Last week in Sunday School, me and Skyler taught a lesson on the different ways we can choose to react to the trials that the Lord entrusts us with. I wanted to share a few of those thoughts on here and invite you to reflect on the current trials you are faced with.
Picture a bucket of water in your mind. Now place a golf ball and a ping pong ball into the bucket. What does each ball do? How do the two balls represent different ways people respond to trials? Take a minute to reflect on the following two questions:
What is the difference between sinking and swimming?
What does it look like in our trials today?
Some ways we might sink during the “storms of life” can include us stepping further off the path we have been foreordained to follow. This can include things such as church inactivity, participating in things we know we ought not to, or becoming bitter or angry at the Lord. What trials in your life have you sunk under pressure and taken steps backwards instead of forwards?
We knew before we were born that we were coming to the earth for bodies and experience and that we would have joys and sorrows, pain and comforts, ease and hardships, health and sickness, successes and disappointments; and we knew also that we would die. We accepted all these eventualities with a glad heart eager to accept both the favorable and unfavorable. … We were willing to come and take life as it came. – Spencer W. Kimball
Swimming through a trial can be seen in many different ways. How many of us see others carrying their burdens with optimism, cheerfulness and gratitude in their hearts? How many of us ourselves get on our knees and thank Heavenly Father for the trials He has given us to mold us into better individuals and disciples of Christ?
I am strengthened during my trials when I study the life and example of the prophet Joseph Smith. He was constantly tried and tested throughout his life, but he eventually became accustomed to the inconsistency of his life and learned to trust the Lord’s plans for him.
And as for the perils which I am called to pass through, they seem but a small thing to me, as the envy and wrath of man have been my common lot all the days of my life; and for what cause it seems mysterious, unless I was ordained from before the foundation of the world for some good end, or bad, as you may choose to call it. Judge ye for yourselves. God knoweth all these things, whether it be good or bad. But nevertheless, deep water is what I am wont to swim in. It all has become a second nature to me; and I feel, like Paul, to glory in tribulation; for to this day has the God of my fathers delivered me out of them all, and will deliver me from henceforth; for behold, and lo, I shall triumph over all my enemies, for the Lord God hath spoken it. – D&C 127:2
One of Joseph Smith’s most vulnerable moments was during the cold, winter nights he spent in Liberty Jail. The conditions were harsh, the safety of his family unsure, the church was in peril. They were starved and in a dark, cold cell. There was hardly any light unless they lit a candle, which smoke often hurt their eyes. In the prophet’s hardest moment he cried out to the Lord for help, to which He was told:
My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes. – D&C 121:7-8
No matter what trials the prophet was facing, he found different ways to strengthen his “spiritual life vest”. He studied the scriptures, prayed often to the Lord, and most importantly was mindful in remembering the promises and past deliverance’s that the Lord has done for him. I often find myself worrying and allowing myself to get bogged down during heavy trials, as I’m sure we all do. But what helps me to pull through is reflecting all that God has done for me in the past, and restoring my faith and confidence in His watchful love and care in my life.
No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God, … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire. – Orson F. Whitney
Ask yourself where in your life you can use some spiritual strengthening to help you swim instead of sinking through the trials you are up against? I often wonder how much Heavenly Father shakes His head at us when we complain, murmur, or get frustrated over the trials in our lives when He is standing there with his arms outstretched, waiting for us to ask for His help.
And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? – Matthew 14:26-31
I think we all too often condemn Peter for His lack of faith, when we ourselves struggle in remembering our past relationship with the Savior and trusting in His ability to once again, take our hand and deliver us. I also think this is a beautiful reminder of what we can do when we feel that we are sinking helplessly amidst a trial.
May we also consider the difference between sinking, swimming and also floating during a trial. Sometimes we don’t necessarily “sink” during a trial but instead float helplessly through it. This can be done by numbing ourselves or getting lost in something else that prevents us from facing or thinking about our problems. We may not be stepping backwards or off the path, but we may be paralyzing our progression by resisting what the Lord wants us to learn by moving up and over the mountains placed in front of us. When I work with clients, I see many of them “floating” through trials by binge drinking or even just eating uncontrollably, binge watching Netflix or TV shows, and finding ways to distract themselves such as long hours at work or getting lost in social media feeds for hours at a time. I believe the difference between floating and swimming through a trial is all based on our attitude, thoughts and reactions to what is going on around us.
The Lord promised Joseph Smith that if he endured his trials well, he would be exalted. This concept makes me reflect in my own life by asking the question, “Am I just enduring through my trials or enduring well? What is my perspective and attitude? Am I grateful for what the Lord is giving me to grow, or do I grudgingly push forward every day?” The following two quotes reiterate the importance of being grateful amidst our trials and give us some insight on what it means to endure a trial well.
Gratitude requires awareness and effort, not only to feel it but to express it. Frequently we are oblivious to the Lord’s hand. We murmur, complain, resist, criticize; so often we are not grateful. The kind of gratitude that receives even tribulations with thanksgiving requires a broken heart and a contrite spirit, humility to accept that which we cannot change, willingness to turn everything over to the Lord – even when we do not understand, thankfulness for hidden opportunities yet to be revealed. Then comes a sense of peace. When was the last time you thanked the Lord for a trial or tribulation? Adversity compels us to go to our knees; does gratitude for adversity do that as well? – Bonnie D. Parkin
We sometimes think that being grateful is what we do after our problems are solved, but how terribly shortsighted that is. How much of life do we miss by waiting to see the rainbow before thanking God that there is rain? Being grateful in times of distress does not mean that we are pleased with our circumstances. It does mean that through the eyes of faith we look beyond our present-day challenges. – Dieter F. Utchord
As I go throughout my day to day patterns, I constantly stop and ask myself how I am reacting to the difficulties placed before me. The Lord gives us trials to help us grow, not to break us down or make life unbearable. I can’t tell you how many times I have watched this video and gained strength during a trial that I do not understand at the time. It is a powerful reminder that I can keep going, pushing forward optimistically, even when I do not know what the future holds. What I do know is that right now, today, in this very moment, I can choose to swim instead of floating or sinking through my trials. By choosing to endure them well, I know that they will not only pass, but I will be better off for experiencing them.
Even if you cannot always see that silver lining on your clouds, God can, for He is the very source of the light you seek. He does love you, and He knows your fears. He hears your prayers. He is your Heavenly Father, and surely He matches with His own the tears His children shed. – Jeffrey R. Holland