Sunday, June 14, 2015

Trials

These last few days have been filled with sadness, worry and heartache for many people that I love and care about.  They have also been filled with prayer, faith, love and service by all those around them. 

Friday afternoon there was a boy around Maddi's age who suffered a gunshot wound to the chest.  He played baseball with my boys a few summers ago.  We have known their family for about 11 years.  Later that day we heard about another friend who had an accident on a wagon train, leaving him with two rods in his neck and a neck brace for 3 months.  We have known him and his family for about 12 years.  Today we found out that another friend who had previously suffered a stroke to his right side, had suffered a stroke to his left side and his beautiful wife who has been helping to take care of him is battling breast cancer.

Amidst the many strong emotions of worry, fear and sadness, I have watched in amazement at the equally strong and opposite emotions of love, selflessness and peace.

All of these incidents occurred to people of strong faith.  People who lived to the best of their ability and followed Christ's teachings.  During this, they did not turn away, they stepped closer and brought all of us with them.  They reached out for prayers, they shared their feelings of peace and comfort.  They praised God for the blessings of recovery, friendship and help.  They were joined by so many who were sending their prayers to Heaven, knowing that there was Someone up there listening, loving and taking care of things.

Life is full of trials on all different levels.  Some trials are just pesky little nuisances like rain at a picnic.  Some are longer lasting like an illness.  Some are devastating like a destroying tornado that steals away everything in it's path.  All can be life changing.  All can bring us closer to Christ.  All can make us more like Him.

There are times, whether the trial be small or large, that we feel like we are out there all alone, buried under the waves of hardship, deep in the darkness of sorrow.  We feel like no one can understand our life and struggles.  However, Jesus Christ can.  He has felt them all perfectly.  He knows each heartache, each sorrow, each pain that we feel.  He has felt each wound and suffered for each sin.  He never leaves us alone.

In the Book of Mormon (which for those who don't know, is another book of scripture that we, as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, use in conjunction with the Bible) there is story of a group of people who, under God's direction, built barges to take their families across the ocean to a land that God had prepared for them.  They got in their barges and "commended their lives to God."  During this voyage God caused there to be a great wind that blew them towards the "promised land".  These winds that were blowing them where they needed to go also caused great storms.  There were times when their barges were buried under the water as storms raged around them.  Sometimes it was for days that they were tossed about with the waves crashing and burying them.  And so they would cry out to God and He would bring them back to the surface again and cause the waters to calm.  Eventually they landed on dry ground and immediately praised God. (https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/ether/6?lang=eng).

I have referred to this scripture story many times in my life.  These people were righteous.  They were doing what the Lord had commanded them.  They were obedient and faithful.  Yet they were faced with trials.  On the very journey that God had sent them on, by the very winds that He caused to blow, they were buried and tossed.  Yet as they prayed and praised, God heard them and brought them safely to their destination. 

Stories don't always have happy endings.  We lose jobs, homes, belongings, loved ones, friendships, etc.  But we can use these experiences to bring us closer to God.  He will lift us up out of the raging waters.  He will calm the storms in our hearts.  He will send the peace of knowing that all is well.  He will surround us with His love.  He will give us the strength to take the next step, climb the next hill and fight the next battle.

Today in church we sang the song, "I Believe in Christ".  These are some of the words from the hymn that touched my heart as I thought about those that I love and care about and the trials they are facing right now...

I believe in Christ, who marked the path,
Who did gain all his Father hath,
Who said to men: "Come, follow me,
That ye, my friends, with God may be."

I believe in Christ--my Lord, my God!
My feet he plants on gospel sod.
I'll worship him with all my might;
He is the source of truth and light.
 
And while I strive through grief and pain,
His voice is heard: "Ye shall obtain."
I believe in Christ; so come what may,
With him I'll stand in that great day
When on this earth he comes again
To rule among the sons of men.

I am so grateful for my knowledge of my Savior, Jesus Christ.  I am so grateful to have the gospel in my life, to know that I am never alone.  I am so grateful for a loving God that is always there with outstretched arms waiting for us to reach out to him.  I am so grateful that "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."  This life will have it's challenges, but because of God's love for us and because of Jesus Christ's love for us, we will be able to overcome this life and be with them again.