After living in 4 different countries in 13 years, Anne and her family agreed to be re-assigned to Australia with her husband’s company. Although moving was stressful, she was confident that she would have time to take care of individual needs within the family (especially those of her older, autistic daughter).
To her complete surprise, however, the first Sunday at church (before the family’s belongings had even arrived), she was called into the Bishop’s office and asked if she would be the new early morning seminary teacher. It was explained that the ward had never been able to have early morning seminary before, but now they had enough youth and someone who was able to teach.
What could she say? She accepted.
This changed everything. Although she loved teaching and working with the youth, she knew that taking on this calling would leave her little time to furnish the house, organize her family’s belongings, or even make friends. Her heart sank under the weight of what she had just agreed to.
When things don’t go the way we’d planned, it’s easy to view adversity as an obstacle—something, or someone, standing in our path, blocking the way between us and a happy life. In this article we’ve created an analogy that illustrates the idea that adversity isn’t an obstacle at all, but a doorway.
There Must Be Opposition in All Things
Imagine your life is a series of doors. Some doors look like they lead to beautiful places, while others, well, not so much. Some doors are colorful and exciting, some are simple and plain. All you know is that you can’t stay where you are; you have to choose a door to continue on your path.
So you think through your options carefully. You know to avoid the doors that have “DANGER” signs on them—no matter how many people are going through them. You seek the Lord’s guidance in your decision. Then, feeling good about your choice, you walk through a door that you think looks quite pleasant.
Only it doesn’t lead where you thought it would.
In fact, the place you’ve suddenly found yourself in isn’t very pleasant at all. You can’t understand it. You tried so hard to make a good choice. So, why did a loving Heavenly Father let you end up in this miserable place?
In his talk “The Opening and Closing of Doors,” President Howard W. Hunter quotes Marion G. Romney.
In the words of Joseph Smith, “Men have to suffer that they may come upon Mount Zion and be exalted above the heavens.” . . . This does not mean that we crave suffering. We avoid all we can. However, we now know, and we all knew when we elected to come into mortality, that we would here be proved in the crucible of adversity and affliction.
Opposition is a vital part of Heavenly Father’s plan; we knew that when chose to walk through the door of mortality. But in spite of the adversity we’d have to work through, we were also excited! There would be many “doors” to choose from, and we knew that Heavenly Father would do all that He could to help us choose those doors that lead back to Him.
There Are Spiritual Skills You Need to Develop
Meanwhile, you try to get your bearings. You’re sad and you’re scared and you’re feeling very lost. Your instinct is to find another door, and quick—you have got to get out of here.
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be another door anywhere nearby. No matter how hard you look, or how desperately you plead with the Lord to make a new door appear, the fact is you’re stuck here. So what are you going to do?
Thankfully, the Lord hasn’t sent us into this life unprepared. As you try to get your bearings, the Spirit reminds you that you have something with you: a survival kit, a set of spiritual skills that, once mastered, will help you overcome any adversity. You open it up and here’s what you find:
- The Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is our only sure guide. When we learn how to listen to His promptings, He will lead us to the people and places we need to find. To access his help, we can do the following:
- Pray for help and comfort.
- Search the scriptures and the words of the prophets.
- Learn how the Holy Ghost speaks to you, specifically.
- The scriptures and words of the prophets. The gospel is our map through all of life’s doors. By filling our minds and hearts daily with truthful principles, our desires will always be in harmony with the Lord’s.
But even with your trusty “map,” there will always be someone telling you you’re going the wrong way. In her talk “Live according to the Words of the Prophets,” Sister Carol F. McConkie states,
We need not be “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.” God reveals His word through His ordained servants, “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Ephesians 4:11-14).
- Prayer. As you deal with the challenges of this door, you will need to seek the guidance of your loving Father in Heaven. To make our prayers more effective, Elder Richard G. Scott recommended we do the following:
- “Don’t worry about your clumsily expressed feelings. Just talk to your compassionate, understanding Father.”
- “Learn to ask the right questions. Consider changing from asking for the things you want to honestly seeking what He wants for you.”
- “Should you ever feel distanced from our Father, it could be for many reasons. . . . Pray even when you have no desire to pray. . . . Never feel you are too unworthy to pray.”
- Laughter. Many trials are best endured when we learn to laugh in spite of them. But how can we possibly laugh when we’re experiencing pain and sorrow?
In the words of Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, the Lord doesn’t expect us to “suppress discouragement or deny the reality of pain.” However, developing a great sense of humor will “extend your life and make the lives of all those around you more enjoyable.”
Read Elder Wirthlin’s talk “Come What May, and Love It” for a hilarious story about his daughter’s dating mishap!
- Eternal perspective. We’ve all been sent to earth to learn to be more Christlike. Think of this door as on-the-job training. While this experience may be difficult to bear, as Elder Wirthlin said, “these experiences . . . are precisely the kinds of experiences that stretch our understanding, build our character, and increase our compassion for others.”
For specific help on hanging onto hope in dark times, we recommend reading “My Bipolar Disorder Made Me Build a One-Year Supply of ‘Faith Storage.’”
There Are People You Need to Meet
As you practice mastering each of these tools, you notice that you’re not the only one here.
There are others here too, some of whom appear to have mastered their surroundings, others of whom are struggling even more than you are. As you reach out to them, you start to find more enjoyment in your everyday tasks. You find a deep satisfaction in giving (and receiving) love and understanding.
As President Howard W. Hunter stated,
Being human, we would expel from our lives physical pain and mental anguish and assure ourselves of continual ease and comfort, but if we were to close the doors upon sorrow and distress, we might be excluding our greatest friends and benefactors.
Pay attention to the people the Lord has put in your path. He does so for a reason; He knows when we need to be lifted, and He knows when others would benefit from our own strength and resources.
Heavenly Father Wants You to Be Happy
As time passes, things start to look up. You’ve made lasting friendships, gained some invaluable skills, and, most importantly, despite the fact that the adversity hasn’t vanished, you start to feel peace and you start to feel loved. There is meaning to what you’re experiencing, and you know you’ll be okay.
That’s exactly what Anne experienced:
“Somehow, despite how the new schedule was affecting my home, my family, and even my health, I didn’t run. In fact, I put my heart and soul into every lesson. I began to feel a deep love for these students. They needed me. They needed the love and respect that I easily gave. Although these were older high school students, most had very little previous exposure to the scriptures. This year was Book of Mormon.
Despite the fact that the adversity hasn’t vanished . . . . There is meaning to what you’re experiencing, and you know you’ll be okay.
“I’ve always struggled with visualizing the Book of Mormon chronologically. But as the year went on, a miraculous thing happened: for the first time, it all began to make sense to me. My students as well! The Book of Mormon was no longer a mystery, but something they were enjoying. Together we shared beautiful moments, and I loved them all dearly.
“I felt great happiness in climbing this mountain together. By the end of the year I truly felt it had all been worth it and had changed me and my life in countless ways. I knew that I had been helpful in keeping several of the boys active in not only seminary, but in the Church. My great adversity had been a way forward that I may never have found otherwise.”
In his talk titled “The Opening and Closing of Doors,” Howard W. Hunter stated,
Doors close regularly in our lives, and some of those closings cause genuine pain and heartache. But I do believe that where one such door closes, another opens (and perhaps more than one), with hope and blessings in other areas of our lives that we might not have discovered otherwise.
With each door we choose, there will always be consequences. But adversity gives the tools we make choices with confidence, wisdom, and trust in our Heavenly Father. No matter what happens, we can know that, whatever awaits us on the other side, the Lord’s love will see us through it.