A few days ago I was praying for an answer and for increased faith to act on that answer, even though at the time it seemed difficult and improbable. God was quick to remind me of His deliverance that has been a frequent pattern in my life. Each Sunday as I reflect on my actions from the past week and look at how I can improve, one of my favorite questions I ask myself is, “What prison was I delivered from this week?” This helps me to see how the Lord is working in my life, the prayers He is answering, and how I am being strengthened through my trials.
We each have prisons that we confine ourselves too. Sometimes by choice, others by circumstance, and sometimes we’re put in those prisons as part of a purification process. The scriptures are full of instances where the Lord heard the cries of His children and delivered them (both figurative and literal) from their prisons. Why do you think these stories were included in the scriptures for people in our generation to read about?
These scriptural accounts have an underlying situation – they were all delivered from their prisons on the Lord’s time, after they had learned the lesson He wanted them to learn. How often do we plead with the Lord to deliver us immediately from our trials, instead of asking Him what it is He wants us to learn from them? As I look back over the course of my life, the prisons I have been delivered from were all accompanied with powerful growth and understanding
One week ago today I visited Liberty Jail in Liberty, Missouri where the Prophet Joseph Smith was held as prisoner for four bitter cold months. The situation was not ideal – dark, cold, faint circulation. There was no hand washing, or bathing, or even a bathroom. Though he was thrown into this prison unjustly, while his family and friends in the church were being killed and driven from their homes in the harsh winter, he was not alone. One tender mercy that stood out to me was that the Lord had given him friends to experience the trial with him. Though not ideal for any one of them, at least they had each other to strengthen one another and help the long days and nights pass on. Many emotions flooded through my mind as I asked questions and put different pieces together of what had been happening in these men’s lives at this time. Hyrum Smith’s wife was days away from having a new son. The mobs were burning and running the Mormon’s out of Missouri. While the quarters in Liberty Jail brought a trial on their own, the harder part had to have been how helpless and worried these men were about their families and neighbors.
You and I may also need to suffer and undergo certain experiences ‘according to the flesh’ in order to increase our capacity to help other people, bringing experiences we may not want, but which the Lord in His wisdom may insist upon. – Neal A. Maxwell
Liberty Jail is seen as a purification process for the Prophet Joseph and these other men. Their faith, patience, and trust in the Lord were all put to the test. Likewise, the individual trials, or “prisons” we experience through life can also be seen as purification processes for the bettering of ourselves. As I reflect over the course of my life, there are many prisons I have been set free from and made better for going through it. Though at the time my patience was tried and the days seemed long, the Lord always came through.
Nothwithstanding the Lord stood by me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. – 2 Timothy 4:17
We might not be confined in a literal jail for four months without food, water, light or warmth, but I can assure you that we will be placed through many spiritual trials that will feel as though we have been imprisoned. If you feel that you are doing all you can and that you are confined – when you’re so anxious to grow, maybe the Lord is trying to teach you something about yourself. Sometimes these prisons are out of our control, and it requires a lot of faith and trust until the time that the Lord answers your prayers.
“When we are called to wait, we can rest assured that we do not wait alone. God is aware of us, and He will sustain us. As we learn to trust His timing, we allow God’s work and glory to be carried out in His perfect, beautiful way. We may not always understand why we must wait. Yet we can have faith that God is in perfect control of the universe and that in His own time, He will deliver us.” – Felice Austin
In Hebrew, the word for “wait” is also the word for “hope” and denotes spiritual expectation and anticipation. Dr. Lynn Callister explains the active process of waiting very beautifully:
Waiting denotes an active process…requires continual self-examination, constantly trying to become more worthy, and ever-deepening and progressive discipleship of a broken heart, a contrite spirit, a yielded will and consecration of self. When we know that the guidance is of the Lord and the answers to our prayers are spiritual gifts, we cannot control or demand. We must be content and peaceful. – Dr. Lynn Callister
Whether you’re struggling in a prison of self hate, self loathing, or are praying to be delivered from a situation, a financial strain, a job, feeling friendless, or a physical infirmity – the Lord hears you. Talk to him. Ask Him what it is He wants you to learn from this experience, and then go to work looking for His hand in all things. As David A. Bednar councils (click here to watch the video), ….. “ Let me suggest that one of the ways whereby the Savior comes to each of us is through His abundant and tender mercies. For instance, as you and I face challenges and tests in our lives, the gift of faith and an appropriate sense of personal confidence that reaches beyond our own capacity are two examples of the tender mercies of the Lord. Repentance and forgiveness of sins and peace of conscience are examples of the tender mercies of the Lord. And the persistence and the fortitude that enable us to press forward with cheerfulness through physical limitations and spiritual difficulties are examples of the tender mercies of the Lord.”