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Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Keeping the faith

I was asked to give a talk last Sunday, I said yes, but i really wanted to say no. Public speaking is definitely not in my comfort zone! Then you've got all the CFS worries - can I stand there for that length of time with all those nerves? How much pain am I going to feel after it?
I did it though, I had to, the subject was faith in adversity and that is what I have been trying to learn for this past year. Everything I said in my talk is what I've had to learn, the hard way, but it's true and it works.
So, here it is, my talk and the culmination of everything I've learned (and still learning) this past year.

Some challenges we face hit us hard and the burdens seem too heavy to bear. At times like this it can seem like we pray but feel no guidance or comfort and it can lead us to wonder where God is. The prophet Joseph smith had spent several dark months in liberty jail when In D&C 121 we read that he prayed 'O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?' 
The Lord gave Joseph a response that we can all apply in our lives 
"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." 
In our worldly time frames our afflictions don't seem like a small moment, some feel like they will last forever, but God has promised us they will end. The hard part is holding on to our faith in God and in his promises, when in the midst of trials. 

Accepting the challenge is a huge component in helping us to get through it. There is no benefit that comes through getting angry with your situation or wallowing in despair. These serve only to make the tough times harder and yourself and your family more miserable. When we agreed and even rejoiced to come down to earth we knew that it was a time of testing, and that we would go through good times and bad times.  Accept the bad times for what they are - Opportunities to learn the traits that will keep us strong in our times of trial. These are the traits that will enable us to live in peace, joy and harmony in the next life. Henry B Eyring said 'the disciple who accepts a trial as an invitation to grow and therefore qualify for eternal life can find peace in the midst of the struggle'. If we accept these opportunities for growth, our challenges can refine us into being the best people we can be. 

Once we have accepted that this is our life for the moment we can humble ourselves and open our hearts to the Spirit. Richard G Scott says 'yielding to emotions such as anger or hurt or defensiveness will drive away the Holy Ghost...' we need to go to the Lord in prayer humbly, quietly, so that His spirit can speak to us and we can feel it.' More often than not, the Spirit whispers to our hearts, or speaks peace to our souls. We need to free ourselves of the negative emotions that might hinder us from feeling these promptings and humbly pray for the guidance to help us through these hard times. 
Our prayers will be answered. 
When the Saviour atoned for us, he did not just atone for our sins, he also went through our sicknesses and our sorrows. In alma 7:11-12 it says  'And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
 12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.' He KNOWS how to succor us and He will if we ask Him. 
We need to give up our pains and sorrows and hand them over to the Lord. As the psalm says  "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee" . In turn, going through these experiences will enable us to help others when they go through their own trials. And serving others not only strengthens them but ourselves too, as president eyring states  'It is serving God and others persistently with full heart and soul that turns testimony of truth into unbreakable spiritual strength.'

During the times when our faith and morale are low and we struggle to put one foot in front of the other, it is essential that we persevere in our prayers, our scripture study, partaking of the sacrament, attending the temple and other commandments. By keeping the commandments we uphold our end of the covenants we have made with God and therefore, He is bound to bless us, as elder d Todd christoferson explains ' In these divine agreements, God binds Himself to sustain, sanctify, and exalt us.'' 

A friend sent me a link to a talk recently by Joseph B Wirthlin called 'come what may and love it'. This sentence changed my attitude and helped me put my circumstances into perspective. Elder Wirthlin suggested  "The next time you're tempted to groan, you might try to laugh instead. It will extend your life and make the lives of all those around you more enjoyable". My husband is great at applying this principle and I can't remember a day I've not laughed despite feeling my burdens were too heavy to bear at times. Richard G Scott explains that  A good sense of humour is an escape valve for the pressures of life and can help revelation. Both are things we need in order to remain faithful in adversity. 

Most importantly, in order to keep the faith, we need to endure to the end. We won't be perfect in applying these principles and remaining strong throughout our trials. That's ok, we just need to pick ourselves up and try again. It will feel hard to do, but each time we do it will feel easier. Elder Robert d hales testified that if we are obedient and diligent in doing what the Lord asks  'then our prayers will be answered, our problems will diminish, our fears will dissipate, light will come upon us, the darkness of despair will be dispersed, and we will be close to the Lord and feel of His love and of the comfort of the Holy Ghost.'
What a comfort this is. 

Never forget that God is there for you, He has not abandoned you. President Eyring says 'Because you are so valuable, some of your trials may be severe. You need never be discouraged or afraid. The way through difficulties has always been prepared for you, and you will find it if you exercise faith.' It requires faith and courage to start each day afresh and try again,  but we can and we must. These times will not last forever, and Joseph B Wirthlin reminds us that 'The Lord compensates the faithful for every loss. That which is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own way. While it may not come at the time we desire, the faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude.' 

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