Recently I’ve been thinking about the concept of faith and the examples in history that often motivate and give me courage to face the trials in my own life. The scriptures are full of courageous men and women who lived their lives by faith in the Lord, allowing Him to take the reigns and trusting that everything would work out in the end – especially in the middle of it all when the end was unclear and worrisome.
We’re often told to have faith and that if we have enough of it, things will work out. But there is a much deeper concept that I have been studying lately. We have the faith to be healed, faith that the Lord can move mountains, remove us from hardships, lighten our loads, faith that others will heal, faith that things will work together for our good. But do we have faith not to be healed? Faith in the Lord, even when the mountains are not moved? Faith that the hardships we are going through are for our own good, even when we want nothing more than for them to end?
Elder Bednar shared this concept in his talk titled “That We Might Not Shrink” when he taught about an experience he had when offering a blessing . I came to understand this concept further when I was studying Abinadi last week and contrasting his life experiences to those of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. They were asked to do something hard, they were even thrown into a fiery furnace, and yet they had complete faith that the Lord would deliver them – and He did. But Abinadi also was asked to do something hard, and I’m sure he would have preferred an ending similar to Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego’s. But instead, things didn’t quite work out that way for him. Yet, he still had complete faith in the Lord, especially when things were not going as he had hoped.
One of my favorite talks ever given was titled “But If Not” by Elder Dennis E. Simmons. It often gives me strength and puts the trials and unanswered prayers of mine into perspective. A few of my favorite quotes that stand out from his talk are:
“Faith is believing that although we do not understand all things, He does. Faith is knowing that although our power is limited, His is not.”
“Our scriptures and our history are replete with accounts of God’s great men and women who believed that He would deliver them, but if not, they demonstrated that they would trust and be true.”
“He has the power, but it’s our test.”
This last one has become my new motto. I was reading in Ether 3:4-5 a few days back and was very impressed with the faith of the brother of Jared as he said, “And I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man …Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this. We know that thou art able to show forth great power…” And I caught myself paralleling my faith to his and reflecting on past experiences in my life. God has given me so many miracles in my life that my faith in Him and His power is undeniable. But as I reflect on the concept of Him having the power and ability to do all things – it was a lesson to me that sometimes it’s my test, and that’s why the mountains I have been praying away have not yet been moved. Consider this quote from Neal A. Maxwell:
“Yielding one’s heart to God signals the last stage in our spiritual development. Only then are we beginning to be fully useful to God! How can we sincerely pray to be an instrument in His hands if the instrument seeks to do the instructing?” (Another good talk to read on this subject: Willing to Submit, Neal A. Maxwell)
Are we doing the instructing? I certainly do at times. I pray in faith, knowing that He has the ability to answer all of my prayers, but never stepping back and considering that maybe I am not meant to receive all those things I’m praying for – at least at this time or in the way I want them. I certainly grow more through the unanswered prayers because my faith is strengthened and I have to continue pushing along, knowing that there is something greater being woven in the works that I do not understand at this time.
I often watch others around me get down heartened or lose faith when everything in their life is not going “as planned”. But wouldn’t we be better off not trying to create our plan, but allowing God’s plan to direct us? After all, He knows all. I love this quote and the light it shines on this topic when we are asking for blessings, not receiving them in our timing or on our conditions, and then getting frustrated with the way things work out.
It is so easy to be halfhearted, but this only produces half the growth, half the blessings, and just half a life, really, with more bud than blossom. – Elder Neal A. Maxwell
The true test lies in us believing and living whole hardheartedly, especially when everything doesn’t seem to be going as we planned. I love how Elder Simmons says it,
“Our God will deliver us from ridicule and persecution, but if not. … Our God will deliver us from sickness and disease, but if not …. He will deliver us from loneliness, depression, or fear, but if not. … Our God will deliver us from threats, accusations, and insecurity, but if not. … He will deliver us from death or impairment of loved ones, but if not, … we will trust in the Lord.
Our God will see that we receive justice and fairness, but if not. … He will make sure that we are loved and recognized, but if not. … We will receive a perfect companion and righteous and obedient children, but if not, … we will have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, knowing that if we do all we can do, we will, in His time and in His way, be delivered and receive all that He has.”
There are a lot of beautiful things happening in my life right now – more than I ever prayed for or imagined, and many of them are blessings that I did not see coming from a choice I had to make in complete faith a long time ago. Even now I feel that every day there are new roadblocks in my path and I’m constantly having to stop, go around them, climb over them, or wait for them to be moved. I have absolute faith in the Lord and His timing, His plan and His power. But I have had to learn this lesson and also evaluate myself that I have faith to not be healed when I want to be so badly. I have faith that He is helping me along the way, getting me through the hard days, and answering my prayers. BUT I also have faith in Him and His plan when those prayers are not answered in the way or time I expected. I have faith in Him when things don’t work out. Because I understand that His plan is always the better plan and what I can’t make sense of at this time will one day make sense. God is in the details.