Adversity is an unavoidable part of life. Unfortunately, many hardships today are caused by the devastating choices of others. In these situations, it is hard to know how to cope, who to turn to, and where to go from there.
“Your success and happiness, both now and in the eternities, depend largely on your responses to the difficulties of life” (true to the faith—Adversity).
In these the last days, we face trials that no other generation of God’s children has been called on to bear. These tribulations we encounter are a mutant breed intent upon breaking us. Satan wants us to give in. He wants us to believe there is no hope and that his darkness will consume the world. Based on recent events, it may appear to many that he will succeed. It is an unprecedented reality that many of us fear for our children’s lives as we send them to school. Recent school shootings have put a despicable side of humanity on display.
As we face devastating disasters of all sorts, I cannot fathom the pain that many families must be experiencing at the tragic and sudden loss of their loved ones. I pray for them as they seek the strength to move forward.
There is no answer to the question people so often ask in the depths of adversity; “why?” There is really no knowing why these things happen, but there is an answer to “how to move forward,” and that is Christ. We can rely on Him in these times of social unrest, spreading disease, and natural disasters. We can trust that He is at the helm and that all that is unfair about life will be made right through Him—if not in this life, then in the next.
‘Chose ye this day’ how ye will respond
It is important to ask ourselves how we have reacted to adversity when it has come knocking. Once we do this personal evaluation, we must then ask ourselves how we would like to respond in the future. Like Laman and Lemuel, or like Nephi.
It is natural to ask the questions: “Why does this have to happen to me? Why do I have to suffer this now? What have I done to deserve this?” But asking these questions can be dangerous. They can lead to serious doubts and can result in wavering faith. These questions can be so consuming that we lose sight of what we do know. We should instead try to ask ourselves, “what can I learn from this? How can I make the most of this terrible situation? And how can I grow spiritually from this adversity?”
Even in the midst of our trials we can be like Nephi and go to work. While in the eye of the storm, however hard it may be, we must try to remember our blessings. As “True to the Faith” counsels, “Although some of your responses to adversity will vary, one response should be constant—your trust in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.”
How Joseph Smith reacted to adversity
It is no mystery that Joseph Smith was not called to live an easy life. His life was entirely too short and was filled with more trials than many of us could handle. In his own words, “the envy and wrath of man have been my common lot all the days of my life” (D&C 127:2). He suffered the loss of many of his children, and he and his wife were shunned by many in their community because of their beliefs. Joseph and Emma were driven from their homes and were rejected by many. Joseph was brutally beaten, tarred, and feathered. He suffered from health problems as a child that followed him through life. Despite all this, he knew that the Lord understood his limits and what he was capable of overcoming.
The truth is, we are capable of so much more than we think. We can survive heartbreak, the loss of loved ones, and so much more, and we don’t have to do it alone. The Lord promises that He will heal us from those things that wound and break us, seemingly to the point of disrepair.
“And after their temptations, and much tribulation, behold, I, the Lord, will feel after them, and if they harden not their hearts, and stiffen not their necks against me, they shall be converted, and I will heal them” (D&c 112:2).
The key is not to allow the trials we go through to “harden our hearts.” The lot of the righteous is hard, but that will always be true of those who seek to do the Lord’s will. It would be the easy way out to give up trying to live the gospel when so much seems against us. It would be easy to give into the natural man and the things of the world when we feel beaten down by life, but in the grand scheme of things, our efforts here will have a greater impact on our future in the eternities than we can know. Perseverance now will lead to blessings later.
How to cope
How can we cope with adversity, and who do we turn to? The answer to both of these questions is Christ. His Atonement made it possible for Him not only to relate but to actually know the hardships we pass through. He descended below everything so we wouldn’t have to. We are incredibly lucky to know we always have someone we can confidently trust because He has been through it all. If it weren’t for Him, I would have been consumed by the sorrow of some of my past trials. He has saved me and will continue to save me until the end, just as He will for all of us.
Christ is a beacon of light in the darkness. He meets us in our mess and grieves with us when we grieve. It pains Him to see us in pain, but like a father with his child, He understands some missteps and pain are necessary for growth.
God is not the one orchestrating our every move. Things may not always happen for a reason, but Heavenly Father will always intervene to make things work together for our good. The question of why bad things happen is irrelevant. Unfortunately, in a fallen world, bad things are inevitable. It is easy to say this, but when passing through trials that seem unbearable, it all can seem unfair and undeserved.
Deep water is what we are wont to swim in during these the last days. We should not be afraid of the unknown trials that we will inevitably face. Instead, we should reflect on the trials we have already passed through and try to see how we have benefited from them. This will help us to have the faith that good things can and will come from our present trials as well, even if it is much later down the road.
Bad things are going to happen. That is non-negotiable; what is, is how we deal with them when they come.
Move forward with faith
I love the analogy of a train traveling through a dark night. The light at the front of the train only lights the path about a few hundred yards ahead. For that distance, it is certain that the track is free of obstruction and safe to travel, but everything else ahead remains veiled in darkness. It is impossible for the train to move faster than the light illuminating the path. The light streaming from the lamp at the front of the engine is always ahead of it.
It may not seem like much, and we may wish for more light and more clarity about what is to come, but the light will always be ahead of us as we move forward. If we do not move forward, the light, too, will be unable to illuminate our path further. We can move forward with faith knowing that in the grand scheme of things, this life and the trials we pass through are but a small moment.
We can ask the Lord to help us to be patient with our imperfect self. Sometimes we must step forward into darkness. When we do this, we must have faith that He will give us enough light to take that next step.
A productive response
Every time we fall, whether our fall was caused by others, or our own actions, we should tell ourselves, “just get up one more time.” Don’t let yourself think past once more. Remind yourself that it is not over yet. Deep water may just be “what we are wont to swim in” and that’s OK. There will never be a time when we really have it all together, there will always be something out of place or something we feel like we can’t quite reach. Let’s learn to be comfortable with discomfort.
“My sons [and daughters], peace be unto thy soul[s]; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment” (d&c 121:7).
Resolve to respond to adversity productively when it comes knocking. Our natural responses to adversity are almost never productive. We must do our best to stretch our capacities. We need not be slaves to the natural man, and should not resign ourselves to getting less out of our earthly experience than we can.
The adversary wants us to cower in a corner, rather than meet our misfortunes at the door. He wants us to fear hardships, but fearing them only gives them more power. When adversity knocks, we must respond like Nephi, even when our strength seems lacking. As we meet each unexpected knock with courage, our fear will dissipate and our faith will increase.
In the comments below please share your thoughts and impressions.