This was a talk I gave back last summer. I am posting it here so I can remember it.
I have a favorite little book written by Carol Lynn Pearson called “The Lesson – A Fable For Our Times” It is the story of a boy named Robert who goes to school where he is taught lessons on how to solve problems. At first the problems are simple like 1+1=2, but as he successfully solves the simple problems the problems become harder like “If you are outside playing and you have three cars and one truck and Joey comes along and grabs two cars and the truck, how many times should you hit Joey?” Sometimes Robert gets the answer wrong, like when he answers this question with “two times”, but after some thought and the help of a patient teacher he gets the answer correct… “I know, no times”. After he has solved enough problems, he moves up to the next grade, he gets bigger and so do his problems. There are the fun times like recess or playing ball or roller skating, but always there are the problems. With the problems, Robert often asks, “Why are you punishing me with all these problems?” To which the teacher answers “I am not punishing you. It ‘s just that you have moved up a grade and are ready for harder problems”
Throughout Robert’s life here are some of the he problems faces:
Robert, if your family moved to a small house in a big city and you had to leave behind two aquariums and one dog and your best friend…
OR Robert if you were a teenager and you were not doing well in school and you were not popular and you had pimples all over your face and your parents were getting a divorce and you thought it must be your fault and you felt that life was the pits would you A. take drugs to make the pain go away, B. Kill yourself, C. Hate your father or D. Think of another solution?
Robert really struggled with that one and continued to ask the teacher “why are you punishing me?” To which the teacher answers “I am not punishing you, you are a big boy now and you have big boy problems…You are here to learn.” So Robert works on those problems, he drops a few tears, makes a number of mistakes, and he wonders if he will ever smile again. But with the help of his patient teacher, he finally gets it right and he does smile again…and he moves up to the next grade where the problems are even bigger.
Robert if you had 7 dates with one girl and fell in love with her and four months later asked her to marry you and she said no and you felt like a complete zero..
Robert if you really wanted to go to college and it cost five thousand dollars and you only had two thousand…
Robert, if your wife, who was really a very good woman, had ten habits that drove you absolutely crazy and was thirty pounds overweight and spent half her time on things that were important to her but not to you…
Robert if you had 3 children and one of them was born with a birth defect that added to your sorrows because it subtracted from her possibilities and divided your attention and multiplied the problems of caring for your family…
Robert, if you knew that your boss at work was cheating 45 people in seven states in 12 different ways, and if you said anything there would be a 90 percent chance you would lose the best job you’d ever had…
Robert, if you woke up 14 mornings in a row wondering if it were worth it to get out of bed because you felt like you’d been giving 100 percent to 2 dozen people and getting only 30 percent in return and you felt yourself going down and down and down and your brother’s house went up in flames and your wife’s mother was in a terrible accident and your daughter wanted to marry a jerk and the pollution thickened and the ozone thinned…
Eventually, Robert learns to stop asking why he is being punished. His teacher and those who love him, encourage him with his problems, but he realizes that his problems are his own and he is here to learn.
Then one day, when Robert is very old, he gets one more question: Robert, if your body had three heart attacks and one missing kidney and you got weaker and weaker until you could hardly breathe, …..how much would you have loved and who would remember you after you were gone?
Suddenly, Robert realizes that all the lessons and problems in his life had only been one problem…”Robert, how much do you love?” At this realization, Robert leans back in his chair, sighs and smiles. The teacher smiles and …Robert moves up a grade.
I bought that book at a particularly difficult time in my life, just following a divorce when I was at a very low point. It has served as an inspiration and to give me perspective for many years since. I must admit that there have been times in my life when I, like Robert wondered Why, why was I being punished? There are times when I dropped many tears..and I admit I even stomped my feet and yelled that these problems were too hard and I didn’t want any more. There are times when I even stopped talking to the teacher altogether. I determined that He was the source of these problems, that it was His will that I have these problems, and if this was His will, I didn’t much care for Him. That point in my life lasted for a number of years…and you know what? I still had problems.
From birth to death, Jesus had a difficult life. He had moments of joy and hours of pain. If the Savior, being perfect had a life filled with problems, why should we expect a trouble-free life? I have learned that whether or not we have faith in Jesus Christ, there will be problems. But when we exercise our faith in our Savior, we can be confident that he understands our troubles. Not having Faith will not make our trials go away, but having faith will allow the Savior to Succor us. I did not know what the word “succor” meant so I looked it up… To succor means “to give assistance and support in times of hardship and distress.” Having faith in the Savior allows Him to give us assistance and support in times of hardship and distress.
I am not always a willing and humble student of life’s lessons, however humble or willing or not, lessons were learned. Through my trials, I have gained experience and wisdom to better know how to deal with future problems. I have also gained compassion and understanding. Occasionally people come to me and ask how to handle some of their problems and because of my experiences, sometimes I can relate to their struggles. I am able to share some of the wisdom I have gained from having gone through my own trials. The same has been done for me by those who have experienced hardships.
We have a Savior who has felt all the pain and fear and sorrow we have felt. He knows what we are going through, and He knows how to help. The only thing we have to do is have faith in Him, to ask Him in faith for guidance, and then to put our trust in him and His will. He will do the rest. He will guide us and help us know how to best solve our problems…if we will listen.
Through our trials, we learn how strong our faith is. C.S. Lewis wrote that “You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn't you then first discover how much you really trusted it?” I know that in my life, I have found myself wondering if I believed enough to hang by that rope. Did I trust the Savior enough to let His will be done in my life? Did I trust Him enough to remain calm during times of turmoil? Did I trust him enough to pray and to wait for help. Did I trust him enough to do what He asked of me?
In the book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis, also compares faith to his experience with anaesthetics. He says that he knew that anaesthetics under the hands of trained professionals do not smother the patient and that a properly trained surgeon will not start to operate until the patient is completely unconscious. However once on the table and the mask clapped over his face, he would begin to panic. He would start thinking that he is going to choke, and become fearful that they will start cutting before he is properly under. In other words, He would lose faith in anaesthetics. He goes on to say “It is not reason that is taking away my faith; on the contrary, my faith is based on reason. It is my imagination and emotions. The battle is between faith and reason on one side and emotion and imagination on the other.
How often is that the case for us? When things start to get scary, how often do our emotions and imaginations get the best of us? During some of my more difficult trials, I have pondered a couple of stories in the scriptures. One is the story in Matthew chapter 14 of Peter walking on the water to Jesus. Even while Peter is looking at the Savior, he becomes fearful and he begins to sink. There have been times in my life when I felt like Peter. That even though I was doing the right things I was beginning to sink. I was reading my scriptures, praying, going to church, yet my world was in turmoil and I was sinking. Also the story about the Savior calming the tempest in Mark4. Many times I have asked the Lord, “Carest thou not that I perish?” Some times we get anxious. Our ship is sinking… or worse, we are sinking…or our emotions and imagination make us think we are sinking, but when we remember that Heavenly Father is in charge we can find calm in the storm.
Last year I began writing in a journal. This journal was given to me when I was on Trek a number of years ago. On the front cover is written “We traveled on, trusting in God.” On the inside of the journal is written an excerpt from a pioneer journal which reads… “READ JOURNAL” Then on the first page my Ma and Pa wrote “Remember…you can do hard things”. And D&C 6:36 which says “Look unto me in every though; doubt not, fear not.” Last year when things were particularly difficult for me, I picked this journal up. I thought it was the perfect journal for an experiment I was about to try. I began getting up on some mornings, and instead of just saying my prayers and reading a few scriptures, I decided to write my prayers in this journal. Not just my regular daily prayers…but the prayers that reflected the desires of my heart as well as my most concerning problems. Prayers for my family, for my health, for peace of mind. As I wrote these prayers I also looked up scriptures or other inspirational quotes that went along with my concerns or requests and wrote them down as well. This exercise alone brought me peace and comfort. Also I knew that, as I wrote these things down, I was trusting my most difficult problems to the Lord.
One of my most recent entries… “Please help me to write my talk for Sunday…and to have it prepared by Saturday so I won’t be panicked on Sunday.” It worked! ( Perhaps I alone can truly appreciate the miracle in the answer to that prayer) Not only was that simple prayer answered, but having a record of other, perhaps more critical, pleas for help to look back on, allows me to see that Heavenly Father is hearing and answering my other prayers. Usually not in some remarkable way, usually they are answered with small changes or impressions that help me see or do things a little differently, but I can see that my prayers are indeed being answered. This strengthens my faith of knowing that He will also answer my prayers in the future.
An old Gospel song says, “Our God is an on time God, He may not come when you want Him to, but He'll be there right on time.” In times of trial and tribulation, we must remember that God will not be late. He may never be early, but he will not be late. By trusting in Him, we find that God’s timing is always right on time.
A poem that I memorized many years ago has been helpful to me when things look overwhelmingly difficult, it is called
“Let Go & Let God”.
As children bring their broken toys,
With tears for us to mend,
I brought my broken dreams to God,
Because he is my friend.
But then instead of leaving Him
In peace to work alone,
I hung around and tried to help,
With ways that were my own.
At last, I snatched them back again
And cried, “How can you be so slow?’
He said “My child what could I do”
You never would let go”
Through years of trials I am finally learning to “let go and let God”. Really, what choice do I have? I am learning that no matter how much it hurts and how many times I ask the question, “Why?”, my faith carries me through. I don’t like what I have to face in life at times, but I do know that if I remain faithful, God will bless me. He finds a way to bring back my focus to His plan for me, if I remember to “be still and know that He is God”, remember that he loves me very much and remember that He wants me to be victorious through my faith and love and belief in Him. As I face my uncertainty and fears in life, I know that I can face them with the understanding that if I allow the Savior to take it from me and trust in Him, I can face anything even the really hard things. Hopefully, I am learning as Robert, from the story at the beginning of my talk, that all of the problems and trials I have faced and will face are really only one problem… Robin, how much do you love?