We all want to follow Heavenly Father's plan for us. But sometimes Satan takes advantage of our righteous desires to prevent us from progressing.
Alice is a 28-year-old who just completed her masters program. Since she was a little girl, she’s had a dream of getting married in the temple to the man of her dreams.
She has dated countless men over the years, but every time a relationship starts to get serious, and Alice begins to feel the natural flame of desire begin to grow for her new boyfriend, she panics and pulls away.
She’s terrified that things will get too physical. She’d rather call things off with one of these potential suitors than run the risk of “screwing up” in a moment of passion, preventing her from getting married in the temple.
• • •
Dustin, a 22-year-old returned missionary dreams of doing something incredible with his life. He wants to be an entrepreneur . . . or a doctor . . . or a lawyer . . . or an engineer. Honestly, he’s not sure. He has a lot of passions and interests. One thing Dustin is sure of is that he wants to make sure he chooses the correct path so that God can use him as a powerful tool to influence the lives of others.
The summer after he graduates with his bachelor's degree in general academics, he avoids getting a full-time job or starting his own company in case the Lord prompts him to go apply to grad school. He also doesn’t apply to grad school because he doesn’t feel a clear heavenly confirmation regarding which path to take. He also doesn’t date any of the girls in his ward because he might be gone in a few months and doesn’t want to cause anyone unnecessary pain.
More than anything, Dustin doesn’t want to choose the wrong thing and ruin God’s plan for his future.
• • •
Betsy is living the dream of the ideal Latter-day Saint family. She has a kind, gentle, and attentive husband who works hard at his job so she can fulfill her dream of staying home to raise her three beautiful kids, leads regular family home evenings, helps with the chores around the house, and encourages her to regularly spend time out of the house with her friends while he plays with the kids. They live in a gorgeous suburban house with a big yard, and inspirational scripture quotes made out of vinyl hanging over her doorways.
One day, Betsy’s wonderful husband confesses to her that he has been stressed and overwhelmed with work and has been watching pornography to help himself cope. The news catches her off guard, and she feels a profound sense of betrayal. She vacillates between feeling anger and a lack of trust toward her husband and a sense of empathy coupled with a desire to help him overcome his struggle.
She hears close friends and family say that if their husbands were ever caught looking at pornography, they would divorce them without a second thought. She feels ashamed and hopeless and doesn’t know whether to fight to forgive him, heal her heart, and rebuild the marriage she still hopes for with the man she still sees so much good in, or to walk away and pursue her dream with someone she can trust. She’s caught between a rock and a hard place.
• • •
You have hopes and dreams that are important to you. Some of your worst fears might be the possibility that you may not realize those dreams, live out God’s plan for your, or experience the promises found in your patriarchal blessing.
You might fear the possibility of not realizing your divine potential so much that you’ve become paralyzed, unable to take action.
Day after day you wait and pray that your virtuous desires—your temple marriage, your successful career, your ideal family—will somehow manifest themselves in your life if you simply continue to live righteously and have enough faith.
The longer you wait, the further your goals seem to drift away from you. One day you wake up and you realize that you’re stuck.
Satan has used your fear of failing to obtain the righteous desires of your heart to trick you into a state of inaction and lack of progress—damnation.
This realization can be painful, even heartbreaking. The memory of wasted days and missed opportunities can haunt you in the form of horrible anxiety, depression, guilt, or remorse. Lucky for us, damnation (a halt in progress) never needs to be permanent in this life.
Elder Lynn G. Robbins has said, “Repentance is God’s ever-accessible gift that allows and enables us to go from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm. Repentance isn’t His backup plan in the event we might fail. Repentance is His plan, knowing that we will.”
So, if you find yourself stuck, there is hope!
You can repent. You can, as the Bible Dictionary puts it, “experience a change of mind, a fresh view about God, about [yourself], and about the world.”
Rather than fearing failure to achieve your greatest hopes and desires, change your perspective and realize that the path to your dreams is paved with failures. Just like Nephi had to try three separate times to reclaim the brass plates before seeing success. Just like Joseph had to return to the Hill Cumorah three years in a row before Moroni let him possess the plates. Just like Abinadi, who returned over and over to call the wicked King Noah to repentance, was eventually killed and never in this life got to see the fruits of his labors. Just like Alma and Amulek, who were missionaries for the Lord, were thrown into prison, starved, beaten, and forced to watch the people they loved and taught the gospel be burned to death.
Success is all about making a sincere effort, falling short, getting back up, and persevering till you gain your eternal reward.
For Alice, it means learning to trust herself to set appropriate boundaries, to embrace her God-given desire for intimacy, to trust her partner to respect her, and most importantly, to develop more trust that if she makes a mistake, it’s not the death of her dream. The Lord can and will forgive her.
For Dustin, it’s all about learning that “it is not meet that [God] should command in all things,” and that part of our experience in this life is making our own decisions—often without clear direction from the Lord. It’s about moving forward with enthusiasm and trusting that if you go down the wrong path, Heavenly Father will let you know before it’s too late. It’s realizing that there are important lessons to be learned and people who need our presence in their lives hidden within every failure and every wrong turn.
For Betsy, it means understanding that her husband's pornography habit is not her fault. It means acknowledging her feelings of betrayal, finding a way to heal, and learning to set boundaries. It means learning not to confuse trust with forgiveness. She could then seek the Savior’s influence to help her forgive and support her husband through his struggles, if she is able.
As the saying goes, “Success isn’t the absence of failure. It's going from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm.”
This life is full of changes, struggles, and challenges. It’s so easy to get caught up in the fear of disappointing your spouse, your parents, your friends, your leaders, and especially your Father in Heaven.
But just like the Saints that came before you, you are courageous.
And just like the Savior, who on the eve of His Atonement felt enough trepidation for what was about to happen that He asked for the cup to be removed from Him at all possible, you can feel the fear and still do what is required anyway.
God’s plan for you is a plan of action, not a plan of waiting. The greatest miracles and blessings that God has for you might be just on the other side of your next failure.