I find myself trying to make meaning of my life, to understand how the mundane aspects of my life have meaning, and to find the purpose for some of the challenges that I face. I remember the day I read this quote by Hartman Rector Jr.:
“[The] ability to turn everything into something good appears to be a godly characteristic. Our Heavenly Father always seems able to do this. Everything, no matter how dire, becomes a victory to the Lord.”
It reminds me of a favorite scripture from the Book of Mormon. Christ is comforting and encouraging his prophet Nephi during a tough season of his life:
“And I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments; wherefore, inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the promised land; and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led.” (1 Nephi 17:13)
It has been said that the wilderness is a temporary state on the way to the promised land. I love that idea. The wilderness is temporary, and it is necessary. If we are faithful, we receive reminders, even lights in the wilderness, that the Lord is aware of our difficult circumstances and has a bright future in store. What was comforting to Nephi is comforting to me. Knowing the Lord will provide the lights in the wilderness helps me reframe my own circumstances. In dire situations, I can find comfort in the Lord’s words. Today’s wilderness is tomorrow’s promised land. And, likewise, today’s promised land was yesterday’s wilderness.
Another scripture in the Bible reminds me that the Lord makes the wildernesses of my life beautiful:
“For the Lord shall comfort Zion, he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness shall be found therin, thanksgiving and the voice of melody.” (Isaiah 51:3)
In one of many examples in my life, I was perfectly content to be a first grade teacher in Las Vegas. The Lord led me on an interesting and inspired path to other teaching positions and revealed to me that I needed to go back to school for a doctorate. Although I love learning and growing, more formal schooling was neither something I aspired to nor wanted. I began my doctoral program five years ago with a scholarship. The August before my second year began, I learned that my scholarship wasn’t renewed. I was devastated. (I later learned that second year students’ scholarships had been given to recruit the incoming first year doctoral students.) This was my wilderness.
In the short term, I began working four part-time jobs. I made ends meet, but I was unhappy with filler jobs that were not building me professionally or personally and were detracting from my schoolwork. Out of a desperate realization that I couldn’t continue this holding pattern of survival, I looked for other solutions. In late November, I was hired to teach a course at a state university for the following semester. Three and a half years later, I have now taught over thirty courses at this university and began as full-time faculty last week. It took dire circumstances for me to seek new solutions, and the solution has been one victory after another. The Lord can turn everything into something good. The Lord turned my graduate school wilderness into my professional promised land.
Although wildernesses are still difficult, I work hard to re-frame my experiences to see how the Lord is turning my dire circumstances into victories, when and where the Lord is providing lights in the wilderness, and in what ways the Lord is leading me to promised lands. I have learned that the Lord always makes good on his promises.
And the Lord always keeps this promise:
“The ability to turn everything into something good appears to be a godly characteristic. Our Heavenly Father always seems able to do this. Everything, no matter how dire, becomes a victory to the Lord.”