By Guest Blogger Brittany B.
Life is an interesting phenomenon. There are good days and bad days. Some days break our hearts to the point that we wonder if it will ever be possible to feel whole again, other days bring a sense of joy we never knew existed. At one point or another, almost everyone probably ponders what the purpose of life really is.
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe that life is part of a great plan of happiness that God, our Father, has designed for his children. The ultimate goal is to be worthy to return to live with our Heavenly Father again and experience a fullness of joy. With that goal in mind, this life then becomes a period of testing where all of us will experience trials and challenges to see if we will make righteous decisions, exercise faith in God, and remain true to sacred commandments and covenants. Yet it seems that for many, the struggles of life draw them away from God rather than closer to him.
An example of this is seen in the beginning of the Book of Mormon. After being commanded to leave Jerusalem and flee into the wilderness, Laman and Lemuel are constantly murmuring against God. We are told that this is in part due to the fact that, “They knew not the dealings of that God who had created them,” (1 Nephi 2:12). What exactly are the dealings of God and how can understanding them help us endure trials and draw closer to him?
My own knowledge of the dealings of God is still in its infancy, but I would like to share some of what I have learned on this subject throughout the past few years. I’d like to start by going back to another scripture from the beginning of the Book of Mormon. Nephi tells us, “Behold, I will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all . . . to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance,” (1 Nephi 2:20). Recall that this is the same Nephi who was told to flee Jerusalem and journey into the wilderness. What are these tender mercies Nephi speaks of and why are they so important? Elder David A. Bednar, a modern-day apostle, explains, “The Lord’s tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because and through the Lord Jesus Christ,” (The Tender Mercies of the Lord). Elder Bednar goes on to say that,
One of the ways whereby the Savior comes to each of us is through his abundant, and tender mercies . . . When words cannot provide the solace that we need, when it is simply futile to attempt to explain that which is unexplainable, when logic and reason cannot yield adequate understanding about the injustices and inequities of life, [and] when mortal experience and evaluation are insufficient to produce a desired outcome, . . . truly we are blessed by the tender mercies of the Lord and made mighty even unto the power of deliverance. (The Tender Mercies of the Lord)
God will not permit any of us to be immune from trials in life, but one of the ways the Savior reaches us is through his tender mercies. In my own life when I have faced some of the scenarios Elder Bednar described, as I have tried not only to accurately identify but also to regularly express gratitude for tender mercies, it has helped me remain bonded to my Father in Heaven even amidst overwhelming frustrations and challenges. The trial itself never disappears, but I can experience the deliverance Nephi speaks of when I encircle myself in the arms of his love.
Secondly, I’d like to mention what Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, another modern-day apostle, called the principle of compensation. Elder Wirthlin declared 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,” (Come What May, and Love It). This principle of compensation has helped me understand that it’s not always about the here and now. In my own life, there has been more than one occasion where I have cried out, “Heavenly Father, why did you let this happen?” In all the times that I have asked that question I have yet to receive an explanation, but understanding this principle of compensation has helped me to view things through the lens of eternity and to keep trusting in God even when it seems like heavenly promises have been broken.
Thirdly, I’d like to discuss the reality of angels. In his talk, “The Ministry of Angels”, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland teaches, “From the beginning down through the dispensations, God has used angels as His emissaries in conveying love and concern for his children. They come and go all around us, seen and unseen, known and unknown, mortal and immortal. But seen or unseen they are always there.” I can likewise testify of the reality of angels. Even if we can’t see them, I believe God wants us to know that angels surround us as another witness that he never forsakes us, that he never gives up on us, and that heavenly help is always near.
My final point involves coming to better understand the magnitude and depth of the love our Heavenly Father has for us. There is an amazing scriptural account in Moses 7 in the Pearl of Great Price that we don’t fully appreciate. After beholding all the inhabitants and nations of the earth, Enoch is stunned to see God weeping. In complete awe, he asks, “How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?” (Moses 7:29). God’s incredible response is this: “Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands . . . And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father: but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood; . . . wherefore, should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer?” (Moses 7: 32, 33). After viewing the wickedness and misery of the children of men, Enoch “Stretched forth his arms, and his heart swelled wide as eternity; and his bowels yearned; and all eternity shook . . . but the Lord said unto Enoch: Lift up your heart, and be glad; . . . And behold, Enoch saw the day of the coming of the Son of Man, even in the flesh; and his soul rejoiced,” (Moses 7: 41, 44, 47).
Consider what this passage of scripture teaches. We learn that God himself weeps over his children, even his most disobedient children. Furthermore, consider how quickly God rushes to comfort Enoch when his son begins to weep. In reference to this scene, Elder Neal A. Maxwell stated, “Not always, but more than we know, when we are confronted in the human circumstance with the difference between what could be and what is, we do not weep alone!” (The Pathway of Discipleship). Finally, consider that comfort comes to Enoch’s soul when he sees the Son of God. Elder Holland said it best when he said, “In His own ministry, Jesus did not come to improve God’s view of man nearly so much as He came to improve man’s view of God and to plead with them to love their Heavenly Father as He has always and will always love them. The plan of God, the power of God, the holiness of God, yes, even the anger and the judgment of God they had occasion to understand. But the love of God, the profound depth of His devotion to His children, they still did not fully know—until Christ came,” (The Grandeur of God).
God knows better than anyone else that in order for us to become like him and experience a fullness of joy, all of us will have to endure trials and heartache in life. But consider the depth of God’s love and everything he does to lessen the pain of mortal experiences—he sends us tender mercies to bless us instantly, he promises us compensation in the long run, and his angels walk with us and probably even carry us when we can’t go any farther.
The love God has for each of us and the individual plan he has for each of us transcends the mortal experiences we have in life. That is hard to believe when we are hurting or when we feel forsaken. But in those harrowing moments that you must inevitably face as part of your own journey through life, please look for the tender mercies of the Lord, find hope in the compensating blessings promised to you, and summon strength from the silent sentinels of heaven that surround you. Remember how much your Heavenly Father loves you individually as his literal son or daughter. If you will allow them, your challenges, reversals, and heartaches can bring you closer to Heavenly Father. And if you will cling to these principles of truth, you will find that they truly begin to mold you, to shape you, to change who you are, and to bind you closer to our Savior Jesus Christ.
I know that God lives and loves us. I know that Jesus Christ is his only begotten son and our Savior. There is always comfort and safety in their outstretched arms.