Hugging The Cactus! (Making Our Trials Work for Us)


Over the course of my lifetime I have held private interviews with thousands of members of the church. Common among almost all I have interviewed is the sharing of challenges and trials that have tested their faith. Some seemed to gain strength from them, while others faith seems to have faltered. I am not totally sure why some weathered the storms while others started to drown, but I think some of it has to do with the understanding of the plan of salvation. I read a statement by a LDS writer, H. Wallace Goddard on this subject, which I found interesting. He said:

“We expect to be blessed for doing what is right. Then the sky falls. We don’t marry. Or our made-in-heaven marriage falls apart. Our children stray. Our careers flounder. We ask, “ What did I do wrong?” “Didn’t I have enough faith?” “Is God mad at me?” “Is the ‘good news’ really a deception?” It turns out that doing good works does not guarantee a life of contentment and fulfilled dreams. We may be blessed for our efforts with the gift of serenity—or with new challenges. God will provide precisely the experiences that can lead us to greater faith and a closer relationship with Him…The rosy assumption does not hold up very well when we look at the lives of saints. Suffering Job. Joseph Smith. Jeremiah. Adam. Spencer W. Kimball. Jesus. These are good people who gave life their best and still got pummeled.” (“The Lesson of the Washing Machine Hose)

The plan of salvation includes agency and the resulting consequences of that agency. The use of that agency by man has a ripple effect, as “no man is an island.” When you add agency to the consequences of “the fall”, which introduced death and sin into the world, we find that we are surrounded on all sides by both the wonders of life, and it’s close friend called “perils.”  By having a vision of the eternal nature of life, all of us should understand that we will face challenges in this life that are, and will not be pleasant. Even with a good understanding of the plan of salvation it may still be difficult, at times,  to carry the burdens of this life. In those dark times it is important to remember to reach out to the Lord so that he might lighten our load. Deliverance from our sufferings will be forthcoming, but often after the trial of our faith. This point brings to mind the story of the captivity of the Israelites by the Egyptians. Moses is sent by the Lord to free them from bondage. The first result of Moses request to the King of Egypt is this:

“And the king of Egypt said unto them, Wherefore do ye, Moses and Aaron, let the people from their works? get you unto your burdens. And Pharaoh commanded the same day the taskmasters of the people, and their officers, saying,Ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick, as heretofore: let them go and gather straw for themselves.And the tale of the bricks, which they did make heretofore, ye shall lay upon them; ye shall not diminish ought thereof…Let there more work be laid upon the men…” (Exodus 5:4, 6-9).

While all of us remember that the Lord sent plagues upon the Egyptians which eventually freed the Israelites, often overlooked is the faith and patience required by God of His own people. I think all of us know individuals who live difficult lives but end up using their challenges as a way to inspire and bless the lives of others. I think these people come to a realization that they are of value and worth, regardless of their circumstances in life. We can become “bitter” at life’s trials or understand that part of the “plan” is learning to overcome “bitterness” and develop attributes of Christ.

Many of the lives of the prophets testify that life can be good even in rainy times. Certainly the greatest example is Christ himself. It doesn’t appear that he was “bitter” at how his life turned out. Let us embrace our trials and make them work for us. As we travel through life with them, make them our friend as they can make us more Christ like. Let us hug the cactus!

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