Years ago, we were trying to help one of our kids get to sleep when he was sick. After many attempts to get him to fall asleep by cuddling with him, we realized he would be better off if we just let him sleep on his own. With us there, our two-year-old would either enjoy the one-on-one attention or would wake up anytime we moved our cramping arms. Our interventions were actually distractions preventing him from getting the sleep he needed. However, he was not at all happy when we put him in his crib and walked away. I am certain, he was thinking, “Dudes! I don’t feel good! Why is no one coming to hug me when I’m sad!? . . . Hello!? Is anyone there?”
How often have we been in a similar situation with our Heavenly Father? I imagine it a bit like trying to wave down a rescue plane—“Hello? Are you listening? I could use some help right now!” We can be struggling with a horrible trial, and we want out. We are ready to be done, or at the very least, we are ready for someone to hear of our tribulation. But no answer comes. We feel we aren’t being heard.
Trust me—I heard my son on those nights. I listened with bated breath to every whimper, every cough, and every cry. I would have loved to cuddle him, but I knew that wouldn’t help. I longed to help him and fix everything for him.
Are these not the feelings of our Heavenly Father? I know that every prayer is heard. I am pretty certain He listens harder when we are struggling, just as I do when my kids aren’t feeling well. Sometimes, however, an immediate answer or a swift rescue is not what is expedient for our benefit and the larger plan.
At other times the Lord may see fit to send us a message more immediately. I loved the thoughts from Sister Susan H. Porter of the Primary General Presidency at the 2021 BYU Women’s Conference when she shared about when her husband fell ill while they were serving Moscow. She explained the security and calm she felt even when logically, you would think it felt like life was falling apart. She explained that God is with us. He has promised that He will not leave us comfortless, even though sometimes we don’t recognize it until later.
But even when we don’t receive an assurance like Sister Porter did, we have to keep moving forward.
I have a list of talks and books that I go to help me find strength to keep going forward. When I'm needing a boost to my testimony of my divine potential, one of the books I go to is No One Can Take Your Place by Sheri Dew. This quote really stuck out to me the other day as I listened to it:
As Satan increasingly unleashes his fury against the Father and the Son, by unleashing his fury against all who are determined to “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places” (Mosiah 18:9), we have the challenge of doing again what we have done before—of standing loyally by God and by Jesus and not flinching even in the face of the onslaught.
Bottom line: Premortally, in the most difficult of circumstances, we stood loyally by our Father and His Son, and we did not flinch. The question for us today is: How will we do it again?
I'm a visual thinker, and this Sheri Dew quote immediately made me think of a scene in a superhero movie, Avengers: Endgame. I began to see powerful life lessons and spiritual parallels in the scene that can help us move forward even when we feel alone.
Lessons from Captain America
In one of the final scenes of Avengers: Endgame, Captain America stands alone facing a large army of villains. He looks pretty beat up, worn down, and exhausted.
I wonder how I would feel if I were him, facing a huge army of super-powered beings set out to destroy me. Or, if I were Frodo and Samwise or Harry, Ron, and Hermione realizing just how big of a task I have in front of me and all the dangers ahead. One of my favorite scriptures during times of trials says, “Fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail” (Doctrine and Covenants 6:34). However, in the face of what seems to be certain pain and heartache, would I flinch? Would I shrink back in the task? What would you do?
I think one indicator of our ability to move forward unflinchingly is how close we are trying to stand to the Savior. If we have distanced ourselves by not keeping the commandments, then we won't understand how we can always trust Him. It’s like a kid standing up to a bully—if they know their big, strong, brother can back them up, they can have a lot more confidence.
Strength and Courage from the Savior
That is why it is imperative that we strive to remain close to the Savior. We never know when those attacks may come so we need to be constantly deepening our relationship with our “Big Brother.” The closer we are, the stronger we are.
We know He is there. We know He is constant. Doctrine and Covenants 88:63 states, “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” Do we always remember that? We have the power to make choices that will draw us nearer to Him.
Prayer is essential to drawing closer to the Savior and feeling the strength and courage that He provides. In a talk entitled “Improving Our Prayers,” Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin said:
Every person on the earth today lived at one time in heavenly realms. We walked with our Heavenly Father. We knew Him. We heard His voice. We loved Him. And although we were eager to enter mortality and continue our progression, we must have regretted the separation that would accompany it . . . How we must have yearned to stay close to our Father in Heaven. How we must have covenanted to ever reach after Him and commune with Him.
Undoubtedly our separation from our Heavenly Father was softened when He promised that as we sought after Him in prayer, He would reach toward us (emphasis added).
Think of that for a minute. Think of that departure from our heavenly home with promises to each other to “keep in touch.” As much as we feel a reliance upon communication with our Heavenly Father, think of how much He yearns for us to reach out to Him, to ask for His support and help.
The Bible Dictionary states, “The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them” (emphasis added). I think of a child trying to reach something on a tall shelf. Instead of asking for help from a parent, sibling, or another adult, they try to access the item themselves. If they were to get hurt or make a mess, the parent would come in and say, “Sweetheart, why didn’t you ask for my help? I could have easily grabbed that for you.” What can you do to remember that relationship and increase the power of your prayers?
At the end of the scene in Avengers: Endgame, even though he is outnumbered by thousands, Captain America shows strength and courage and starts walking forward to do whatever he can in the fight against evil. As he does so, he hears a little message in his earpiece that indicates he is not alone. When we move forward unflinchingly into the battle, are we not also blessed with a little message in our minds letting us know that we are not alone?
Heaven Is Cheering You On
For Captain America, he did get that swift rescue. After hearing the message in his earpiece, he is soon surrounded and supported by the rest of his team. Though unseen previously, they show up in his time of need, but only after he’d taken steps forward toward the battle.
The scene with all the other superheroes coming to the rescue reminded me of a quote from the talk, “For Times of Trouble” by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland:
In the gospel of Jesus Christ you have help from both sides of the veil and you must never forget that. When disappointment and discouragement strike—and they will—you must remember and never forget that if our eyes could be opened we would see horses and chariots of fire as far as the eye can see riding at reckless speed to come to our protection. They will always be there, these armies of heaven, in defense of Abraham’s seed.
Even when we cannot see, and sometimes cannot feel the influence of that “Big Brother” standing there to protect us, we need to remember that He is there.
In the talk “Remember Your Way Back Home,” Elder Jose A. Teixeira of the Seventy said, “God is fully aware of each one of us and ready to listen to our prayers. When we remember to pray, we find His sustaining love, and the more we pray to our Father in Heaven in Christ’s name, the more we bring the Savior into our life and the better we will recognize the path He has marked to our heavenly home.”
That path may not be easy. It may lead us into some battles or be a rough road. However, we can know as we strive to walk the path He has marked, we will be provided with His help. He will always be there. I am so grateful for that reassurance and strength I can find in Him when I seek Him through prayer.