I had a few people ask me to post the talk I gave on Sunday…so, here it is. 🙂
The topic this month has been faith in adversity. We’ve heard wonderful talks. Sis. Bartlett and Bro. Brinkerhoff’s in particular stuck out in my mind, on how their faith carried them through extremely difficult times in their lives. I was so moved by their stories and testimonies. They overcame Goliath size trials in their lives. I am grateful for their example and experience, and as I go through my own adversities, I can recall their steadfastness and hopefully apply it when those times arise in my life.
I was all prepared for them to jump to work with smiles stretched across their faces. Because after all I just planned the perfect family vacation and surely they want to show their gratitude by doing their part.
Then, I hear one child from the back of the van say (with a whine), “You know I’m tired when we get home from vacations.”
Well!!! You can guess that that little comment ruffled my feathers. Which lead to a full on lecture about how blessed we are to have been able to go on vacation at all, and how I’ve worked so hard to even make this happen and the least you could do is bring in the luggage. Which lead to some serious back pedaling by said child.
I like to think I’m a pretty good parent. Jared and I try to teach our children to have integrity, and help others and to be kind. But when it comes to certain areas such as feeling entitled, expecting to be waited on hand and foot, perhaps we need a little more work. Now I know that this is an isolated incident. I know it’s not the end of the world and that this particular child really can be a good worker. But this along with a succession of other instances lately have really made me think about how entitlement can be so detrimental and how I don’t want that feeling in our house.
I know there are so many other parents out there who want the same thing. Polls suggest that a feeling of entitlement among kids is one of the single biggest worries of parents in our society today.
What happens if we allow entitlement to weaken our faith during times of trial? For me, I see it as that tiny little crack I mentioned before. With this tiny crack our foundation becomes less strong. It doesn’t necessarily mean we fall to pieces right then and their but we aren’t as solid and sure as we were before. What is our foundation? Our foundation is our faith in Jesus Christ. In (Alma 44:4) it says: Now ye see that this is the true faith of God; yea, ye see that God will support, and keep, and preserve us, so long as we are faithful unto him, and unto our faith, and our religion; and never will the Lord suffer that we shall be destroyed except we should fall into transgression and deny our faith. This scripture tells us we are promised that if we hold to our faith we will be supported and preserved by God. That is music to my ears!
But is that easier said than done? There have been many times in my life I haven’t fully understood why a trial has been placed upon me or my family. I always miscarry a pregnancy before I can carry a successful pregnancy. I suffered postpartum depression after my 2nd son was born. Later that child at 1.5 years old was hospitalized for 2 weeks and at that same time my husband had hand surgery and his boss came to the house and told him the company was downsizing. After having my daughter I was hospitalized with a severe kidney infection for a week. My extended family chooses to be inactive and most have left the church. My husband suffers from Multiple Sclerosis. And more recently, you may have noticed me hobbling around in a super fashionable black boot that I know so many of you are so jealous of.
I injured my foot 7 months ago and until recently no one has really had any clear answers as to why an injury that should take about 6 weeks has taken about 5 times longer than anticipated. I have received two blessings over this time frame, and the eternal optimist in me felt pretty good after the 1st blessing was given. It was straight forward and it felt pretty promising. Fast forward 5 more months and there was still no big improvements. I asked for a 2nd blessing. Before the blessing was given I had all of these GRAND thoughts about what the Lord will have to say. I had visions of being miraculously healed. I envisioned myself running through fields and being able to dance in the streets! I felt I’ve carried this burden long enough, surely He will say, “Vanessa you’ve suffered enough, be healed.” Well, long story short He did not. Instead I was told that some trials are placed upon us for our own good and so that we may grow. The blessing then continued on to list things I needed to improve on.
Well….that was a tough pill to swallow! My heart sank and my faith was absolutely tried even further at that moment. I felt I had endured all that I could handle already. I was at my breaking point. But here the Lord was telling me, “Sorry Charlie…I’m not quite done with you yet.” My feelings of entitlement were bursting at the seams. I had to take a step back and allow the words of that blessing sit and stew in my mind a while. It was hard…really hard…but I had to soften my heart and put my pride aside to be able to accept that Heavenly Father wanted even more from me. We all have adversities. I’m sure mine probably pale in comparison to those that you may have to endure. But commonly, these trials can make us or break us. No one leaves this life unscathed.
A lot of times we find ourselves asking the ‘why’ questions. However, the ‘what’ questions give us something to ‘DO’ and are typically more productive and less likely to drive a person mad. What am I supposed to learn? Or what is the best solution to this problem? What is thy will? I have a ‘doer’ personality. I see a problem and I want to fix it. But as we all know sometimes nothing can be done and that is when the biggest test of our faith during adversity comes, as we must rely completely on the Lord. When answers don’t come the way we want them to or in the time frame we want, doubt enters and we begin to feel like our prayers aren’t being heard. Feelings of loneliness creep in and our faith begins to waver.
In the July/August edition of LDS Living Magazine there was an article about Attorney Keith N. Hamilton who joined the Church in 1980 and served as one of the first black bishops. His example of faith through adversity in his life are certainly noteworthy. He talks about his great-grandfather, a slave freed by the Emancipation Proclamation while living in what is now known as West Virginia. His great-grandfather became a Christian minister, as did his Grandfather, he affectionately called ‘Granddaddy.’
He goes on to say, “I cannot remember a time when I did not believe in God. Some of my earliest memories involve going to Shiloh Baptist Church in Norfolk to see and hear Granddaddy preach his sermons. He died in February 1962, and his passing was the first time I experienced the death of a close loved one…. To my dismay, I soon became much more familiar with death, viewings, and funerals than I would have liked, as over the next 10 yrs. I attended the funerals, in chronological order of my mother, maternal grandfather, my paternal grandmother, and my father. My maternal grandmother and all my great-grandparents had died before my birth; thus, shortly after my 14 the birthday, I had no living forbears.
Growing up when I did, and where I did, was not coincidental either. I lived all of my days prior to leaving on my LDS mission in either Virginia or North Carolina. As a product of the Civil Rights era, I remember experiencing segregation, prejudice, and overt acts of racism as a child and teenager. Throughout my entire life I have witnessed the struggles of my people, in person or through the various forms of media.
…”I joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in August 1980…..Two missionaries “tracted” me at my off campus residence and two weeks later I got baptized. I chose to become a member of the LDS faith following a divine response to my sincere prayer, and because of the truthfulness of the Church’s doctrine, but certainly not because of any social or cultural benefit or advantage I expected to gain…
In Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet there is a writing entitled “On Joy and Sorrow” wherein he eloquently describes the relationship of opposition in all things, saying:
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises
Was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being,
The more joy you can contain.
….Those of us that have experienced trials, hardships, and adversities have a greater capacity to recognize, receive, and contain the joy of the gospel than some others because of the deep sorrow carved into our souls by past experiences.
Adversity, through its many forms and faces, has dug a deep well of sorrow-and thereby created the potential for greater joy in the lives of many peoples, not just blacks of this dispensation. Early LDS Church members suffered great hardship in establishing the Church in the Eastern states, as did the pioneers who crossed the plains into the Rocky Mountains. Twentieth-century Jews experienced horrendous atrocities during the reign of Adolf Hitler. Trials and adversity have been the lot for all for God’s peoples in all dispensations, including this dispensation…”
ELDER JOHN K. CARMACK Of the Seventy (Lord, Increase Our Faith March 2002)
We do not increase our faith by following a formula, although the ingredients of fasting, prayer, and righteous living are part of that process. Increasing our faith requires trusting the Lord with our whole souls. We cannot say, “We have done enough and deserve to rest.” Nor does the increase come through definitions, logic, or philosophy. Rather, we must:
• Do what is right and serve the Lord because we know, trust, and love Him with all of our souls.
• Harbor no thought that we deserve a reward or thanks for what we do, although rewards will surely come.
• Humbly ask, seek, and knock.
• Never demand anything of our Lord, because we are always in His debt.
• Leave to Him the final decision in all things, having the attitude “Not my will, but thine be done.”
• Be prepared to sacrifice, even unto death, for our entire mortal lives.
As members of the Lord’s Church, we can increase our faith, if we desire, by going beyond the minimum requirements of the gospel and developing complete trust in the Lord.
I want to bear my testimony to you that as much as it seems ideal to go through our lives as if everything is butterflies and rainbows… it is not God’s plan. He has to stretch us and take us to places we would never go on our own. These experiences are what shape us and make us who we are today and who we will become tomorrow. Each one of us will be tested in one way or another, multiple times throughout our “Long Lives.” He will allow us to fall to our knees and plead our case before him; He will hear us as we cry out His name as we feel frustrated, scared, panicked, lost, concerned and even when we feel we are all alone. When we become humble, meek, teachable, patient and faithful, He will come to us in the very hour of our need. But in His timing not ours….ELDER CARMACK also said, “Increasing our faith requires trusting the Lord with our whole souls and striving to act as He would in all circumstances.” We should not question the Lord’s will or allow our feelings of entitlement to stand in the way of being able to grow in our faith and sainthood. I just want to close with two quick scriptures on this subject…. (Ephesians 5:20) says, “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;” and in (D&C 98:1) “Verily I say unto you my friends, fear not, let your hearts be comforted; yea, rejoice evermore, and in everything give thanks;”
I say this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.