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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

There's Always Someone Who Understands

With some understanding of how cliche some people may think the phrase "trials are a part of life" is, it has taken new meaning for me this year.  This one is aimed to those who either don't think "that one thing" could ever happen to you or, on the other hand, those that think "no one understands what I'm going through right now".

In 2015 I have seen so many things happen, in my life and the lives of people who I love and am close to, that I was surprisingly naive enough to think "whoa! I never thought that would happen to me/them!"  Most of them were big shockers to me and many of them are things I'm still struggling to process, endure, heal from or change.  From an LDS perspective, I imagine there are many of us who see some people and think "Wow, they are so wonderful! I bet they are just so blessed all the time and are so good. They all look so happy and do so much good for the world and the Lord."  While I'm sure there are those out there who have very long periods like that, I highly doubt that there are many, especially those who appear most faithful to God, that don't struggle with some pretty intense difficulties.

In one case, there is a certain individual who is one of the most incredible spiritual giants I've ever known; someone who works so hard, studies the scriptures so diligently, serves so effectively, is so close to the Spirit, is so forgiving and helpful and selfless that anyone else might take one look at them and think that few things ever go wrong in their life because how much they must be blessed for their Christ-centered life.  If you were to talk to them, though, you'd find out the incredibly intense opposition they are under at work, the unbelievable difficulties they face at home, the willful negligence they experience at church because of old grudges, false rumors and more, but they don't show it because they are strong enough that, through the lens of casual observation, everyone else has no idea what is really going on in their life.

In another case, there's my wife.  I wrote her life story as she dictated it to me.  She had asked a number of other people (I think 6 or more but I could be wrong) to write it as well and they had nightmares after starting what is now chapter 6.  They couldn't do it.  When I heard this and was asked to write it, I knew I'd have to make it a matter of prayer and direction from God if I was to do it and be okay afterwards.  I could spend, at minimum, 10,000 words just getting started on the difficulties she has faced and overcome.  Her book is 36 chapters long!  She goes to church every week and anywhere else she goes with a smile on her face, is pleasant to people, doesn't like calling attention to herself and selflessly serves, studies her scriptures, prays, faithfully pays tithing and fast offering, has the most pure heart I've ever seen in anyone, is a fabulous cook... I could go on for a long time.  I know there are a few people who live near us who have known her since she was a child and yet are totally and completely oblivious to the kind of person she really is and the kind of things she goes through.

There are also those in my extended family whom I have grown closer to (even if not geographically) since I got married who are struggling with things I scarcely imagined would ever happen to a family where our last name is pretty synonymous with faith in and dedication to Christ, His gospel and His church.  Some of them have immediate family members who either hate the church, are struggling with same gender attraction, have had total loss of interest in religion, harbor deep grudges against their own immediate family or struggle with intense Word of Wisdom issues to name just a few problems.  Most of these things I heard about just this year.

However, since this blog is titled, "Good things now and to come", here is the positive spin on all of this.  Because you just never know how much difficulty someone is truly facing, there is always someone who understands what you are going through.  Having trouble understanding the scriptures?  I know another who is struggling with that and I've struggled myself with it.  Has someone in your family been affected by cancer?  Me to.  Have you lost a child?  I know someone who understands that.  Are you having intense struggles with finances, abuse, disability, addiction, homelessness, a crisis of faith or major health problems?  Trust me, there are many who understand, including myself, in many of those categories.  You are not alone.  No matter how good someone else's life may look, believe me, they have their own set of struggles and are fighting a battle you know nothing about.  Everyone has their own individual, tailored set of trials, joys, setbacks and successes.  No one is exempt, no matter how good or bad things look.

No matter what you are going through, there is always someone who understands.  There is always hope, there is always love, there is always a way out.  Even if you don't actually know anyone who you can talk to on this planet for help, our all knowing, all loving, all wise Savior Jesus Christ has sunk beneath it all, so he can help us according to our needs in a way that seamlessly fits our unique personality and circumstances if we are willing to open our minds to see it.

I have been reading The Infinite Atonement by Tad R. Callister recently and there are some life changing perspectives in that book.  In one section he addresses a question asked by some, "As significant as the Savior's suffering seemed, was it tempered by the fact that he possessed godly attributes? ... did superhuman powers give him an edge over his mortal counterparts?"  The answer he gave is such a beautiful evidence of His [Jesus'] love, understanding, total and complete in every way, of human plight, both the sum of it as well as and especially of each individual malady from any and all sources.  "He took upon him infinite suffering, but chose to defend with only mortal faculties, with but one exception - his godhood was summoned to hold off unconsciousness and death ... that would otherwise overpower a mere mortal when he reached his threshold of pain.  For the Savior, however, there would be no such relief.  His divinity would be called upon, not to immunize him from pain, but to enlarge the receptacle that would hold it." He used His Godhood not to lessen the pain or escape from it, but to enable Himself to - in complete, divine awareness of it all - suffer "according to the flesh [mortality], that he may know according to the flesh [from a mortal perspective] how to succor his people according to their infirmities" (Alma 7:12, Book of Mormon).  As Elder Callister put it, He simply brought a "bigger cup" to hold the bitter drink.

His sacrifice for all of us was one of love.  Not even His apostles could know - even from being around Him as much as they were, watching Him heal the sick, restore sight to the blind, raise the dead, forgive sins, provide divine power to His followers and more - what was really going on inside, the kinds of temptations He faced, the inner struggles He faced.  How could they?  He never showed the least sign of weakness to anyone, for He possessed none.  He was so consumed in His mission to show infinite love, provide us with His example and pay the price for our eternal salvation from sin, weakness and all types of death that no one in our weakened mortal condition can comprehend Him in all His glory unless we are changed, of our own will, by Him.  He appeared as and was the ultimate example of obedience and the way to have the greatest possible joy and happiness and yet He faced, radiantly and head on, more than any of us.  It takes deep to comprehend deep and He knows it all.

So the next time you feel overloaded or, on the other end, see someone who appears to always be happy and never have any major problems, remember that (1) they are fighting battles you know nothing about (2) there are plenty of people who really do understand your hurt, even if from a different perspective, and that (3) the Son of God sunk below it all, so you are NEVER truly or completely alone.

Happiness is never out of reach.  There is always a way out, thanks to the Son of God, our loving Brother, Savior and Redeemer.