Life can be so unexpectedly difficult at times. Yet, because of this, we must choose to become better not bitter.
We may find ourselves perplexed and bewildered by the challenges, difficulties, and suffering that encompass us. Sometimes, we may feel to ask as Joseph Smith and Habakkuk of old asked, “O God, where art thou?” (D&C 121:1; see also Habakkuk 1:2-4). Even Jesus Christ cried out from the depths of his humiliating suffering, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).
In these terrible moments of grueling, exhausting suffering we might ask: Why, if I am keeping the commandments, should I suffer? Why, if I am seeking with all my heart to love God and to love my neighbor, should thorns and hedges block my path? Why does it feel that there is no balm in Gilead? Why do my prayers seem to hit an impenetrable brass ceiling? Why have my friends fled? Why do my enemies prowl about me? Why do I not find solace as I seek the Lord?
These and many other piercing, penetrating questions may flow from our hearts in our deepest distress.
Not one trial is wasted.
Yet, these things are all meant to bring us experience, and to draw us closer to God, that our love may be more full, more pure, more refined. Our suffering brings empathy and perspective so that we can say without guile, as did Mormon of the Nephites who would not hear the word of God, “Behold, I…had loved them, according to the love of God which was in me, with all my heart; and my soul had been poured out in prayer unto my God all the day long for them….I fear not what man can do; for perfect love casteth out all fear. And I am filled with charity, which is everlasting love” (Mormon 3:12; Moroni 8:16-17).
As Apostle Orson F. Whitney testified:
“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 and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven” (Orson F. Whitney, quoted by Spencer W. Kimball, in Faith Precedes the Miracle (1972), 98).
How is it possible to feel joy in the midst of such suffering?
We are strong in Christ.
That is the power of the Atonement—it makes us better instead of bitter.
When we are truly at one with God then we are strong in Christ. We leave aside the natural man and we put off the arm of flesh that tempts us to “save” ourselves from suffering. When our hearts have been fully given over to the Lord, that is when the deepest cracks of our brokenness are filled with the warm, saving wax of the Atonement that makes us like new again. Love no longer leaks out of us. We receive love until it overflows and we share freely with others whose vessels need the purity of love in their lives.
When we are healed by the balm of God, instead of allowing our trials to make us cynical and faithless, they make us stronger and more faithful. The suffering, challenge, heartache and difficulty of life become purifying and refining experiences. We love more fully. We enjoy more deeply. We understand more comprehensively. Our patience stretches into the eternities, seemingly, and we know a peace that surpasses all understanding—that pure love of God that pervades His created order.
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Drawing on decades of study and personal experience, Brother Brickey shows us in Making Sense of Suffering that afflictions are brief gifts from God's gentle hands. Our challenge is to bear our afflictions while reconciling our hearts to the will of the Father and the Son.