In 2 Chronicles 20:17 the Lord promises, as we are promised in many places throughout the scriptures, that He will be with us in our trials. I’ll talk about the story behind this verse later in this article.
17 Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the Lord will be with you.
Why is it important to know the Lord will be with us in afflictions? What experiences have shown you that the Lord is with you during times of trial? Doesn’t being “with us” mean He is relieving us of our suffering? If not then what does being “with us” mean?
We all know that life is never just a bed of roses. We may have times of happiness where everything is smooth sailing and life is easy, but those times are always punctuated by times of tragedy and suffering of some sort. The job we love so much is taken from us, leaving us struggling to pay our bills, keep our car, and our self esteem. A loved one unexpectedly becomes ill, is injured, or is taken from us. We may find ourselves in the middle of a crisis of faith or surrounded, unexpectedly, with people who are ridiculing us for how we live our life.
Trials come in many guises, and they don’t usually send a calling card a year in advance of their arrival. Most of the time they appear at our door, like an unwanted visitor we can’t get rid of. As unwanted as adversity is, it serves a vital purpose in our lives.
The Lord declared even before the earth was formed that we needed a place to come to that would be a place of testing and proving (Abraham 3:24-25).
24 And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;
25 And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;
It is human nature to want things to stay the same. We are comfortable with the status quo. Change makes most of us uneasy and uncomfortable. But it is that very sense of unease that causes us to do things differently, to see things in a new light, and to change our opinions about life. These opportunities for change help us in our efforts to become more like Christ. Unfortunately, most of us must first be jolted off our moorings before we are willing to try something new.
Knowing that trials and suffering are a required part of mortality, because of the changes they bring in their wake, does it matter if the Lord gets involved in how we manage our trials? Can we make the needed changes in our lives if the Lord just sets up the scenario for our trials, but then steps back and just watches to see what we will do? Sometimes it feels like the Lord has left us to fend for ourselves, but does He really ever leave us completely alone for long?
Dealing with trials
When we are hit with unexpected problems, or even those problems we see coming from a mile away, there are a number of ways we can react. Some people get into the middle of great adversity and they just seem to shine. It doesn’t seem to matter what happens to them, they always seem to rise to the occasion and come out the victor. Then there are those who seem to sink beneath the waves, and you can see their hand coming up for the third and last time before they are engulfed in their miseries. What causes the difference between these two classes of people?
One difference is their vision. When we are overwhelmed with difficulties and we see no way out or around them, it is easy, and tempting, to throw in the towel and wallow in our sorrows. But something changes when difficulties surround us and we see them as opportunities to draw strength from God to overcome them. This vision, this ability to see beyond the immediate distress and recognize that there is a bigger picture to look at can make all the difference. Here is a snippet from Proverbs 29:18.
18 Where there is no vision, the people perish …
What is this vision King David talks about? Where does it come from, and how does it prevent us from perishing? We know the Lord is not going to prevent us from experiencing trials and tribulation in this life. If anything, the righteous should expect a healthy dose of them, because of the good they can create in our lives. We are here in mortality to become. We need to become filled with more of the godly virtues, like forgiveness, patience, godly sorrow for sin, love, etc. We need to become more like Christ through our choosing to serve, obey, pray, and keep the commandments. We can’t make the changes we need to make without the impetus in our lives for these changes to present themselves. And for most of us, this requires hardship and heartache.
Think about the pioneers and their situation when they were called upon to make the trek to Zion. For many of them just getting to the United States was a monumental task. They had to leave everything they had ever known behind them, never to see again in this life those whom they loved, or the scenes they had grown to see as normal. They made the arduous voyage across the Atlantic to a new country, with new customs, new laws, and among strange people. Many died just making the initial voyage to America.
How could they do this? In large measure it was because they had a vision. They perceived that what they were doing was building up Zion. Their faith is what was carrying them through. They trusted in God that no matter what trials and sorrows faced them along the way that God would be there in their times of distress to whisper peace to their souls. They believed that they were doing the will of God, and thus would be blessed for any sacrifices they had to make along the way.
This is the vision we need as we go through life. If we don’t see a bigger picture than that which our eyes can behold we will lose faith and begin to flounder in our sea of troubles. It is important that we understand that in order to be ultimately successful in passing the trials of mortality, we will have to learn to put our faith in the Lord’s love for us and trust that He will ultimately make all things right, no matter how bleak things look on the surface of the here and now. Without this vision, all there is to look at are the troubles that plague us, and we begin to lose hope. Hope is the great sustaining power that comes from seeing life through the lens of faith.
An example of vision
2 Chronicles 20:10-30 tells the story of King Jehoshaphat. Three armies combined to conquer Israel. There was no way for Israel to defeat such forces, so they went to the temple and pled with the Lord for help. They were told not to worry, because this fight was not for them. This fight was between the invading armies and God. He would fight their battle for them.
The next day the army of Israel went out to meet the invaders, but did as the Lord directed them to do. They stood still and did nothing while the Lord fought for them. As soon as they started to sing God’s praises the Lord turned the three invading armies upon themselves, and the three armies slaughtered themselves down to the last man. The army of Israel went in and found that the invaders had brought so much gold and so many jewels that after four days of despoiling the corpses, they finally gave up and carried what they could back home. Israel never had to lift a finger in their own defense.
Carefully read the passage of this story in the Bible, and look for the patterns. When we are outmatched in life with difficulties, we can turn to the Lord who promises us comfort and guidance. It is rare that He will take away all of our troubles, but I have personally had Him solve problems in my life that were beyond my ability to fix. And the resolution of the problem came, literally within 24 hours of the time when all would be lost. Up to that point it was my responsibility to do all in my power to solve my problems the best way I knew how.
We are always given the option of giving up on the Lord or trusting in the Lord even when all avenues seem blocked. But it is only when we choose to look beyond what seems possible and rational, and we put our faith in the Lord’s greater strength and ability that we find miracles happening in our lives. Sometimes those miracles are so private that no one else would even notice their existence, but we do.
So how is the Lord “with us” during times of trial and heartache? He is there based on the faith and effort we put into being obedient to the commandments. He is there based on our willingness to trust in Him even when we cannot see a physical way out of our current troubles. He is God, after all, and He is our Father. When we put our faith, our trust in His desire to help us, especially when we have done all in our power to help ourselves, we will find that the Spirit will give us knowledge, direction, peace, forgiveness, or whatever else it is for which we stand in need at that time.
Sometimes there are miraculous outcomes, and sometimes our patience and faith are put to the test. How long can we continue to be faithful in the absence of reassuring and comforting answers to our prayers? Only the Lord knows how long we need to go before we have learned the lesson we need to learn.
None of us like to go through trials and adversity, but as we deliberately work to put our trust in our God, we will find that He never fails us. Each time we go through this process of overcoming what ails us, whether it be financial, emotional, spiritual, social, or intellectual in nature, we can use the strength we gain from the experience to prepare ourselves for the trials that lay ahead. The more faith and trust we learn to exercise in the Lord, the more we come to understand the true nature of His love for us, and the greater appreciation we have for the Savior’s work in our behalf.
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