Life has been hard lately. Wait…life has been extremely hellish lately. And when I say lately I mean like well over a year. Well over several years.
Not that I haven’t had joy in my wife, my sons, my relationship with God and with others. But I’ve faced something that I have never faced before.
I’ve been through some tough trials. In college I remember experiencing five shoulder surgeries over the course of my college football career. I remember not being in the NFL during the summer of 2001 but finally ended up with the New England Patriots and we know how that ended.
I remember recently in the past 5 years losing everything and having financial armageddon destroy our path to moving several times, selling possessions and asking within myself “Oh God, where are thou?”
I’ve seen the hand of God guide my family and I through it all. I know He is real. I know God lives and that he is our father in Heaven and that He loves us. I know He has a plan for us. I know He has a plan for me. I know He has a plan for you.
This post is going to be different from the rest. I’ve not holding anything back. I’m not going to tip toe around the “being politically correct” cones hoping that I don’t offend anyone. I’m also not going to use generic terms.
I’ve been going through HELL lately and it’s really tested me. I’ve been depressed, discouraged and even hopeless at times. Hmmm, doesn’t sound like the Setema that I know. I hope this post helps you if you feel the same way that I feel.
God is real. He has a plan for us. I know we lived before we came here. I also know we will live again when we die from this mortal probation.
Knowing that there really is life after death, and that we get to choose how we live after this life changes everything. This life is a test. This life is a time for us to grow and become like Him, God our father. So knowing that, it shouldn’t surprise us at all when we go through challenging times and hardship.
Scriptures teach us in numerous places that we will be tried, tested and put through the ringer. Mosiah 23:21. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Alma 36:3. Romans 5:3-5. D&C 58:4. D&C 122. D&C 121:7-8. I could go on but there is no need to prove the undeniable fact that we will go through challenging times and that this life will test us.
If this life truly is a test, and we were put here to “see if we would do whatsoever things we were commanded” then it only makes sense that we will grow and become our best through fire.
Nothing refines like fire. Nothing at all.
I don’t know it all. I’ll admit that here and now and always. But I am certain of one thing.
God is real. God loves us. God is our father. God will not tempt us above that which we can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13). Of course we shouldn’t throw ourselves into the den of temptation.
My message this morning is simple: When going through hell…keep going. Don’t quit.
How can you be tested if it doesn’t test you? How can you really grow if the test is super easy? If it were easy it wouldn’t be a test and if it isn’t a test then it’s not a defining and refining experience for us to grow.
You can listen to talks, read messages, attend seminars, go to church, pray, study scripture and do everything else prescribed out there to overcome your challenges and trials…but sometimes the only way through the difficult time is to simply ENDURE (of course while doing everything you can.) You can make the problem smaller, turn the volume down, push it behind you. You can fast, attend the temple, get blessings, devour General Conference talks and do every little thing that all the great teachers out there teach…but you’ll still be tested.
Yes, that means that no matter what you do, sometimes you will feel confused, alone, uncertain of what to do.
Job lost everything and was afflicted physically with sores and boils. Abinadi was torched by fire for his beliefs. The early saints were driven to and fro until they finally landed in Utah. The apostle Paul said he asked the Lord thrice (bible talk for three times) to remove a “thorn in the flesh” that buffeted him and the Lord said no.
Can you see that you and I are not the only ones who go through hell?
Life will challenge us. Life will try us. Life will stretch us and grow us.
And we have three options.
1-We do nothing and sink into despair.
2-We complain, become hardened and more bitter and move away from that which is good.
3-We get better, become more humble, learn from the experience and praise God. And then we help others on the path.
The obvious best choice is 3. And that is exactly what it is, a choice. And although obvious, very difficult to do…ha…that’s why it is a test.
Scriptures teach that we will be tried even as Abraham of old. D&C 101:4.
Do you know what that means? It means we will go through the fire. It means that we will tested every step of the way. It means that life will challenge us sometimes and there will be times where you will be tempted to ask (or like me who asked many times) “God, where art thou?” It’s OK if you ask the question.
I know undoubtedly that GOD LIVES AND THAT GOD IS REAL AND THAT GOD LOVES US.
I am human. More often than not I wish I were stronger but I have much to learn.
Abraham waited his whole life to have a son. He was promised at an old age that from him would come generations numbered like the “sands of the sea.” In other words he was going to have an endless posterity.
God finally blesses Abraham (another test) with a child and then God does the unthinkable. God commands Abraham to take his only son and sacrifice him. Can you imagine that? Can you feel the torment and the pain?
Abraham was obedient. He took his son (not a baby, but probably around the age of 11-13) and went up to the mountain. He tied his son up, raised his hand with a sharp object and it was then and only then that God finally stopped him and basically said “you passed the test.” This was back then and Abraham passed his test.
It’s easy for us to talk about. It’s easy to read the story and say “Oh yeah, he passed his test.”
COME ON MAN…
We will go through hell in this life (yes, it is a great thing ) But it is how we deal with it that truly counts. It’s how we respond that makes us who we are. It’s who we become and who we help along the way that matters. It’s also who we allow to help us as well. We won’t always be the one to help others although it does feel good to help others along the way. Just remember that it is me who makes the change for me. It is YOU that makes the change for YOU. No one else will do it for you. They can’t.
Some folks will wonder through life and never get married even though they yearn and desire to marry.
Some will marry and never have a chance to have their own children.
Some will marry, have children only to lose loved ones to disease or accident.
Some will have riches, wealth and health and be tempted with riches, wealth and health.
Some will experience massive poverty, misery, depression and other challenges for extended periods of time.
Some will feel alone and crazy even when they are surrounded by family, friends and blessings.
Some will lose their arm (watch the movie Soul Surfer) and still impact millions of lives. Yes, I watched the movie even though I judged it by it’s cover and the movie ended up on my top ten favorite movies of all time. Yes, my wife and I cried during the movie. Great movie.
I am NOT saying that you don’t have a choice to fix things, to change things and to make your life better. I absolutely believe and know that we have the power to choose and to create the life we truly want and love. Just know the obstacles will come and the trials (blessings in disguise) will come.
DO YOU GET THIS MESSAGE?
Sometimes you will pray, fast, ask, study, attend and do everything right and you’ll still go through tough times. Tough times is an understatement. You will suffer through heartache, mental ache, depression, discouragement, injury, divorce, job loss, frustration etc. and you will feel alone, very alone. You will feel as if God has abandoned you.
Can I share something with you that has really made a lasting impact on my life through tough times? He is there. He knows you. He is as Elder Maxwell so eloquently states “not a one world God.” This is not His first go around. He is not a rookie. He is the God of Gods. He is the God of the Universe. He is Alpha and Omega. He is our Father and He loves you and I so much more than we know.
So what do we do?
The answer is simple: Endure well.
If you have done something wrong to cause the pain, fix it. Repent. Change. Go and apologize to a person you’ve offended. Go and make restitution for the things you personally did to cause you pain. Strive to be better. Be your best.
BUT, if you feel like you’re doing everything right and still suffering, then endure. Do not get discouraged (easier to write and say than to do). Do not let your heart become hardened. Write in your journal. Express gratitude. See who you can help. Take time to rest. Allow others to help you.
But don’t do anything stupid that you’ll regret. You can pass your trials if you’ll endure well and trust Him (Proverbs 3:5-6).
The Prophet Nephi from the Book of Mormon was tied up for four days on a boat by his brothers and nearly died. He says “Nevertheless I did look unto my God, and I did praise him all the day long; and I did not murmum against the Lord because of mine afflictions.” 1 Nephi 18:16. My brother and I often refer to this scripture. It’s comforting to know that I can make it through the tough times without being a cry-baby.
Good ole Job from the Old Testament praised God even though he lost his possessions, his family and his body was given sores and boils. I look forward to meeting Job in the next life.
CAN WE ENDURE without complaining?
Can we soften our hearts instead of becoming hardened? Can we be like Nephi, like Job, like our master Jesus Christ and say “Nevertheless not my will but thine be done?”
Yes we can. Yes we can.
If it wasn’t a test then it would be easy.
Keep going my friends.
Be patient. Wait upon the Lord.
Do you TRUST God enough to let Him guide you, teach you, help you and support you.
Many say they believe in God…but do they really believe God?
I do. I believe Him.
I know God lives. Do you?