How can we choose to believe when we pass through affliction? I know a mother of 3 who is a young widow still in her 20’s. I have friends who struggle with same-sex attraction. People I love are married to a spouse struggling with same-sex attraction. I know many who battle depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or other mental health issues. There are others who struggle through divorce, infidelity, or deal with chronic or terminal illness. There is also infertility, drug addiction, or overcoming the effects of abuse. The list goes on and on with loss, poverty, violence, wars, natural disasters, and difficulties in all forms. Just because your fiery trial didn’t make my little list doesn’t mean that it isn’t a legitimate battle in choosing to believe.
Today I am talking about those life experiences that shake us to the very core.
I am talking about those times we don’t know if we are going to make it…
Those times we question, wonder, or doubt. Because of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles before us, we may find it difficult to remember “The Plan.”
Those Times We Wonder
My head was swarming with ugly, ugly questions. You know the kind I am speaking of. The kind that bring doubt, fear, anger, and maybe even self-pity. I began to write those questions down when I noticed this threatening flood. My heart hurt as I stared down at the tear-stained page. I immediately got on my knees after I shut my journal where I had scribbled down these stormy thoughts. Through the tears I poured out my heart to God. I told Him about the hurt and the frustration, holding nothing back. Trembling, I pleaded for understanding, reassurance, and guidance. A recent Ensign article came to my mind in the peace following my prayer. God was speaking to me as I reviewed Elder Bednar’s words (i):
“Righteousness and faith certainly are instrumental in moving mountains—if moving mountains accomplishes God’s purposes and is in accordance with His will. Righteousness and faith certainly are instrumental in healing the sick, deaf, and lame—if such healing accomplishes God’s purposes and is in accordance with His will. Thus, even if we have strong faith, many mountains will not be moved. And not all of the sick and infirm will be healed. If all opposition were curtailed, if all maladies were removed, then the primary purposes of the Father’s plan would be frustrated.
Many of the lessons we are to learn in mortality can be received only through the things we experience and sometimes suffer. And God expects and trusts us to face temporary mortal adversity with His help so we can learn what we need to learn and ultimately become what we are to become in eternity.”
Remember The Plan
Afflictions are part of our eternal journey. They may come in consequence to choices we or others make. Some come to chasten or re-direct us. Sometimes they just simply come as part of being mortals in a fallen world. These fiery trials of our faith can shape us and help us become like God regardless of how or why they come. They can help us develop His attributes and characteristics. Remembering The Plan makes this process softened and sweetened. We can choose to offer our whole hearts more willingly to the refinement.
Each of our lives is made up of moments. Moments where we can get foggy-eyed with limited mortal perspective. At times we cannot see or remember why such afflictions are in our path. The here and now can make it easy to become absorbed in this moment and feel lost. We can quickly forget that this affliction, let alone our time on the earth, is momentary. All of us have moments where we must fight to remember The Plan by choosing to believe. We have the choice to sink into the despair, darkness, or hopelessness. There are the split-second decisions to let the resentments or hurt fester. We can focus on what is before our mortal eyes: the illusion that it is impossible to do what is before us.
BUT we also can choose to believe by doing those things we know will bring light. Light comes as we get on our knees, pull out our scriptures, head to the temple, or turn to God in our own powerful ways. We can choose to believe, even if at first it doesn’t seem perceptible. Our focus and action will bring light even if it appears that it makes no difference. Sometimes when we choose to believe the light comes quickly. We can feel that God is there with our answer or peace in the instant of turning. Other times, it’s a process. We didn’t notice the light until quite a bit later because the light grew so gradually.
And yet still, some battles are long-lasting. Some battles are without a resolution in this life. There still is a choice regardless of having to choose to believe for a few pivotal moments, or continually from moment to moment in a marathon of faith. We CAN remember The Plan when we have reminders of physical death such as illness, difficulties with our bodies, mortal death, etc. We can also choose to believe when we have reminders of spiritual death (being out of God’s presence: see Alma 42:9) such as confusion, discouragement, fear, etc.
Choose to Believe
It is by faith in Jesus Christ that we can get up and over the seemingly paradoxical gap between the ideal and the reality. As we choose to believe, we can see things with our spiritual eyes that our skepticism, criticism, or doubt cannot understand.
We can try again because of Jesus Christ. We can move forward after moments when we give in to doubt or darkness.
We can cry out, “…Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24).
As we choose to believe and fight to remember The Plan, especially during times of affliction, we can come to see God who is over all. He is aware of the details in each of our lives. Our circumstances are known to Him. Our secret hurts and desires are known. It isn’t a mistake when we struggle. We can choose to believe, trusting in a loving Father who sees the end from the beginning. He has made a perfect plan for each one of us to be able to find joy and peace, not just in the life to come, but in this mortal existence now (consider President Nelson’s talk on joy).