A Sure Foundation


UnBlog # 505

Years ago I began to be called to various priesthood leadership positions. The most astonishing thing I saw, and continue to see, was how many people were struggling desperately in some aspect of their lives. What amazed me wasn’t that some were struggling I hadn’t been aware of because they were active and putting on a brave public face. What amazed me was that every single ward member was struggling in some way. In a heartbeat my perception of my ward went from we’re mostly OK – to we are barely surviving.

Over many years that perception has not changed. It may sound pessimistic, but I don’t feel so. I find great hope in this process. Still, it is observable that we are all struggling in some way. Those who are not currently struggling, whether they realize it or not, are just between bouts. The bell will ring, and the battle will resume. Most people, including myself, struggle in silent, putting on a brave public face, while most of their war is fought on private battle fields.

We have a tendency to equate most struggle to having, or not having wealth, beauty and fame. We look at someone who appears to have “sufficient for their needs” and assume they’re the lucky ones. We look at those we think have very little, and assume they’re living a hard life. The truth, I believe, is that struggle is universal, and that wealth, beauty and fame are actually catalysts to struggle. (They cause struggle, rather than solve it.) These powerful worldly attributes more often erect walls to oppose growth than penetrate them. The world offers up irresistible temptations, creates arrogance and pride that separates us from the Spirit, draws people into our lives who love us for the wrong reasons, darkens our children’s minds, and sucks the Spirit from our lives far more efficiently than poverty, ugliness or obscurity. The most efficient lie we believe is this one, that the world alone offers joy and safety. A surprising commentary on wealth is that almost 100% of those who win large sums in a lottery find it destroyed their lives and ultimately wish they had not won it.

I used to wonder why older people cry at weddings. Now that I’m older, I can say with some insight that it isn’t because we know that marriage is going to end their struggles, and the bride is so beautiful – it is because those two little innocent young people have no idea what they’re in for. We know it is going to be harsh and deeply challenging, and a high percentage of them won’t endure. That’s why we cry. We feel empathy for the harsh journey they are so blissfully beginning.

This expanded perspective is also why we “wizened” people are not jealous of the young and the beautiful, because we were the young and the beautiful, and have since walked a steeply upward path away from those things to obtain the peace and spiritual safety we enjoy – and like war refugees, we prefer our lives on this side of young and beautiful, wealthy and famous.

There is only one price mortals pay for spiritual anchorage, for peace which surpasses the understanding of man, for standing upon a “sure foundation” during the storms, and a “sure knowledge” of eternal glory, which is the great prize, the hundred-million-dollar check, for winning the spiritual lottery of mortality. That price is two-fold. First, we paid part of it when we chose to enter mortality to allow the “mighty storm [to] beat upon you”. This is why we agreed to come to earth, to experience this degree of fiery opposition. Without it, we were powerless to progress, and we had to choose it. We weren’t sentenced to mortality – we chose it with a shout of joy – and thus made a down payment upon eternity.

Secondly, we must pay the price to figure out that we cannot succeed by our own strength and our own genius, force of will, our own wealth, beauty and personal charm. Mortality is designed specifically to beat that nonsense from our “young and beautiful” minds. When we finally have suffered enough of life to realize we cannot survive or succeed alone, then we are ready to take Jesus Christ as our sure foundation. When we cast our burdens on Him, and give up trying to “work out our own salvation” by our own works, intellect, and stubborn will; when we finally know our own nothingness, then Jesus Christ steps in and becomes our strength and deliverance, our hopes, our joy and our safety.

The trials don’t end at that moment, but the struggle can. We can cease to fear and worry and doubt because the mighty opposition of mortality has “no power over you”. We know in whom we trust, and we walk through the “mighty storm” without fear, only needing to know where each footfall belongs on the straight path He guides us along. There can be far less struggle because there is no uncertainty – and hence no fear, and no eternal danger. “Thy will be done” makes the dark, thundering horizon of no consequence, and gives us confidence each guided step is peace and safety, power and truth, life and light blossoming beneath our feet every moment of our lives.

“And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fail.” (Heleman 5:12)

Brother John

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

About John Pontius

I am a lover of truth.
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13 Responses to A Sure Foundation

  1. Cherylyn Jensen says:

    I just want to say that I love this blog. And, John, I love it that you monitor what is said on it because all the comments are so uplifting and it really does keep the spirit flowing. I love reading both the blog itself and the comments and the spirit is so strong as I’m reading. Thank you for allowing the spirit to guide you in creating such a beautiful place of inspiration on the internet.
    Cherylyn

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    • Thank you Cherylyn,

      As I was beginning the UnBlog I did a poll to see if people wanted to allow some negative comments, or just keep it totally uplifting. One of the comments was that allowing negative comments was “casting swine before pearls”. I loved it. Since making that policy I almost never receive negative comments – maybe once a month or less. It’s really been pleasant moderating the comments, and writing the UnBlog. It is uplifting to me too.

      Thanks for the comment,

      John

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  2. darrell brashear says:

    I remember praying some years back about why it was so necessary to come to mortality. The answer I got was so that we could know the love of God in a deeper way than we ever could while in His presence.

    The times in my life when I learned of my Savior’s love the deepest were times when I was going through great trials and suffering. During those times, I learned that He was with me through it all.

    No wonder the condescension of God was linked together with the love of God in Nephi’s vision of the Tree of Life! (1 Ne. 11:16-22)

    I think in the pre-existence the understanding that we had that our Brother and Savior would come down with us and condescend below us all caused us to feel great feelings of love and adoration toward Him, even though at that time we didn’t fully understand what that meant to each of us.

    One of my favorite scriptures is found in Psalms, it reads, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him [or her] out of them all”. (psalms 34:19)

    If we never had any afflictions to be delivered from, we would never know the power of the Lord’s deliverence, and if we never had to suffer we would never know the depth of His love and condescension.

    To me the righteous are those who put thier trust in the Lord “…for I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in thier trials, and thier troubles, and thier afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day”. (Alma 36:3).

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  3. Tom Kennelly says:

    Tom Kennelly

    John, your exemplary note, “A Sure Foundation” truck a vibrant chord in my mind as I read your inciteful commentary. In the late l970’s I was called to be a bishop of a ward of 720 members. 60% were inactive, we had 13 vacant positions, and we were three years behind in our stake budget payments

    My first Sunday my executive secretary gave me a full page of names of members who wanted to vist with me “in private”. This continued for the next 27 days—every night.

    I reached the point that when the Sacrament was passed I unobstrsively as possible put my hand over my eyes and looked down. My wife wondered what in the world was the matter with me when I did that. I finally told her that since being called to be the bishop, I had heard so many sad commentaries of lives which had run amuck, and so many marital and other kinds of problems that all I could think of when I looked down at the congrgation that was all that I could think of and not concentrate on the Sacrament itself.

    Truly, none of us are ex empt from hurt, confusion , discouragement, distrust, lack of faith, poor health, depression and the list goes on endlessly. This life indeed is a “test” we willingly chose to take. I am now an old man of 80 and am at the point that I am ready to “take Jesus Christ as (my) sure foundation, and cast (my) burdens on Him, and give up trying to “work out my own salvation ” by (my) own works, intellect nd stubborn will”—–to quote a wise man, (you ).

    Thanks for putting it all down in writing…..Your friend, Tom

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  4. Annalea says:

    This is so timely for our family. Thank you for writing and sharing these things with us. This life really is more like a 100 mile ultra-marathon than anything else I can think of. I’m only 14 years into marriage, and it never fails to continue to challenge and teach and amaze me. I think I’m finally beginning to let go of the idea that I’ll “arrive” in any form until I’ve once again gained the permanent company of my Savior and Father in Heaven. We’ve also just realized how much every family in our ward struggles . . . and it’s reassuring to know that’s how it is generally, and not due to specific circumstances here. (It’s such a relief, even though that might sound strange.)

    Have a blessed Sabbath . . .

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  5. Craig Mills says:

    As I read this, it reminded me of a quote by Pres. Joseph F. Smith:

    The ancient prophets speak of “entering into God’s rest”; what does it mean? To my mind, it means entering into the knowledge and love of God, having faith in his purpose and in his plan, to such an extent that we know we are right, and that we are not hunting for something else, we are not disturbed by every wind of doctrine, or by the cunning and craftiness of men who lie in wait to deceive. We know of the doctrine that it is of God, and we do not ask any questions of anybody about it; they are welcome to their opinions, to their ideas and to their vagaries. The man who has reached that degree of faith in God that all doubt and fear have been cast from him, he has entered into “God’s rest,” and he need not fear the vagaries of men, nor their cunning and craftiness, by which they seek to deceive and mislead him from the truth. I pray that we may all enter into God’s rest—rest from doubt, from fear, from appre¬hension of danger, rest from the religious turmoil of the world; from the cry that is going forth, here and there—lo, here is Christ; lo, there is Christ; lo, he is in the desert, come ye out to meet him. The man who has found God’s rest will not be disturbed by these vagaries of men, for the Lord has told him, and does tell us: Go not out to seek them: Go not out to bunt them; for when Christ shall come, he will come with the army of heaven with him in the clouds of glory, and all eyes shall see him. We do not need to be hunting for Christ here or Christ there, or prophets here and prophets there.—Oct. C. R., 1909, p. 8. J.F. Smith Gospel Doctrine Pg. 58

    For what it is worth.

    Craig Mills

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  6. Cherylyn Jensen says:

    Well John, it always works that as soon as I turn to Heavenly Father and ask for his assistance, he fills my life with the information I need right at the time I need it. He always knows and this blog today has been absolutely perfect for me. Thank you.
    Cherylyn

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  7. Marion D says:

    What an amazing thing that you put those words down. That scripture in Helaman has touched me deeply this past week, strengthening me. I read it over and over and it filled my heart. Then yesterday morning I read in Alma 7:6-7 these things:

    “6 But behold, I trust that ye are not in a state of so much unbelief as were your brethren; I trust that ye are not lifted up in the pride of your hearts; yea, I trust that ye have not set your hearts upon riches and the vain things of the world; yea, I trust that you do not worship aidols, but that ye do worship the true and the bliving God, and that ye look forward for the remission of your sins, with an everlasting faith, which is to come.

    7 For behold, I say unto you there be many things to come; and behold, there is one thing which is of more importance than they all—for behold, the atime is not far distant that the Redeemer liveth and cometh among his people.”

    You see, I had spent the greater part of the day cleaning and painting my kitchen. When I was not doing that I was resting in front of the television and giving it my attention and adoration. Not turning it off when a few blasphemous words were spoken or as a scene scandalously was presented wherein I turned my head but not my fingers to shut it out. Was I worshiping an idol? It seemed like I was and was so chastised because I did tolerate this. As I repented for polluting my mind and heart, this morning I turned again according to where the Spirit led, hoping I had been forgiven and determined to do better. I opened the scriptures to read Alma’s damning words again. Please understand, the next lesson as I turned to Mosiah 4: 2-3 are sacred to me and hot tears ran down my face as I read them:

    “2 And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men.

    3 And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them.

    I can testify that these words were in my mouth as they had been so long ago. And the Spirit filled me with joy and peace. With love. Can you understand? It is tangible. Not sure why I am sharing this here, but I know it is right. Thank you for sharing your sweet testimony and knowledge so freely.

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  8. K-Jo says:

    I was just thinking about these very things today. This was very poetically put. Thanks. 🙂

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  9. carol says:

    You certainly have a way of making truth hit home..when i read this blog.. i laughed with joy, because i knew i was reading and hearing truth..has anyone ever told you …you have really good timing Brother John.

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  10. I have struggled enough and am now working hard to remember the Savior in everything I do and say. I do know that the trials, the temptations and the tests are not gone, but I am at peace and enjoying true happiness.

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  11. Roberta Bryant says:

    This was wonderful and something I have been struggling with off and on. I have found it very difficult to STOP trying to do it all alone. Learning to TRUST and have FAITH all of the time is very difficult but what peace comes when you do!
    Robera

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  12. Althea says:

    That is an arrow straight to the heart…. Very succinctly and beautifully said…again Brother John, you write what my heart and mind know…What a gift you have been given. Thank you, for sharing so freely.

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