metaphors for trials and what they produce-- the way a grain of sand is transformed into a pearl inside of an oyster, by irritation and pressure polishing it; a piece of coal being turned into a diamond, the metaphor of the refiner's fire. Examples are everywhere. My favorite is that of the butterfly. I heard somewhere that the difficulty it takes for a butterfly to emerge from its cocoon, gives its wings the strength to fly. Wikipedia describes this process of emerging as, “the life stage of an insect undergoing transformation.” To me, these facts have always served as a metaphor for enduring trials. I like to think of myself as a caterpillar, breaking open my cocoon a little with each trial I endure, and someday emerging as a beautiful butterfly with wings strong enough to fly.
In True to the Faith, we are told, “As part of Heavenly Father's plan of redemption, all people experience adversity during their lifetime. Trials, disappointments, sadness, sickness, and heartache are a difficult part of life, but with the help of the Lord they can lead to spiritual growth, refinement, and progress.”
So, why do we have adversity? Adversity can come from different sources. Trials may come as a consequence of a person's poor choices, but the Lord never punishes us, he only teaches and strengthens us through consequences. Other trials are simply a natural part of life and may come at times when people are living righteously. We are given trials for an eternal purpose, to become stronger, wiser, and achieve eternal glory. In 2 Corinthians 4:17, we read, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
In Isaiah 54:11 and 12, the Lord describes what awaits us if we overcome adversity, “O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colors, and lay thy foundations with sapphires. And I will make thee windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones.”
During times of affliction, I've often imagined this beautiful scene of a future mansion in heaven in my mind. While it might not be an actual mansion waiting for us, I believe it is symbolic of our eternal glory awaiting us if we endure to the end.
How exactly do we endure these trials? Through complete trust in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, we can understand that everything we endure is part of a greater plan. Things may not always go as we had planned, but we need to keep in mind that only the Lord can see the big picture. When I was younger, my friend Lori's mother, who was my Young Women's President, gave me this little card that I taped to my ceiling above my bed. It was very simple, but it became my mantra for nearly ten years now. It said:
Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are in charge of this world.That simple card helped me more than you can ever imagine. It helped me sleep, and more importantly, it helped me get up in the morning. I have since passed the card to someone else's ceiling, but repeating the words in my head and truly beleiving them still helps me.
Sooner or later, everything will be okay!
- they know me
- they love me
- they have a plan for my future
As that card reminded me, we can gain comfort during our trials through the love of our Savior.
In Isaiah 54:10, the Lord assures us, “For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed...”
In Romans 8:35-38, He continues, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, for thy sake, we are killed all the day long. We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquers through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ, our Lord.”
We can take comfort that not only does the Lord love us, but He understands our pain entirely. As part of His infinite atonement, He not only took upon Himself our sins, but also our every pain, sickness, and tribulation. Because He has experienced your pain, He knows how to help you. If you look to Him in faith, He will strengthen you to withstand any trial you experience.
My grandma has beaten cancer three times. In a talk she gave, she said that her best friend through all of her experiences was our Elder Brother, Jesus Christ. While she was in the hospital the first time, I gave her a picture of Him with the words, “You are never alone. I will not leave you comfortless. I will come to you,” printed on it. She said once that she often spoke to Him as if He were in her room. She felt His presence and His love and was able to not only endure her horrendous trial, but overcome it, her faith strengthened immensely.
Like my grandma, it is not enough that we endure adversity, we need to overcome it. True to the Faith reminds us that, “Each person's success and happiness, both now and in the eternities, depend largely on his or her responses to the difficulties of life." Greatness is never achieved without hardness. One of my favorite scriptures says, "Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" (Timothy, 2:3). It reminds me of all of the examples of great people who have become so through trials:
- Nephi and his family
- Noah and his family
- Alma the younger
- Enoch, (Moses 6:26-7:23) whom I have always identified with, was asked to preach the gospel to a wicked people, he was terrified because he had a speech impediment and the people hated him. The Lord gave him strength to not only preach, but to move mountains, and he was responsible for a conversion that resulted in a people so righteous, they were taken up into heaven.
- Joseph Smith and his family
- and the ultimate, Jesus Christ
True to the Faith also says, "When some people face adversity, they complain and become bitter. They ask questions like "Why does this have to happen to me? Why do I have to suffer this now? What have I done to deserve this?" These questions have the power to dominate their thoughts. Such questions can overtake their vision, absorb their energy, and deprive them of the experiences the Lord wants them to receive. Rather than responding in this way, we should ask questions such as, "What am I to do? What am I to learn from this experience? What am I to change? Whom am I to help? How can I remember my many blessings in times of trial?"
A positive attitude from faith in the Lord's plan for us fosters hope rather than discouragement and can help us find peace and happiness, even through our trials. It is important to find joy in the journey. We can find joy in the simplest things, the beauty of a sunset, the snow that makes the ground glitter, or the feel of the warm sun on our face. It is important that we continuously count our many blessings, if we focus on the good things in life, the bad become diluted as we relish in the joy of our lives.
My unique situation has brought with it some adversity. Different periods in my life have brought different trials, but the lessons learned are always worth the pain. When I got married, everything in my life seemed perfect. I was so elated that for some reason I thought I had learned all of my lessons, endured all of my trials, and become that beautiful butterfly. I realized as time brought more adversity into my life, that perhaps my wings are still being strengthened. It has been such a blessing in my life to have an eternal partner to help succor me through my own trials, and ones that we overcome together. I am so grateful to him and the blessing that I get to be his for all eternity. It doesn't seem long enough to me; he is my best friend, my inspiration, my help-meet, my everything. I only hope for my trials to make me into the kind of woman he deserves.
As I reflected upon my experiences, I decided that perhaps the greatest lesson I have learned is that life is what you make it. Sunshine in your soul makes even the dreariest of worlds seem brighter. I have learned how important it is to have a positive attitude about not only the future, but the present, and faith that the Lord knows what He is doing...and I, really do not! As I searched my scriptures, almost all of the spots I had bookmarked were encouraging scriptures about overcoming adversity. Throughout all of my trials, I have relied heavily upon my Heavenly Father, my Savior, and the Gospel. I have found solace in the scriptures, the words of the Prophets, and many personal angels that the Lord sends into my life. I'm so grateful for those angels, which include many of you, and the knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I love my Savior. I know He loves me and atoned for my sins, and felt my pain. I testify to you that if we remain faithful and hopeful, we may overcome our adversity and achieve a happiness greater than we can ever imagine.
I leave these things with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.