Monday, March 21, 2011

Living with Hope - Part IV

When we establish our faith in Jesus Christ as the bedrock of our life, we can move forward confident of who we are and trusting in that God whose we are. I read a thought the other day that said, “When things get tough, always remember that faith doesn’t get you around trouble, it gets you through it!” In the middle of troubles, trusting that our Heavenly Father is aware of us and will bring us through is the ultimate trial of our faith. Trusting in our Heavenly Father and his plan for us as individuals is the last element of maintaining and sustaining hope that I want to talk about today.
On the large scale, we believe that Heavenly Father has a plan by which all His children can return to Him to live in His presence. This macro-scaled plan is the plan of salvation. But according to scripture, there is also a micro-sized plan for each of His children, by which we can, on an individual level, become like Him and be prepared to return to Him and live in His presence. Our life experiences are part of that micro-plan and His hand is in the details. Across our life, if we trust Him, we will be refined and sanctified. Experiences will be allowed into our lives and brought into our lives by our loving Father. These experiences will teach and transform us into more than we could ever make of our selves – even more than we could ever dream for ourselves.
I can think of no better example of people who learned to trust completely in Heavenly Father than the Jaredites as He brought them out from the Tower of Babel and into the Promised Land. As I prepared for this talk I came across this story of the Jaredites and their trust in God twice. So I re-read the Book of Ether with the idea that the journey of the people of Jared into the wilderness and across the ocean to the Promised Land is an analogy of our journey on this earth and back to our Heavenly Father. I read about their journey with new eyes and I want to share a few of the truths I found about trusting the Lord even in the tough times – or especially in the tough times.
The Jaredite journey begins at the Tower of Babel and ends in the Promised Land. The story begins:

Ether 2: 5-6 And it came to pass that the Lord commanded them that they should ago forth into the wilderness, yea, into that quarter where there never had man been. And it came to pass that the Lord did go before them, and did talk with them as he stood in a bcloud, and gave cdirections whither they should travel…and they did travel in the wilderness and did build barges in which they did cross many waters…being directed continually by the hand of the Lord.

We learn here that as we begin growing up and having our own first-time experiences of living by faith – going places where we have never been - we are led very closely by the Lord and our parents or missionaries or teachers or bishops who know our needs and guide us on a daily basis. Also, I didn’t remember that long before they got to the ocean, the Jaredites built barges to cross other bodies of water, so another truth taught here is that our life is filled with experiences - like barge building - that prepare us for challenges that lie ahead.

7 And the Lord would not suffer that they should stop beyond the sea in the wilderness, but he would that they should come forth even unto the aland of promise…

The Jaredites made it through the wilderness to the seashore and took a four-year break. However, well-deserved it might have been, they were really selling themselves short. We do this too. We get tired and get casual about who we are and where we are going. We think: “This is good enough for me. I am comfortable that I have come this far. I have accomplished all that I had envisioned.”
But the Lord has plans for us that are greater than we could ever conceive of by ourselves. So he said to them (and to us):

16 And the Lord said: Go to work... And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did go to work, and also his brethren, and built barges after the manner which they had built…

The skill set they had developed helped them face this new challenge – an ocean. Life experiences prepare us with what we need to move forward.
The Lord give us everything we need to face even the most insurmountable challenges and we cannot do it without him. About here we usually talk about the miracle of lighted stones provided by the Lord, but I’d like to focus on some of the other challenges they faced. Remember - they needed to cross a vast ocean as quickly as possible before they and all of their animals died at sea in order to make it to the Promised Land. They were going to need more help than just light. So the Lord assured them that they were prepared and they could cross this sea.

25 And behold, I prepare you against these things; for ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea, and the winds which have gone forth, and the floods which shall come.
Ether 6: 4 And it came to pass that when they had prepared…they got aboard of their vessels or barges, and set forth into the sea, commending themselves unto the Lord their God.

They did what they were told and then they trusted the Lord.

5 And it came to pass that the Lord God caused that there should be a furious wind blow upon the face of the waters, btowards the promised land; and thus they were tossed upon the waves of the sea before the wind.
6 And it came to pass that they were many times buried in the depths of the sea, because of the mountain waves which broke upon them, and also the great and terrible tempests which were caused by the fierceness of the wind.

Can you imagine? The Lord sent the winds and the waves that must have felt so frightening and dangerous to them - great challenges to be endured and to be overcome. But they continued to trust in the Lord and they learned the following:

7 And it came to pass that when they were buried in the deep there was no water that could hurt them, their vessels being atight like unto a dish…And thus they were driven forth; and no monster of the sea could break them, neither awhale that could mar them; and they did have light continually, whether it was above the water or under the water.

First they learned that they were in the Lord’s hands.

8 And it came to pass that the wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land while they were upon the waters; and thus they were adriven forth before the wind.

Second they learned that the wind – the scary, difficult challenge- was in fact the very force bringing them quickly and effectively to their destination. In their newfound appreciation of the Lord’s goodness in this most difficult situation – truly a tough time if there ever was one – they were grateful for everything that came from His hand, even the wind and the waves.

9 And they did sing praises unto the Lord; yea…and…did thank and praise the Lord all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord…. And thus they were driven forth, athree hundred and forty and four days upon the water.

344 days! They must have despaired that there would ever be a good outcome to this journey. No one can float on the ocean for 344 days and not wonder from time to time if they can endure. But in the Lord’s time – and I am sure it was just in the nick of time – they finally came to their desired destination.

12 …when they had set their feet upon the shores of the promised land they bowed themselves down upon the face of the land, and did humble themselves before the Lord, and did shed tears of joy before the Lord, because of the multitude of his ctender mercies over them.

This story is a primer on how to trust the Lord to prepare us and guide us home to Him again. Calm seas would have been easier, but they would have never reached the Promised Land. They would have died floating in the middle of the ocean. What felt like a great difficulty was in fact the Lord saving their lives. Can we learn to trust Him to deliver us as they did? The first theme of the Book of Mormon is to testify that Jesus is the Christ. Secondary to that theme and supporting it is the thesis found in 1 Nephi 1:20 which reads:

“I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.”

Twenty five years ago a prophet of God taught us that the Book of Mormon was written and compiled specifically for our day. So why do we need 530 pages of documentation that the Lord will deliver us by His tender mercies if we have faith? As He directed those prophets who compiled the words found in the Book of Mormon, don’t you suppose that He knew us and our day? He knew exactly the challenges we would face. He knew that we would have to learn put our trust in Him. Even as He causes furious winds to blow through our lives and mountain waves to break upon us, we know we can trust Him to hold us safely in his Hands and that all things will work together to bring us home to Him.
2 Nephi 31: 20 captures all of these principles in a single verse:

Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.

In a nutshell this verse shows us that hope is essential if we are going to move forward and endure to the end. Also, hope is strengthened by a steadfast faith in Christ and His promises. It teaches that each of us is a beloved daughter of our Father and we need to love one another as we journey back to him. And lastly, as we press forward and endure the challenges of our day, we need a perfect brightness of hope that will give us enough light to see the Lord’s hand in our lives and trust that He has the power and the will to deliver us safely home again.
In closing I would like to share counsel given by Elder Holland in his address called “Lessons from Liberty Jail” regarding the purpose and opportunity of tough times.

“ …every experience can become a redemptive experience if we remain bonded to our Father in Heaven through that difficulty. These difficult lessons teach us that man’s extremity is God’s opportunity, and if we will be humble and faithful, if we will be believing and not curse God for our problems, He can turn the unfair and inhumane and debilitating prisons of our lives into temples—or at least into a circumstance that can bring comfort and revelation, divine companionship and peace.”

I am grateful for the lessons I have learned from the difficult times in my life – for comfort, knowledge and peace that have blessed me in moments of distress. I have great hope that the Lord will continue to tutor me as needed, if I will trust Him even in challenging times and strive to be a faithful daughter.
As I began teaching seminary, I found myself at a loss for words to express how I felt to my students as they left the classroom each day to face the world. One day a little phrase came to me, and I have used it to end many classes since then. Simply put: “It’s true and it’s worth it.” My testimony is that the gospel is true and whatever we may endure for its sake is completely worth the effort. The Lord will sustain us in every good thing, and the time will come when will see the end from the beginning and know that our faith and hope and trust in Him were perfectly placed.

No comments:

Post a Comment