There are times when all of us feel overwhelmed with the demands placed upon us from all directions. Family needs our time, work our loyalty and devotion, in addition to a big chunk of our time. The Church service we elect to give is also time consuming, especially if we want to serve with all our heart, might, mind, and strength. And this list hasn’t included civic responsibilities, lessons, games, and performances for the children. Nor does it include personal development, like schooling, scripture study, personal, couple, and family prayers, Family Home Evening, date nights, Home and Visiting Teaching, the ever present service projects, etc.
Just reading that list makes me gasp for air and want to collapse into a chair. There are two common reactions to lists like this, we go numb and become complacent, like me as I watch the laundry pile up in the corner of the room (How does that happen?), or we become overwhelmed by the perceived enormity of the demands on our time. When we become overwhelmed it can lead to complacency or a sense of defeat, like the battle has been lost before it gets fought.
I can’t help you with your housework or soccer practices, but I do have some advice from President Eyring given in a Conference talk from April, 2007. If followed, his counsel will help you feel less defeated, and more hopeful in your Church service and in life. Sometimes, when we know full well we can’t change our physical circumstances, just knowing there is a way to cope better with our situation is about all we can hope for. Coping is good, especially when the Lord adds His strength to ours to help us with our load. Maybe that is why we are told to take upon ourselves His yoke, because His burden is light.
There is danger in rest
Even for the most seasoned of members, and sometimes especially for those who have served the longest and hardest among us, there is a special lie waiting to be told by Satan. Here is how President Eyring put it:
The better and the longer you serve, the more likely that the tempter can place this lie in your mind: “You have earned a rest.” … The temptation will be to believe that you will return to serve again, someday.
The danger in feeling like we have done our share of the work and that we need to “offer” the blessings of service to the newer or younger members of the Church is that we are cheating ourselves out of the blessings that come with that service. We don’t know how much we need to serve and do in order for us to have the Spirit effect that mighty change of heart we all seek. Except for a few special instances in the scriptures where it happened quickly, the rest of us have to work on obtaining that change of heart our whole lives. If we feel like we don’t want to serve any more then we haven’t yet obtained that change of heart that is so essential to our salvation.
It is hard to know when we have done enough for the Atonement to change our natures and so qualify us for eternal life. And we don’t know how many days we will have to give the service necessary for that mighty change to come. But we know that we will have days enough if only we don’t waste them.
Can you imagine the Lord deciding that he has done enough and deserves a break from serving? Can you see him saying, “Not today. I’m tired. Perhaps next week I’ll go to church or do my visits”? Sometimes we forget that there is a good reason why mortality is called a probationary state. Life here is temporary. It is fleeting. We are only here for a few moments in our eternal lives. Now is not the time to decide we will sit down and rest from our labors.
This is our final test. In our eternal schooling to become like our heavenly parents, this is the qualifying exam. We can enjoy the fruits of our exertions for the rest of eternity, but we have to pass this exam first to earn that right. In this test of mortality we are not being judged on how many dollars we accumulate or how much real estate we can amass. This test is about how much desire we can show to our Father in Heaven that we want to be with Him, to be like Him.
Passing this exam is all about literally wearing out our lives in the service of others. Why? Because that is the primary character trait of our heavenly parents. Selflessness is THE godly virtue. We call it charity, the pure love of Christ. Those possessed of this quality learn that service and expressing God’s love to others is the only thing that really matters. There is no purpose to life if there is no love in it.
Christ, and love are the ultimate answers
So we are dirt poor and can’t afford to do anything. We are bedridden or crippled with infirmities or age. We are emotionally impaired or physically or socially handicapped. We all have limitations that prevent us from serving the masses, but this does not prevent us from being able to do enough to pass the test of life. There is always hope, because there is always the Savior to make up for our lack of abilities.
Here is a hefty quote from President Eyring’s talk that will lighten your heart and give you hope.
That assurance from the Master [that we have the time in mortality to do what needs to be done] can help those of us feeling overwhelmed by our circumstances. In the hardest trials, as long as you have the power to pray, you can ask a loving God: “Please let me serve, this day. It doesn’t matter to me how few things I may be able to do. Just let me know what I can do. I will obey this day. I know that I can, with Thy help.”
The quiet invitation to you may be to do so simple a thing as to forgive someone who has offended you. You can do that from a hospital bed. It may be to go to help someone who is hungry. You may feel overwhelmed by your own poverty and the labors of the day. But if you decide not to wait until you have more strength and more money, and if you pray for the Holy Spirit as you go, you will when you arrive know what to do and how to help someone even poorer than you are. You may find when you get there that they were praying and expecting that someone like you would come, in the name of the Lord.
For those who are discouraged by their circumstances and are therefore tempted to feel they cannot serve the Lord this day, I make you two promises. Hard as things seem today, they will be better in the next day if you choose to serve the Lord this day with your whole heart. Your circumstances may not be improved in all the ways which you desire. But you will have been given new strength to carry your burdens and new confidence that when your burdens become too heavy, the Lord, whom you have served, will carry what you cannot. He knows how. He prepared long ago. He suffered your infirmities and your sorrows when He was in the flesh so that He would know how to succor you.
Here is the key
So the answer to our fatigue, the weight of our burdens, and the pressures of each day is to seek the Lord today, to do something, anything to be of service to Him who carries the parts of our life’s burdens we don’t have the strength to carry. He will bless us with peace. He will bless us with hope. He will open doors for us when we feel like we can’t go on. He will help us see the joy that loving service to others can bring. He will change our hearts so that we cannot imagine a life without service to others, under any conditions.
By serving Him this day, you will come to know Him better. You will feel His love and appreciation. You would not want to delay receiving that blessing. And feeling His love will draw you back to His service, wiping away both complacency and discouragement.
Henry B. Eyring
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles