Allowing the Sunrise


There is an irony which has surprised me of late, one of those “hard crusts on the bread of adversity” which is that when my body is not well, or in pain, that the Holy Spirit seems to stand off and play hard to get.  Since mortal life is in large part about learning to conquer the flesh and to yield our mortal will to God’s will, it strikes me as nearly the perfect test. As the body grows ill it becomes selfish. Nothing matters more than feeling good again, or ending the pain. Other people’s needs seem less valid or become invisible, and one’s world-view shifts from “self” being a satellite orbiting our universe, to “self” elbowing its way to the center, expecting everything and everyone to pay due homage to our pain.

When the body enthrones itself in our lives, by a lust, addiction, or by illness, it becomes our spiritual tyrant. I am learning that illness and pain are part of the “evil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to captivate, to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom.” (2 Nephi 2:30)

I have experienced addiction to prescribed medication several times, it didn’t capture my spirit. I was willing to walk away at the inspired moment. I have been blessed to overcome many other fleshly snares that snatch at mankind over time, but this powerful spiritual snare of illness caught me off guard, and caught me securely. It seemed to me as if mercy and grace should protect the sufferer, but the irony is that illness seems to give the adversary greater power to use the flesh to become a tyrant and shout over the top of the Spirit of God.

As I have pondered and prayed about this amazingly effective limitation of mortality, it occurs to me that I can’t conquer the flesh in the sense of making it well again. I can believe that a miracle of faith awaits me, but as of this moment, the flesh is charting its own course. It also occurs to me that my Spirit need not follow that course. Just as my spirit need not be shouted down by the need for a prescription drug, it likewise need not be shouted down by pain. It may be harder to read the scriptures when your hands and arms are too weak to hold them up for more than a few minutes. Or, it may be harder to strive for mighty prayer when your body will endure great pain by kneeling. It may be harder to fast when the body cannot tolerate fasting. But I am learning that overcoming the flesh is ignoring those pain-inspired limitations and finding a better way through Christ – not just ignoring the pain, but in doing better things as the Spirit illuminates them. There are other ways to pray and other ways to fast which when done under inspiration, break the stranglehold of the flesh.

If the body can’t be controlled by force of will or force of habit, then it can be controlled by inspired discipleship, but longing, by pure desire and by yielding to an inspired alternative that allows the flesh to yield to the divine within us. The easy way is to let pain dictate your course, and hearkening to the voice of the Holy Spirit does not lead us in the easy way, but in the straight way. Even pain is not a justifiable excuse for stepping off of the path, which thing I had not supposed until now.

All of my life has been a series of spiritual ups and downs. Some downs I created by my choices, some by ignorance, and some of them I presently view as blessings granted to me to force me to grow once again, to give my all once again, to rely upon Christ in a greater way, to silence the flesh by faith and to glory in my Jesus once again.

I rejoice in the deliverance that can only follow deep, impenetrable darkness that melts away when we allow the sunrise of the love of God.

Brother John

© June 2012, John M. Pontius, all rights reserved. Non-commercial reproduction permitted.

About John Pontius

I am a lover of truth.
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11 Responses to Allowing the Sunrise

  1. John: I honor the challenges that have taught you these wonderful lessons. If lessons are our objective, then the terror of the pain is eroded in the brightness of the wisdom that comes. Pain becomes good, not bad. It ceases to be tragedy and wonderment dawns.
    My mother wrote, near the end of a twelve year journey with quadriplegia, “When it is all said and done, humility is the only reality.” I have seen the truth of that. Thanks for sharing your wisdom, hard earned at that.

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  2. Rusty says:

    Brother John…on the one hand, my heart aches for you because of what you have to suffer…on the other hand, I realize that you have a view of sunrise that I have yet to discover and I know it is because of what you have suffered. May you see the sunrise often enough to sustain you through the darkness!

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    • Thank you Rusty. I was waxing contemplative out of wonder and testimony, not out of frustration or murmurming. If I knew how to write without revealing anything about myself I would. It seems the only world I really know is the one I’m temporarily stuck in. Thank you for your kind blessing. Surise is warmly upon us.

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      • Rusty says:

        Yes, I understood that you weren’t murmuring. Being one who was born with a really strong constitution (with only occasional aches and pains – nothing major, just annoying) it is out of my realm of experience to even try to imagine what you and others go through. So it always takes me back a bit to read of your experiences. I greatly value hearing what you have experienced and what you have learned because of it. But it still amazes me.

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  3. ken h says:

    The Apostle Paul in Hebrews spoke of Christ when he wrote,”Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.” We are also to learn the hard way, His way, to become as He is. I love section 122 of the D & C. The Lord put the Prophet’ Joseph’s situation and suffering in proper perspective. The Lord said to him and to all of us,”know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” I know that pain and suffering at the time just doesn’t seem to be for our good at all. Only the Holy Ghost can help put things in their proper perspective. The Lord does love to remind me just how fragile I really am and how the view through the glass of eternal perspective can be darkly indeed. One of my axioms that I strive to live by is,”Our testimonies must shine their brightest in our darkest hours if they are to have the effect of saving souls.” One of my favorite hymns is “How Gentle God’s Commands”, no. 125

    How gentle God’s commands!
    How kind his precepts are!
    Come, cast your burdens on the Lord
    And trust his constant care.

    Beneath his watchful eye,
    His Saints securely dwell;
    That hand which bears all nature up
    Shall guard his children well.

    Why should this anxious load
    Press down your weary mind?
    Haste to your Heav’nly Father’s throne
    And sweet refreshment find.

    His goodness stands approved,
    Unchanged from day to day;
    I’ll drop my burden at his feet
    And bear a song away.

    I have found that casting my burdens upon the alter of the Lord helps me bear a song away.I have a long journey ahead of me to finally rejoice in tribulation as the Apostle Paul did, but I pray that we all can arrive at that point as true disciples of Christ and inspite of all of our suffering, rejoice in the truth forever! Glory be to His name.

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  4. mamahilo says:

    Brother John, may the Lord bless you, comfort you, reward you for your submission to His will. We thank the Lord for his promise that He “will not suffer you to be tempted (in Greek, “tested”) above that ye are able. . . . (1Corinthians 10:13).

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  5. carol says:

    i have come to understand being exempt from the pains and sorrow in this life is not good..because then the experience that we were sent here to experience is void..at some point in our existence pain and sorrow will raise their ugly little heads..i find it a test of my own self worth, and where i truely want to be..its the natural man wanting its presence heard..complain or not, it is a storm you must ride out…do i understand it all…no for must part i am put off guard like alot of us..but the beauty of the situation is this, we control where we want to be in the journey..some morning i hurt so bad i can hardly move..so you make decisions.. lay here and complain or get up…its a journey that allows you to chose to call upon the Lord and figure out what you are going to do…you learn to work out the small stuff just like you have to work out the big stuff..Isn’t God great..you learn to do things sometime without evening knowing you are learning a greater lesson about our journey here..Heavenly Father knows us all.

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  6. FJC says:

    Many times I have wondered how it is that we could possibly merit, even through all the appropriate channels of faith, grace, atonement, ordinances, covenants etc. to become joint heirs with our Savior and our Father. How could we possibly sit along side of the Apostles of old who died a martyrs death. How could we sit next to Nephi who was bound for days and suffered immensely at the hand of his brothers. Can we qualify with Alma and Amulek who gave up all to preach repentance and were bound for 12 days without food and water and clothes. Can we possibly expect to qualify to sit with the Prophet Joseph or even the early saints who left homes forever and sacrificed all. Who knows what we will go through in life, but pain certainly seems to be a very important part of it sooner or later. I think I am safe in saying everyone who participates in this beautiful and wonderful blog has suffered pains, sorrows, and losses. I’m convinced that when approached the Lord’s way, such amazingly difficult opposition can catapult our souls into the presence of heaven. It will be so much easier to visit with the man who communed with Jehovah, knowing we suffered in many different ways during our sojourn than if we had enjoyed nothing more than the easy life.

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  7. jodeemaas says:

    For me suffering forces me to be aware of who I am when I do not have the full support and comfort of Father and it is indeed humbling. But it has also been through pain that I have learned to call on the “ministering of angels” and as long as I hold them close in spiritual thought the pain is removed.

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  8. K-Jo says:

    Brother John,
    My first thoughts when I read this post was, “Wow! This is deep!” This one will take a lot of pondering to grasp the deepness of the message. Thanks for the enlightenment and the challenge. Carry on, my friend, carry on!

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  9. pgs says:

    Suffering allows us to view the world as the Savior did and what greater gift is there than that. Toil, tribulation, suffering and sorrow in all its many forms allow us to develop the godly attributes that we came to earth to acquire to become like our heavenly parents. Even illness is a wonderful gift and when we embrace it and are sincerely, honestly grateful for it, miracles occur in our lives and the lives of those around us. I have a personal witness that this is true. I am also a personal witness of the great work the Savior is doing through you Brother John. May he continue to bless you so you can continue to inspire so many. With all the love I possess, I thank you and Him.

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