In all of our lives, there are times when we glimpse the candle (of what we may have thought is our greatness or our destiny) too often flicker and burn out. The fire of our faith, our testimony, the willful fire of our own will is tested and far too often we are found wanting and found insufficient.
Life on earth requires these times; Telestial life requires these tribulations.
Let’s listen with new ears to the words of my favorite hymn:
How firm a foundation, ye Saints of the Lord. Is laid for your faith, in his excellent word!
What more can he say than to you he hath said. Who unto the Savior for refuge have fled?
In every condition- in sickness, in health, In poverty’s vale or abounding in wealth, At home or abroad, on the land or the sea- As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be.
Fear not, I am with thee; oh be not dismayed, For I am thy God and will still give thee aid. I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.
When through the deep waters I call thee to go, The Rivers of sorrow shall not thee o’erflow, For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless, And sanctify to thee they deepest distress.
When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie, my grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply. The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.
Even down to old age, all my people shall prove My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love; And then, when gray hair shall their temples adorn, like lambs shall they still in my bosom be born.
The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose I will not, I cannot desert to his foes; that soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, I’ll never, no never, not ever forsake.
When the time is at hand when we are called to enter these deep-water trials (which we all will be called to swim in), we encounter two characteristics which become troubling and very sore:
- The first part of this unsettling trial is the lack or loss of our familiar foundation and surroundings with the accompanying, unnerving fear associated with there is nowhere to place our feet. In these trials, our foundation is shaken, and far too often it is removed or changed.
- The second part is the need to swim very hard in order to survive the ordeal. It takes all the energy we have to stay work ways with the deluge.
Deep-water trials are synonymous with the earthly experiences of death, severe or chronic illness, disability, divorce, job-loss, failures in our professional lives, school failures and severe disappointments, when things don’t turn out the way we had hoped, or thought they should have, when what we thought should have happened does not, when disappointment is all we can see.
The lack of foundation, which we once counted on (which means that the deep cultural norms, legends, or myths or traditions we so often held so tenaciously too, that have worked for us so often in the past), fade away into the deep-water we have been caused to endure. Their inability to remain a firm foundation becomes clear to us. This causes us to replace them with the will of the Father, no longer with our own will, logic or our former false beliefs.
Swimming in deep water also exercises our moral courage, helps us develop spiritual stamina and the heart, mind and will of Christ. For Christ was “a man of sorrow acquainted with grief,” and was willing to swim in the deepest of water and endure all things for our sakes.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell put it this way:
“Therefore, how can you and I really expect to glide naively through life, as if to say, ‘Lord, give me experience, but not grief, not sorrow, not pain, not opposition, not betrayal, and certainly not to be forsaken. Keep from me Lord, all those experiences, which made thee what thou art! Then let me come and dwell with thee and fully share the Joy.’”
The message I am trying to convey is not that the rivers of sorrow in our lives won’t rage, or that we won’t be encompassed about by them. But that sorrow shall not overflow us in victory. For He has promised to not leave us comfortless, for He alone, not his servant, will be with us, our troubles to bless and sanctity to us our deepest distress.
We come to know Jesus infinitely better as we pass through sorrows, infirmities, and trials.
Sorrow then becomes a sacrament, able to sanctify us and make us holy.
“Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you, and it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will.” (D&C 88:68)
“A Privilege to Pay”
A member of the Martin handcart company put it this way:
“We suffered beyond anything you can imagine, and many died of exposure and starvation….[But we] came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives, for we became acquainted with Him in our extremities.
I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I have said, I can go only that far and there I must give up, for I cannot pull the load through it. I have gone to that sand, and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angels of God were there.
Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay, and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin handcart company.”
There are those among us today who have become acquainted with God in like manner, for that which they have suffered has allowed them to enter into the fellowship of the suffering of Christ. We do not see beforehand, the trials, the sacrifices which are to be made, nor the suffering in store. But it comes regardless, and if we allow ourselves to be clasp in the arms of Jesus, the gardener of our souls, it will pass. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord.
His grace is sufficient for us: For our strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will we rather glory in our infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when we are weak, then are we strong.
I am thankful for the Great Gardener, who prepares our souls, prunes our extremities and exalts and sanctifies us to His work and His purposes.
He has seen my Laman and Lemuel days. He has patiently shown me that I can abandon my will and see as he sees. This gives me courage to go forward, to reach higher and to see afar off.