My mother attended a church service recently where the speaker talked about overcoming adversity. She was impressed enough by the message that she asked for a copy and shared it with me. I felt like it would be a powerful addition to this blog, so I requested and obtained permission from the speaker to include it here:
OVERCOMING ADVERSITY AND TRIALS
By Reed K.Wilson
I was given a little latitude with my topic and in the course of a lot of thought, prayer and worry, I decided on my talk. I noticed over a period of time a pattern in the Conference and Ensign talks each month. So I followed suite and I thought I would speak on Overcoming Adversity and Trials. So I appropriately named my talk “Misery Loves Company”.
In our world today there is a lot that is going on. We are constantly bombarded with the problems of the world not to mention our own.
A few current stats:
1. The US Unemployment falls to lowest rate in four years.
2. The United States has the highest divorce rate on the planet with nearly five divorces per 1000 people. That may not seem that high till we consider the Marriage rate in the US is nearly 10 per 1000 people. This means approximately half of all people who marry will get divorced.
3. 1 in every 869 housing units nationwide received a foreclosure filing in January 2013.
4. FEMA has declared 146 Major Disasters; nationwide in the last 2 years, with 7 already this year.
I know some of these are issues we deal with right here in our own ward. Add to this some of the other problems we face daily. Health problems will always be abundant. Some of you may have lost a dear family member or friend. I had a friend just last week watch his 12 year old daughter pass away. We never have to look too far for some type of tragedy.
A common misunderstanding among members of the Church is that if we strive with all our might to live the commandments, nothing bad will happen to us. We may believe if we are married in the temple, our marriage will automatically be heaven on earth, or if we live the Word of Wisdom, we will never get sick. But the truth is that bad things may happen to the best of people. The consequences of good and bad actions will come, but they do not always come immediately, and they may not even come in this life.
“The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that it is a false idea to believe that the saints will escape all the judgments—disease, pestilence, war, etc.—of the last days; consequently, it is an unhallowed principle to say that these adversities are due to transgression.
“President Joseph F. Smith taught that it is a feeble thought to believe that the illness and affliction that come to us are attributed either to the mercy or the displeasure of God.”
We are not always healed from pain and sickness. Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve has said, “Sometimes we are ‘healed’ by being given strength or understanding or patience to bear the burdens placed upon us.”
The Purposes of Adversity
Apostle Orson F. Whitney, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, explained: “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire.”
Trials give us opportunities to show the Lord and ourselves that we will be faithful. We can choose to feel sorry for ourselves and ask, “Why me?” or we can grow from our trials, increase our faith in the Lord, and ask, “How can I be faithful in the midst of this trial?” We can let adversity break us down and make us bitter, or we can let it refine us and make us stronger. We can allow adversity to lead us to drift away from the things that matter most, or we can use it as a stepping-stone to grow closer to things of eternal worth.
Pres. Wilford Woodruff said: It is impossible … for the Saints of God to inherit a celestial kingdom without their being tried as to whether they will abide in the covenants of the Lord or not.
Spiritual growth is often achieved more readily by trials and adversity than by comfort and tranquility. Trials can teach us that faith in God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ is the source of inner strength. President David O. McKay recounted the testimony of one of the survivors of the ill-fated Martin handcart company, who said: “We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but … [we] came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with Him in our extremities.”
Benefiting from Adversity
Since adversity will come to us all, consider the following ideas I retrieved from different talks and devotionals to help face trials and benefit from them.
• Rely on Christ
One of the purposes of trials is to help us come to know Christ, understand His teachings in our minds, feel them in our hearts, and live them in our lives. Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explains that God loves us perfectly and “would not require [us] to experience a moment more of difficulty than is absolutely needed for [our] personal benefit or for that of those [we] love.” President Harold B. Lee once remarked: “Sometimes when [we] are going through the most severe tests, [we] will be nearer to God than [we] have any idea.”
When we turn to Christ, we will not only find the comfort we seek, but in so doing we will also gain an increased testimony of the reality of the Savior and His Atonement, which can heal all suffering. We often speak of the Atonement in terms of relief from sin and guilt. But the Atonement is more. Alma taught that Christ suffered pains, afflictions, and temptations of every kind so He could be filled with mercy and know how to succor His people according to their infirmities. In Alma 7:11–12 it reads:
11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. 12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
The Atonement can heal the effects of all pain and affliction in mortality. When suffering is our fault, we can be cleansed through repentance, and “after all we can do,” the Atonement can compensate for the consequences of our sins. It can also compensate for the harmful effects of our ignorance or neglect, the pain caused by the willful actions of others, and the suffering that comes as a result of living in a natural world.
God lets us have difficult days, months, or lives so we can grow from these experiences. I believe that the specific challenges I have faced in my life were specific to the lessons I needed to learn. I believe I am the man I am today because of the trials I’ve experienced, not in spite of them.
• Rely on Others
President Spencer W. Kimball taught, “God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs.” We need to allow other people to be instruments in the Lord’s hands to help us through the challenges in life.
We have the help of our Stake President, Bishop, Priesthood Leaders, Home Teachers, etc. We need to remember to call upon them, remember Misery does love company.
• Let Adversity Make You a Better Person
Here, is a great truth. In the pain, the agony, and the heroic endeavors of life, we pass through a refiner’s fire, and the insignificant and the unimportant in our lives can melt away and make our faith bright, intact, and strong. In this way the divine image can be mirrored from the soul. It is part of the purging toll exacted to become acquainted with God. In the agonies of life, we seem to listen better to the faint, godly whisperings of the Divine Shepherd. Sometimes humility is needed in our lives, for us to listen.
It often is very hard to get the rose without feeling the sharpness of the thorn. The thorns that prick, that stick in the flesh, that hurt, often change lives which seem robbed of significance and hope. This change comes about through a refining process which often seems cruel and hard. In this way the soul can become like soft clay in the hands of the Master in building lives of faith, usefulness, beauty, and strength. For some, the refiner’s fire causes a loss of belief and faith in God, but those with eternal perspective understand that such refining is part of the perfection process.
• Live with Integrity
When faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges, we may be tempted to take the easy way out.
President Thomas S. Monson said: “The moral compass of society [has been evolving at a rapid rate]. Behaviors … once … considered inappropriate and immoral are now … viewed by … many as acceptable.”
Yielding to adversity makes us weaker. Keeping the commandments makes us stronger and helps us overcome every challenge in life. Through faith and obedience, we qualify for the divine spiritual guidance we need to guide us along unknown roads.
• Be Patient
We live in a world of instant gratification. We want fast food, quick loans, and instant solutions to our problems. However, the Lord may ask us to show our faith by enduring some problems patiently. Today, we may not be able to grasp all the reasons for our challenges or the opportunities they will give us to grow. We may have to learn line upon line. As we patiently endure in righteousness, He may reveal to us greater understanding about our trials and the purpose of them in our lives.
Doctrine and Covenants 24:8 says, “Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many; but endure them, for lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days.”
• Keep an Eternal Perspective
Some of the challenges we experience in this life are conditions of mortality that will not continue into the next life. President Brigham Young taught: “We talk about our trials and troubles here in this life; but suppose that you could see yourselves thousands and millions of years after you have proved faithful to your religion during the few short years in this time, and have obtained eternal salvation and a crown of glory in the presence of God? Then look back upon your lives here, and see the losses, crosses, and disappointments, the sorrows … ; you would be constrained to exclaim, ‘but what of all that? Those things were but for a moment, and we are now here. We have been faithful during a few moments in our mortality, and now we enjoy eternal life and glory, with power to progress in all the boundless knowledge and through the countless stages of progression, enjoying the smiles and approbation of our Father and God, and of Jesus Christ our elder brother.’”
If we turn to Christ with faith and patience, we can have the strength we need to face adversity. The doctrines of the restored gospel give us an eternal perspective that provides hope and courage to bear all of life’s trials. Each of us has the strength to bear our challenges in life because of who we are, who God is, and who we are together.
Much suffering comes as a direct result of sin. When we use our agency to disregard the commandments of God, we follow Satan’s plan of misery rather than God’s plan of happiness.
Other trials come as a result of unwise choices. For example, we may be burdened with financial debt because we chose to make purchases on credit rather than delay purchases until we could afford to pay in cash.
Yet other challenges may come as a natural result of mortality and the world we live in. We are mortals with bodies that will age and may become ill or injured.
One purpose of trials is to help us come to know Christ, understand His teachings in our minds, feel them in our hearts, and live them in our lives.
One of my favorite quotes is from President Gordon B. Hinckley, he states;
“Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal, is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting the he’s been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop, most beef is tough, most children grow up to just be people, most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration, most jobs are more often dull than otherwise… The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”
I’ve learned that the way I respond to trials can have a great effect on whether they become roadblocks in my life or opportunities for learning and growth. When I anguish over difficulties, the experiences only weigh me down. But remembering that these trials are part of the great plan of happiness helps me to see them as opportunities to learn and grow.