When you’re healthy, have all the money you need, and your children are playing happily (and quietly), gratitude is probably pretty easy.
But what about times of trial? Or in times of major natural disasters? When we believe in an all-powerful God, blaming Him can seem like a straightforward response.
Enduring trials with our faith and gratitude can be difficult. The answer for how it is done may come from an unlikely source: the unassuming butterfly.
In his Ensign message, “Saints for All Seasons,” President Uchtdorf describes the beautiful scenery that transformed around him as the seasons changed where he grew up — the explosion of green in the springtime, the pleasant blue skies of summer, the brilliant warm tones of autumn, and the pristine white snow blankets of winter.
He continues, “We have seasons in our lives as well. Some are warm and pleasant. Others are not. Some of the days in our lives are as beautiful as pictures in a calendar. And yet there are days and circumstances that cause heartache and may bring into our lives deep feelings of despair, resentment, and bitterness.”
When he says that it is not possible to have a life of summer seasons only, he reminds us it is also not desirable. We don’t appreciate or notice happiness and joy without experiencing the sadness and frustration of trials and adversity.
Lehi takes it a step further when he tells us in 2 Nephi 2:11 that without opposition, righteousness could not be brought to pass.
President Uchtdorf says “Our all-wise Heavenly Father knew that for His children to grow into the beings they were designed to become, they would need to experience seasons of adversity during their sojourn in mortality. Indeed, it is life’s bitterness that allows us to recognize, contrast, and appreciate its sweetness.”
President Brigham Young said, “All intelligent beings who are crowned with crowns of glory, immortality, and eternal lives must pass through every ordeal appointed for intelligent beings to pass through, to gain their glory and exaltation. Every calamity that can come upon mortal beings will be suffered . . . to prepare them to enjoy the presence of the Lord. . . . Every trial and experience you have passed through is necessary for your salvation.”
What Am I Doing Wrong?
It is very common to hear in the wake of a national disaster or tragedy, or even of a local or personal one: “Why would the Lord allow this to happen?” During my time as Young Single Adult representative, I had a young girl of twenty list all of the bad things that were happening to her at the time, and finish with the question “Dvorah, what am I doing wrong? Why is Heavenly Father punishing me like this?”
I smiled at her and answered that from my perspective what was happening in her life was a result of everything she had done right. Nothing that was happening was a punishment. I spoke of her faith I had seen her show, and explained that we can be thankful for trials because they are evidence we have learned and have grown. Life’s events happen to teach us precept upon precept, if we are teachable.
It is easy to blame the Lord when we are in times of hardship. Being thankful in hard times is more difficult. Just as a child sees naptime as the largest injustice his parents can force upon him, when the parent knows that sleep is going to only benefit their child, so do we cry out at the unfairness of adversity when we do not see how it is bringing us that much closer to returning to our home with Heavenly Father.
In Matthew 5:45, the Savior teaches us that the sun rises “on the evil and on the good, and … rain [falls] on the just and on the unjust” Sometimes we cannot understand why difficult, even unfair, things happen in life.
But we are reminded that if we “search diligently, pray always, and be believing, … all things shall work together for [our] good, if [we] walk uprightly” (Doctrine and Covenants 90:24).
President Uchtdorf goes on to say “The question is not whether we will experience seasons of adversity but how we will weather the storms. Our great opportunity during the ever-changing seasons of life is to hold fast to the faithful word of God, for His counsel is designed not only to help us weather the storms of life but also to guide us past them.”
The Butterfly’s Struggle
Many of us have heard the tale of the butterfly that was discovered by a young boy as it had begun its first moments of working to break through the cocoon that sheltered it during it’s time of transformation. The boy could see that it was a serious struggle the butterfly was enduring to break free of this shell and took pity upon it.
He decided to rescue it by assisting with pulling the cocoon apart to set the butterfly free. As the butterfly collapsed on the branch and worked to spread its wings to dry and take its first flight, it found it had no strength, and instead its life was cut short, never to fly, never to add its beauty to the world.
Too late, the boy learned that nature had designed this adversity to allow the butterfly to gain the strength that was necessary by the time it had worked itself out and struggled free so that it could live its life to the fullest potential.
My calling right now is as the Valiant 9 and 10 teacher. We are currently in the midst of the series of lessons that span from Christ’s Triumphal Entry to Jerusalem through the Resurrection. We have talked about the perfect example Christ is for us in our lives, and the many lessons we can take from that.
When describing all He endured to atone for us, I pointed out that if He could endure all of that, then surely we are capable of enduring any of the trials we are given.
Jesus Christ Is Our Ally During Trials
The Savior promises to guide us during times of trial, if we seek Him.
In addition to that perspective, I pointed out that because of His willingness to perform such a sacrifice, we have an ally to lean on who has literally experienced our individual and personal pain and knows exactly how we feel in any given trial. He can help us find happiness in hard times because there is no “you don’t understand how I feel” when it comes to Him.
Christ wants us to lean on Him during times of trial. He wants to make up the difference we cannot for ourselves. His love for us cannot be described.
He is the Second Comforter, and tells us in John 14:18-19, 21 “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you…. ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.”
During our time in Maine, our stake president experienced the tragedy of losing one of his children. Taylor was 17 years old and was known and loved by many.
I may know the pain from the loss of a child I have dreamed of having, but I know for certain that I cannot understand the pain of losing a child who has been held and cared for. I would imagine that it is the most horrific experienced a person could be asked to endure.
A few years after Taylor’s passing, during the last portion of Youth Conference, our stake president spoke about it to the young men and women. He was away on work when he received the awful news.
He said to the youth “I don’t know if you have ever been told something that simply brings you to your knees; but that is what happened to me in that moment.”
He went on to tell these young people — people who had gone to scouts with Taylor, and danced with Taylor at church dances, sat with Taylor during their priesthood lessons, left Girls Camp to attend Taylor’s memorial — “I have to honestly say that if given the opportunity to have that tragic event erased, to have my son in my life today, I would not take that opportunity.
For through this experience I have come to know the Savior on a level that I know would not have been possible otherwise. I know we were asked to endure this to come closer to Him.”
Coming to Know Christ
We are sent to this earth to grow in ways that we could not without a body. Just as we were able to learn much as children at home with our parents, but have gone on to learn exponentially more, and at a faster rate when we moved out and created a life our own, so it was when we lived with our Father in Heaven and chose to come here.
While here, we are to learn to shed our selfish tendencies and take on the more spiritual approach of service and love.
Christ says “And again, verily I say unto you that it is your privilege, and a promise I give unto you that have been ordained unto this ministry, that inasmuch as you strip yourselves from jealousies and fears, and humble yourselves before me, for ye are not sufficiently humble, the veil shall be rent and you shall see me and know that I am” (Doctrine and Covenants 67:10).
We must remember that we must pass through all seasons, both pleasant and painful. But no matter the season, if we rest our hope upon Jesus Christ, and walk towards His light, we will be walking steadfastly toward our heavenly goal to return to the home we chose to leave.
We left it to experience and endure the trials we agreed to experience, in order for us, like the butterfly, to gain the strength we need, to spread our wings and fulfill our potential by adding our beauty to the world in what way the Lord knows we can.