Frequently, our first reaction to hard things is “Why me?
This is true, but why? Hard things happen to everyone all the time, so why don’t we anticipate them? Why do we feel that somehow we should be shielded from hard things while everyone else isn’t?
Joseph Smith confronted a hard thing in Liberty Jail. With no relief in sight and in despair, Joseph cried out, “O God, where art thou?” No doubt some of us have felt as Joseph did.
This dialogue between Joseph and God that M. Joseph Brough relates is remarkably intimate, relatable, and revealing. It is a testament to how close God always is, even when we are deep within dark places. He has the power to immediately end the suffering, but he forbears. He sees more than we do, around us, inside us, and beyond us.
I was forever changed upon hearing these words from Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve, spoken in the midst of his struggle with leukemia. He said, “I was doing some pensive pondering and these 13 instructive and reassuring words came into my mind: ‘I have given you leukemia that you might teach my people with authenticity.’” He then went on to express how this experience had blessed him with “perspective about the great realities of eternity. … Such glimpses of eternity can help us to travel the next 100 yards, which may be very difficult.”
Neal A. Maxwell is my favorite general authority. I met him once. I was serving as a missionary in Idaho when my companion and I, joined by two other elders dared to walk up to the stand and see if we could shake his hand and maybe get a picture with him afterward.
We were young and foolish. With great admiration, I shook the hand of Neal A. Maxwell who offered a kind smile. Then, to my horror, my companion said, “Elder Maxwell, you are such a great apostle, will you take a picture with us after the meeting?”
Yes, my companion used the “commitment pattern” on an apostle of the Lord. Elder Maxwell’s smile turned into something a little less as he sat back a little, took us all in and blinked a few times. He replied, “Sure, elders, if there is time.”
We rushed to head him off after the meeting and upon seeing us he said, “Elders, let’s take that picture.” I felt totally embarrassed but it was quickly overshadowed by the excitement of getting a picture with an apostle.
It was hard to see him lose his hair and go through chemo and this story stuck with me from the day I heard it from his own mouth. It seems like there are many layers to this idea of ‘teaching with authenticity’ and I’ll probably continue rolling it around in my mind for quite some time.
It can hurt most when our hard thing is caused by a family member, a close friend, or even ourselves.
I think we can be harshest with those who we are the most familiar and comfortable with while we are generally more polite and patient with complete strangers.
It doesn’t seem to make much sense; it should be the opposite. This is a barrier to Zion.
When my wife entered our daughter’s room to tell her our decision, she saw our daughter kneeling in prayer with the Book of Mormon open on the bed. The Spirit whispered to my wife, “She will be OK,” and my wife quietly left the room.
I have four daughters so this story really touched me. The girl’s dream was to play basketball in high school and maybe she could have done very well and had many great memories from those experiences. But the maturity and closeness to the Lord that came through passionate weeping, desire, focus, and sacrifice was no doubt infinitely more valuable.
The Savior faced hard things: “The world … shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men.”
There is power in being able to retain your perspective when your consciousness is overshadowed by extremes. There is no power in being one who is easily manipulated by the actions of others whether great or very small.
It’s one reason I hate the idea of ‘microaggressions.’ Now, we worry not only about normal aggressions but we are seeking to become acutely aware of the tiniest ‘aggression’ one may have and magnify it to a level of importance that is absurd. This is a huge leap in the opposite direction of the teachings of the Lord and another sign of our times.
He says to each one of us, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
This brings no comfort to me on the surface; one would have to have a knowledge or at least great faith in the idea or the existence of the afterlife. Jesus’ words here are futile without the perspective they imply.
Jesus was able to bear everything that he did because he saw beyond his own life. He was willing to lay it down. At what point he gained that vision is not clear, but he did. I think he is trying to explain to us that we can have that same vision and be able to endure as he did.