Sunday, April 30, 2017

Perseverance despite adversity

It was my turn to speak in church this week. Here are the notes from the talk I gave, plus the bits that I didn't share because I ran out of time, and the references for both quotes and scriptures I shared. I fleshed out the notes (because I never can read a talk; I always speak from notes) so they make sense, but this is NOT every word I said, and there are words here I didn't say.

Perseverance despite adversity, talk for April 30, 2017 for Mountain View Ward, Longmont Stake


Right at this moment, we are surrounded by people suffering from adversity.
Loss, poverty, betrayal, mental illness, the burdens of caregiving, family structures that are not what you planned for, death of dreams, physical and emotional pains of all kinds. This room is full of suffering, some of it is of the “I had a bad week” variety and some intensely, soul-crushingly, faith-shatteringly difficult.


No details or I’ll cry, but my family has been suffering wave upon wave of adversity, without almost any rest, for 13 years now. I’d like to share with you some of the things I’ve learned over the years about persevering despite adversity.


For one thing, it helps to understand why we need adversity.


Why adversity? There’s not just one reason


  1. God loves us. He wants us to have the tools we need to succeed at life, and we get those through adversity.
D& C 95: 1: “Whom I love I also chasten that their sins may be forgiven, for with the chastisement I prepare a way for their deliverance in all things out of temptation, and I have loved you—”


2. Protection
Caleb as a baby was always trying to fling himself backward for fun. When I stopped him from hitting his head on a pew at church, he was furious and thought I was persecuting him. But what was adversity to him was protection from my perspective. God does this for us. And we sometimes get mad.


But it’s like vaccination. Vaccination is mean. But it’s less mean than measles, or letting kids go deaf from mumps. We do mean things to kids like make them go to bed, or vaccination, because we’re protecting them from worse things. Adversity does this for us, too.


3. Learning
Elder Christofferson said he learned more than he could have otherwise.
In the article “Recognizing God’s Hand in our Daily Blessings,” Elder Christofferson talks about the good that came from an extended period of adversity for him. He says, after recounting an extended period of suffering, “Though I suffered then, I am grateful now that there was not a quick solution to my problem. The fact that I was forced to turn to God for help almost daily over an extended period of years taught me how to truly pray and get answers to prayer and taught me in a practical way to have faith in God. I came to know my Savior and my Heavenly Father in a way and to a degree that might not have happened otherwise or that might have taken me much longer.” Adversity teaches us.


4. Becoming.
That’s the point of life. Adversity lets God form us into something new and beautiful if we submit--and that’s what we came for. Like caterpillars to butterflies, we are meant to grow and change into something beautiful if we let God do that. Gems must be polished and shaped, gold must be refined and the impurities burned from it. Nobody likes to be ground down, but that's what polishes us.


5. Getting to where we really want to be
Winds and storms of Jaredites blew them to the promised land. They couldn’t steer.
Ether 6: 8, 10-12: “And it came to pass that the wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land while they were upon the waters; and thus they were driven forth before the wind...And thus they were driven forth; and no monster of the sea could break them, neither whale that could mar them; and they did have light continually, whether it was above the water or under the water. And thus they were driven forth, three hundred and forty and four days upon the water. And they did land upon the shore of the promised land.” So it is with us. The things that we try to escape and avoid are sometimes the things that are driving us to where we actually want to be.


I asked Tim just the other day, “How often do we cry and fight against the very thing that will lead us where we want to be? We fight the process that gives us what we actually want because we don’t like the path to get there?


How do we persevere well?


1. Know that you will get through
I learned on my mission that the choice is to get through or die. Since dying isn’t our prerogative, we obviously are going to get through. The question is how well.


2 . Know your limits and work with them instead of fighting them.
We all have limited spoons, and when life gets difficult, you do less. When persevering through adversity, don’t waste your spoons. Use them wisely and carefully. This is why people in the midst of trauma or poverty have messy houses--they are using up all their spoons on other things. Use your spoons wisely.


Elder Uchtdorf, in the talk “Of Things that Matter Most,”  said: “What do you suppose pilots do when they encounter turbulence? A student pilot may think that increasing speed is a good strategy because it will get them through the turbulence faster. But that may be the wrong thing to do. Professional pilots understand that there is an optimum turbulence penetration speed that will minimize the negative effects of turbulence. And most of the time that would mean to reduce your speed. The same principle applies also to speed bumps on a road. Therefore, it is good advice to slow down a little, steady the course, and focus on the essentials when experiencing adverse conditions.”

We are weak and powerless, but that is okay because God is not.
Ether 12: “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” (additional thoughts on the "weakness" scripture are elaborated here: http://beccajones.blogspot.com/2017/05/the-weakness-scripture.html). Notice this doesn't say weaknesses. It says weakness. We are actually weak. We actually do not have the power to succeed. We are not strong enough.
People always say, “You won’t be given anything you can’t handle.” Forget that. It’s wrong. You absolutely will be given things you can’t handle. You will be crushed to death and your heart shattered. And that is the very point because then Jesus can make us into a new person. Remember that WE are His work. We are God’s work. You really can’t do it, but that’s okay because God can and He wants to help us with His power. He can’t infringe on our agency. He can’t force us to accept His power and His help, but he Lets us use his power if we ask.
Our weakness in the face of adversity is actually strength IF we use it to turn us to God. The power is His. And He wants to share His power with us, but not under our conditions. Under His conditions. He is there. He does love us. He will help us. We just have to hold on and keep focused on him, even when we can’t keep putting one foot in front of the other. We are God's work, so He will help us.
We are supposed to use God’s power to solve our problems. This is using the priesthood. Sisters can do this, too. We don’t have the ordination, but we can pray and get revelation and have access to God’s power to solve our problems.
My mom used to tell me that God won’t always help us keep our heads above water, but it’s okay because He can make it so we can breathe under water.


3. Turn to Jesus
Carest thou not that we perish?
Mark 4: 37-40: “And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?” This is an important question. How is it that I have no faith? Does he care? Yes. I ask this often when I am struggling because that it what it feels like: Don't you care that I'm going to lose my house? Don't you care that we have no shoes? Don't you care that I hurt all over? And His answer in the scripture reminds me to work to choose faith instead.


Elder Holland--credit for trying, but ask Jesus for help
In “Tomorrow the Lord will do Wonders Among You,” Elder Holland said, “Please remember tomorrow, and all the days after that, that the Lord blesses those who want to improve, who accept the need for commandments and try to keep them, who cherish Christlike virtues and strive to the best of their ability to acquire them. If you stumble in that pursuit, so does everyone; the Savior is there to help you keep going. If you fall, summon His strength. Call out like Alma, “O Jesus, … have mercy on me.”7 He will help you get back up. He will help you repent, repair, fix whatever you have to fix, and keep going. Soon enough you will have the success you seek.”

What is the secret to persevering through adversity? He gave it to us right here: The Savior is there to help you keep going. Truly you might reach places in your life where you cannot go another step, where things actually are too hard, and you are actually not capable of persevering. And that's okay because Jesus can help. And will help.


Let Jesus carry your burdens. Lay them down at His feet. This is sometimes perplexing, but it works.


4. Choose faith.
Take the time to build a relationship with God and Jesus and then exercise faith. CHOOSE faith. Trust. Focus on Jesus. Do what He asks. Cry out for Mercy. Faith is not believing God exists. It’s trusting Him and believing him and choosing actively to rely on Him.

Faith says, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that God could save us from the fiery furnace, but if not--if He doesn't-- we still believe in Him and trust Him. Because sometimes He doesn't. Often He doesn't. And that's okay.


But what if you can’t feel it and can’t find it? What if things are just so hard that faith is out of reach?
Nephi and Lehi in prison, and Aminadab saying praying until you can believe. Helaman 5: 40-43: “And it came to pass that the Lamanites said unto him: What shall we do, that this cloud of darkness may be removed from overshadowing us? And Aminadab said unto them: You must repent, and cry unto the voice, even until ye shall have faith in Christ, who was taught unto you by Alma, and Amulek, and Zeezrom; and when ye shall do this, the cloud of darkness shall be removed from overshadowing you. And it came to pass that they all did begin to cry unto the voice of him who had shaken the earth; yea, they did cry even until the cloud of darkness was dispersed. And it came to pass that when they cast their eyes about, and saw that the cloud of darkness was dispersed from overshadowing them, behold, they saw that they were encircled about, yea every soul, by a pillar of fire.” This work. I know it works. It worked for me and it will work for you. Sometimes I feel like they did, that this cloud of darkness is overshadowing me and I can't get out and I can't see and it's scary and paralyzing. Once I felt like that, I and found this verse and it works to do what the Lamanites did.


5. Prepare ahead
When we had a really traumatic time, I was prompted almost a year ahead to prepare, and I did. Extensive physical preparations, and they were helpful, but when it came right down to it, in the end I wished I had studied the scriptures more. Why? Because when things go badly, we get mad at God for making us suffer, and push Him away, and that is pushing away the very thing that can help us out of the troubles, or through them. I wished I had studied the scriptures more so that I would have had the relationship with God that would give me access to the strength of God to rely on instead of being angry at him.


6. Communicate with God--pray and listen
Ask God to teach you how to pray
Elder Nelson said, in “The Price of Priesthood Power,” “We need to pray from our hearts. Polite recitations of past and upcoming activities, punctuated with some requests for blessings, cannot constitute the kind of communing with God that brings enduring power. Are you willing to pray to know how to pray for more power? The Lord will teach you.”
Changed my life to take his advice. I highly, highly recommend it. Ask God to teach you how to pray, and pay attention to what you experience in the next little while. It was profound for me.


Don’t predetermine how the answers and help will come, or you might not see it.

Elder Christofferson again: “There were times when I had exhausted all my resources, when I had nowhere and no one to turn to for help to meet the exigency before me. With no other recourse, more than once I fell down before my Heavenly Father, begging in tears for His help. And He did help. Sometimes it was nothing more than a sense of peace, a feeling of assurance that things would work out. I might not see how or what the path would be, but He gave me to know that, directly or indirectly, He would open a way. Circumstances might change, a new and helpful idea might come to mind, some unanticipated income or other resource might appear at just the right time. Somehow there was a resolution.”

Praying for patience works better than praying for release. Just because you can’t see the path doesn’t mean there isn’t a path.


7. Look for the good--not pollyanna, but look for God and look for the help He sends (not always easy to see).
Look for the love every day because it’s there. This was life changing for me. It’s sometimes perplexing, and sometimes you have to pray to see it, but God does show us love every day. We just have to be watching for it. And express gratitude. Gratitude helps us fit in our place in the universe, and helps us use our faith, and helps us persevere when things get awful. There is always something to be grateful for, even if it is just that you don’t have that other guy’s trials, too.


Sometimes this is perplexing, when you pray for a job and get a pair of shoes, but it’s there. Sometimes it’s very, very hard to see, but pray for it and look for it. There is evidence every day of God’s love. Find it.


Jesus suffered adversity so severe he begged that He could not have to go through, just like we do, and God withdrew--he was distant, like He sometimes is from us, when our prayers don't seem to go anywhere--but He sent an Angel. And He sends angels for us and asks us to be angels for others. Look for them. Be them.


8. Consider the covenants.
Everything in the church points to the temple, but everything in the temple points us back to our homes, to help us make good choices that will move us closer to God.  So think about those covenants. They are there to help us make the kinds of choices that help us persevere through adversity.
By considering the covenants, we can learn things we need to know to help us persevere. For example, let’s consider baptism.


Trust God. This is the point of baptism. We let him bring us to death (under the water) and let Him pull us out a new person. You WILL be tested more than you can bear. You will be crushed and broken by life. And Jesus will bring you through and make all things turn out for your good if you love God and let him. Submit and be molded

D&C 121: 7-8: "My son, peace be unto thy soul. Thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment. And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high."

1 comment:

LK said...

Thanks!