Read parts one, two, and three of this four-part series in which we look at how the Lord hopes we will learn to look at suffering in this life.
Clinging to the Savior
In this instance, I really like the word “clinging.” To make it through mortality and through times of great heartache, something as casual as “walking alongside of,” “holding His hand,” or something similar just doesn’t cut it for me. When I have been betrayed or feel unjustly accused, or experience some other feeling that makes me feel outraged at the sheer injustice of it all, if I am not hanging onto the Savior with both hands, I am likely to head out and do something stupid. It is only by grasping at His example, clinging to the commandments, begging for personal forgiveness for the unrighteous feelings I am experiencing, or pleading for love to fill the void in my soul caused by anger or hatred, that I am able to stay connected to the Spirit of the Lord. And it is only with the Spirit that I find any peace.
If there is ever a time in our lives when we need peace, it is in times of tragedy, hurt, sorrow, anger, despair, in the midst of addictions, and times of uncontrolled emotional spiraling. (You have to have experienced that last one to understand it.) One of the greatest titles for our Savior is The Prince of Peace. It is during times of hopelessness and abandonment, agitation, restlessness, frustration, anger, resentment, and a host of other unpleasant sensations, that we can turn to Christ and find peace.
To find peace in Jesus and the Atonement He offers us requires that we cling to His commandments and practice what He preaches. We must be willing to cast off any habit that holds us back and change any practice that hinders our progress. We must be willing to remake ourselves in His image and become like Him.
Gratitude Above All
To me one of the scariest statements ever made in the scriptures is made by Job (Job 1:20 – 21):
20 Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped,
21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
How can someone say this who has just received news that everything and everyone he ever held dear has just been destroyed? It was needless and tragic without any sense or purpose. It was pure loss for the sake of loss. Yet in the midst of this pain and sting of loss, Job bows himself down and worships God, and, acknowledging his origin in mortality and his destiny in mortality, still blesses the name of the Lord.
Whether Job was a real man or an object lesson is immaterial. Job had two things most of us often lack: perspective and gratitude. He knew where his blessings came from. He took no credit for his family being alive or his flocks being large in number. He knew it was the Lord’s doing. These things were blessings bestowed upon Job. He took no credit for having attained such a lofty social status. He gave all that credit to God. When all of those things were stripped in an instant, Job mourned, to be sure, but he did not blame the Lord for being anything but what the Lord always is: generous. Where was his “Why me?” Where were his rants and ravings about how unfair and unjust it was? Where was his sobbing or anger over the fact that he was now penniless, alone, and stripped of all social status and position in life that he had ever enjoyed? Where was any of that which would have come so quickly and naturally for most of us?
Job readily acknowledged that it was the Lord’s blessing to give and, likewise, His to take away. Either way, Job would praise Him and acknowledge His supremacy in all things—so even in the midst of his personal sorrow and suffering for the boils, poverty, and loss of his family, he was able to honestly and humbly praise the Lord for His tender mercies, even though it appeared that none of them applied to him at the moment.
Without getting into a whole discussion about Job, I want to make this point again: I think many of us often lack Job’s perspective and most certainly his sense of gratitude. When we are placed in trying circumstances—when we have lost our job, our spouse has just walked out on us, or we just found out we are now a widow or widower (at any age) — do we immediately have the perspective and gratitude to openly acknowledge that “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord”?
In order to openly and honestly bless the name of the Lord when we are in the midst of suffering, from any source, we must already be profoundly grateful for what we have had in the past. This requires that we practice acts and expressions of gratitude on a daily basis. If we don’t, then when something happens to us and we find ourselves being tried, it will be easy to turn on the Lord and accuse Him of playing favorites, abandoning us, or of some other silly and untrue idea.
To find joy in sorrow is not easy. To lift up our heads and be of good cheer while the world falls apart around us may seem impossible. Just try to remember that the loss of faith, the loss of hope, and the perspective that all is lost, are not from God. The Lord would have us look at the victories He has already won for us. He would have us remember that He is in control and that we need to put our trust in Him because He has never lost control of this life. Even those who lose their lives are in His hands. We have nothing to fear when we put our trust and faith in the Lord. We can look anyone in the eye and have confidence of the Lord’s approval. It doesn’t matter what anyone can do to us or what happens to us in mortality. All that really matters is what happens between our God and us.
So go out and find your joy. Serve someone who is worse off than you are. Yes, there are actually people out there worse off than you are! Make time to worship in the temple or study your scriptures. Pray like there is no tomorrow until you get an answer. Practice the virtues. Be patient and love each person you meet, even if they don’t love you back. Look for ways to acknowledge the Lord’s supremacy in all things so you can be grateful for what you have, no matter how little it seems to be. You could always have less. And most of all, express your gratitude for being able to be of use in the Lord’s service to your brothers and sisters in mortality. In service there is joy.
Here are some great talks given on this subject that will help you find joy even in times of sorrow.
David E. Bednar, “Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease,” April 2014
Thomas S. Monson, “Finding Joy in the Journey,” October 2008
Russell M. Nelson, “Endure and Be Lifted Up,” April 1997 General Conference
Neal A. Maxwell, “Be of Good Cheer,” October 1982
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LDSBlogs – Cling to the Savior and be Grateful – Part 4 of 4
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