Monday, March 01, 2010

A few thoughts on trials we go through in life

I just got done typing a letter to our missionary brother Coby. He's in California right now and has been struggling with some health issues. It's so hard to see because he's a great missionary and working hard. I hope that they can find a good solution with his medicine and things to help him be able to stay in the field and teach the people of California! This past weekend we had a family fast for him (as well as some other family members on my side of the family). I love the blessing and gift of fasting - especially fasting with a group purpose in mind.

In fact, when we (finally) were able to get pregnant with Gabe years ago I remember a special family member saying to me, "Great - now I can start eating again on Sundays." This sweet person had been fasting every Sunday for who knows how long that we would be able to bring children into our home. I think of his sweet faith and trust in the blessings of fasting and I am so grateful for his example to me! I know there were many over the years that joined with us in fasting for that and I am sure that part of the blessing of being a family is due to that.

Anyway - yesterday I was thinking a bit about fasting and turned to the hymn book and read a few hymns about it. These ones touched me:

#139 - "In Fasting We Approach Thee"

Verse 1:
In fasting we approach thee here,
And pray thy Spirit from above
Will cleanse our hearts, cast out our fear,
And fill our hunger with thy love.

Verse 4:
This fast, dear Father, sanctify
Our faith and trust in thee increase.
As we commune and testify,
May we be filled with joy and peace

#138 - "Bless Our Fast, We Pray"

Verse #3:
As witnesses, we gather here
To thank, and to attest
Of mercies and of miracles -
Oh, still our lives so bless!
Feed thou our souls, fill though our hearts,
And bless our fast, we pray
That we may feel thy presence here
And feat with thee today

The #1 thing I thought as I read those songs was the line about how the spirit can cleanse our hearts and cast out our fear. Isn't fear an interesting thing? It worries us, it holds us back and it gnaws at us and makes us feel like we're not good enough. I think that fear comes almost always from Satan. He wants to throw us off path and make us feel like we aren't good enough.

That led me to something else I was led to this week (a week filled with tender mercies sent from above). I was reading a book by Brad Wilcox this week about the Atonement (it's a GREAT book - "The Continuous Atonement"). I'm going to copy a little bit of it to share with you. This comes from Chapter 6 in the book:

I never can seem to escape the nagging thought, "If only I were better organized or if only I tried harder." Satan tempated Christ with the word if (see Mathew 4:3-11). He often comes to me with the words if only.

"Don't worry about if you have done enough," advises one well-meaning friend. "Rather, ask if what you have done is acceptable to God." The problem with such advice is that I can't figure out how anything less than my all could ever be acceptable. I am told the compaionship of the Spirit will be my assurance when I've done my part. However, if I start beating myself up for not being a better home teacher or helping more with family history, then I can drive the Spirit away pretty quickly.

In those anxious moments, the greatest comfort I have found is in knowing any effort is pleasing to God even if He and I both know it's not my all or my best. It may be far from an acceptable offering, but God accepts it nonetheless because ultimately He is more concerned with the offerer than the offering. Elder Gerald N. Lund wrote: "Remember that one of Sata's strategies, especially with good people, is to whisper in their ears: 'If you're not perfect, you are failing.'. This is one of his most effective deceptions....We should recognize that God is pleased with every effort we make - no matter how faltering - to better ourselves" ("Are We Expected to Achieve Perfection in This Life?" 207).

Often I am the first to acknowledge that my efforts are mediocre at best. But instead of feeling bad about not offering more, I recognize it's a step in the right direction. I remind myself that the word mediocre is from the Latin word mediocris, which means halfway up the mountain. It doesn't describe how far I can go. It just indicates how far I have come. If I am halfway up the mountain and on my way to the top, it is better than being at the bottom and refusing to try. No matter where I am on the mountain, the motivation to climb higher is found not in trying to impress God and Christ with my sacrifices, but in letting their sacrifices be more deeply impressed upon me. (pages 108-109. "The Continuous Atonement by Brad Wilcox)

So maybe this was something that hit me with force and power and won't make as big of a difference to you.....but I think sometimes we all need a reminder that we are climbing upwards - and even if we don't think that we've done enough - Heavenly Father takes our offerings and is grateful for them. He never tells us we aren't enough. He never tells us we aren't doing good enough - when we hear those thoughts and feelings - it's Satan telling us that. We need to tune dang Santan out and listen to our Heavenly Father that tells us we're trying - and trying is what we are required to do.

I hope that these thoughts are something that will help one of you as they did me when I read them. I am so grateful for tender mercies when we are lead to reading something that touches us. I'm so grateful for those little prayers we mutter and are so miraculously answered. I know that my Heavenly Father answers my prayers. I know that my Savior is standing waiting to carry me through my trials and ready to ease the burdens I feel. I know that without a doubt.

That being said - He doesn't take away our trials......sometimes the blessings he has waiting for us are waiting AFTER the trial. I find this scripture evident of this:

Ether 12: 6

6 And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that afaith is things which are bhoped for and cnot seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no dwitness until after the etrial of your faith.

We will receive confirmation and reassurance AFTER our faith is tried....that's hard - but I know that if we endure and we continue to trust in our Heavenly Father's plan for us individually (because He has a plan specific for each of us) that we will find that confirmation and witness.

Ok - I'm probably starting to sound a bit preachy - but I shared some of these things with my brother-in-law Coby in his missionary letter today and I wanted to share them with someone else too - in case anyone else needed some of these thoughts I've been led to. I know that our Heavenly Father loves us. He knows our hearts and He knows the best way to bless us with those righteous desires. It's not always the way we think He should bless us, or in the timeframe we thing would be best - but He DOES answer our prayers and pleadings.

I know when Cory and I wanted so desperately to have a family and start having children I was crushed when it didn't happen after several years. I felt that my desire was such a righteous and good desire. I wasn't asking for money, riches, fame - I was begging to be a MOM, for us to be parents! It was something we are commanded to do and I was just asking Heavenly Father to bless us with that chance. But our requests were denied for over 6 years. We were told through priesthood blessings, promptings and feelings that our time would come - but it wasn't yet. Wow that was hard! It was so hard to be told "not yet". But know what? I am SO grateful for those years. I am so grateful for the relationship I developed with my Heavenly Father. We are blessed with trials so we can come closer to our Heavenly Father. We are blessed with heartache so we can turn our pain over to the Savior and learn of the healing power of the atonement.....I hope you'll feel that peace and that reassurance that I KNOW is availble to us because of the gift of the atonement and our Heavenly Father's love.

I am so grateful for the knowledge that we have been blessed with and the faith and trust that we develop. I feel so blessed and grateful.


jed-laura said...

nice post. I agree with you, and think it's a good reminder. (by the way, you might want to check the hymn titles in this post. "Bless Our Fat, We Pray" is an interesting title for a hymn :)

Ellis Family said...

You didn't like "Bless Our Fat, We Pray"? Sometimes we need all the help we can get - including praying for that darn fat to go away :)

(I fixed it though - thanks!)

Ashley Mullen said...

That was a great post Joanna, and I have had some very similar thoughts through this weekend. This was such a helpful post, adn I am so thankful for the love and support we all have for each other as a family. WE are pretty lucky. WE love you and I love your insights into things! Love you and thank you for this post.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post!

jed-laura said...

You are so smart Joanna, I love you and look up to you,

p.s. Now I know what songs to pick for fast sunday this week.

The Rhiens said...

What beautiful thoughts, Joanna. Dad and I read your thoughts and cried. Thanks for sharing them. We are reading your words on Fast Sunday and your testimony will be added to those we hear today...and make it a more special day. Thanks for your prayers this week.

We are so pleased with you (and all of our kids) and feel so blessed to be able to share this life with all of you.

Love, Mom and Dad