Today’s Reading: Jacob 5:1-19
15 And it came to pass that a long time passed away, and the Lord of the vineyard said unto his servant: Come, let us go down into the vineyard, that we may labor in the vineyard.
When there are hard things ahead of me, when there is a daunting task in my path, when there is a tree in my life that needs to be pruned or uprooted, I am often tempted to cry out “I can’t do this”. And when I do, I have to remind myself of something: “[For me] this is impossible; but with God all things are possible”[i]. So it’s true–I can’t do it… alone.
We were not placed on this earth to walk alone. What an amazing source of power, of strength, and of comfort is available to each of us. -Thomas S. Monson [ii]
Whether it’s stepping outside of our comfort zone to do missionary labors, or to engage in the labor of love as a parent, the Lord is not only our omnipotent leader, but our kind coworker.
So how are you at seeking help when it’s needed? Honestly, relying on others (God or man) is hard for me at times, because part of me wants to do it alone. In my pride I want to know that I am strong enough–woman enough, skilled enough, independent enough to do it by myself. But there’s an inherent problem with doing things alone–it makes you feel lonely, and it separates you from God’s power and man’s service.
I am certainly guilty of the mistake Elder Bednar describes:
I wonder if we mistakenly believe we must make the journey from good to better and become a saint all by ourselves through sheer grit, willpower, and discipline, and with our obviously limited capacities[iii].
One lengthy trial in my life really brought to my attention just how badly I need to labor with the Lord (and others). The trial was motherhood and I thought I had prepared myself extensively. I didn’t have any younger siblings, so I tried to babysit all I could to develop a talent for caring for and entertaining children. Once in the workforce I primarily chose jobs where I would take care of children–two daycares, a parent center, a preschool etc. I volunteered in Romania at a children’s hospital and orphanage; I took courses in child development and went on to get a degree in marriage and family studies all with the intention that I would be better prepared for motherhood. But perhaps nothing could prepare me for my first child. You see, this girl came out of the womb crying. (I know, most babies cry at birth, right?) Yes. But the problem is, this baby didn’t stop crying! I’d feed her and she’d cry, I’d feed her more and she’d cry, I’d burp her and she’d cry, I cuddled her and she’d cry, I swaddled her and she’d cry, I sang to her and she’d cry, I rocked her in my arms or in the carseat, or drove her around in the car, and she’d still cry. In fact, it seemed the more I tried to soothe her, the harder she cried. It not only broke my heart, it shattered my dreams of being a good mom. I couldn’t even comfort my own child.
I was stubbornly trying to do it by myself. There were many resources I wasn’t utilizing. It took me six months to take that girl to the doctor to find out that she had acid reflux.
I needed the Dr.’s help.
With medicine, things got better… slightly. It took nine months to be told “this baby cries more than most babies”, when my cousin (who’s had 5 babies of her own) watched our daughter while we went on vacation. Some experimentation led to finding out that our baby had food allergies.
I needed my cousin’s help.
By changing her diet, things got better… but not all the way–our daughter still had an irritable temperament. Crying and whining pushed me near the edge some days. Until one day I resolved that I could do it no longer. My daughter’s near-constant crying made me feel like the victim of verbal abuse. It was as though I was being berated for my inadequacies almost every waking minute. Try as I might, my best efforts weren’t good enough. So I made up my mind: I was trading in my mother badge to go back to work. I found a job that I was ready to apply for and told my husband my plans. He was awe struck. It was his dream too to have his wife stay at home with our children. As I explained my feelings of being overwhelmed, I got angry–angry at how hard I had tried and at how deeply I was failing. “I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE” I yelled as I crumpled to the floor in heaving sobs. I was absolutely deflated. My husband spoke: “You can do this. I believe in you. I trust you–I trust you with our daughter” his confidence comforted me. “You can do this” he repeated, “but you don’t have to do this alone. Sometimes you need a break and that’s OK. We can hire someone for a couple hours a day to give you a break. If you need me, you can drive her to my work (5 minutes away) and I’ll take her for awhile. I’m here for you and I’m not going anywhere”. Wow!
I needed my husband’s help.
Things got better after that… gradually. I spent a few days at my mother-in-law’s house so she could help me with my daughter. I didn’t end up hiring anyone, but I did start to swap babysitting with friends so that they could get a break too.
I needed my friends’ help.
And I discovered that my little one was so much happier and lower maintenance when she too had a friend. Our relationship and my identity as a mother continued to improve and more than two years and one baby later, though not perfect, things are much better.
I feel a major contributor to the improvements was that I started to understand and apply an important truth in my life: it is not just me engaged in this work, it is “us” and “we” as mentioned in Jacob 5:15. So maybe I can’t do it sometimes, not by myself. But God always can. And it’s like I can hear him saying at times “You can do this. I believe in you. I trust you–I trust you with my daughter” and his confidence comforts me. “You can do this” he repeats, “but you don’t have to do this alone. I’m here for you and I’m not going anywhere!”
I need the Lord’s help.
Sometimes we are tempted to give up or turn back because maybe we think we can’t do it alone. And we are right! We cannot do the difficult things we have been asked to do without help. Help comes through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the guidance of the Holy Ghost, and the helping hands of others. -Linda K. Burton [iv]