Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Learning Obedience Through Trials

‘In the course of life all of us spend time in “dark and dreary” places.’1 Indeed, none of us can escape mortality without the opportunity to experience and learn from many trials and hardships. Some are brought about by our own actions, some by the actions of others, and some are simply the natural effects of living on this earth.2

The Savior Himself suffered all manner of afflictions, both on account of the people amongst whom He served, and on account of our sins and sufferings. The apostle Paul taught that “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8).

We can learn much from the example of the Savior. How can we learn obedience by the things which we suffer?

1-  Through our own mistakes.

Each of us makes mistakes; we all sin and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we have the chance and the opportunity to repent, become clean, and start anew.

As we suffer from the consequences and guilt of our misdeeds, mistakes, and sins, we learn through our own experience that “wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10). If we choose to come unto Christ, repent through the everlasting grace and mercy of His Atonement, and cast our burdens on Him, our guilt, pain, and suffering are taken away (see Matt 11:28-30). We are filled with a “marvelous light” and “exceeding joy” that are the fruits of repentance and forgiveness (see Alma 36). Then, as we strive to keep and succeed in keeping the commandments of God, we continue to experience the light and joy and peace of conscience3 that comes from righteous living. We learn that obedience to the Lord’s way is, indeed, the only way to receive lasting happiness and peace (see John 14:3; 1 Nephi 8; 2 Nephi 31:21).

2-  Through trials of our faith.

When life gets dark and dreary we can react in one of two ways. We can blame the Lord and become hardened and bitter or we can continue to live the gospel. If we choose to continue to live the gospel and pray and rely on the Lord to help us through our times of need, our testimonies of obedience are strengthened. Thus, we learn obedience through the things which we suffer in the same manner as did Christ.

When Christ fasted 40 days and 40 nights and was tempted of the devil, He turned to the scriptures (“It is written…”) and to His unwavering faith and trust in His Father in Heaven (see Matt 4:1-11). He “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38), yet was despised for it. In all things He glorified the Father, showed us the perfect example, turned the other cheek, and was completely selfless. Then, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ’s suffering caused even Himself, “the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit,” yet He said “glory be to the Father,” and He obediently completed the Atonement (D&C 19:18-19).

Because Christ was perfect, the Spirit of the Father never left Him (see John 8:29), save in those final moments of His completion of the Atonement.4 He learned through suffering that if He was obedient He always had the companionship of His Father no matter how long and hard and solitary His road (see John 16:32). He taught from His own experience, “Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me” (D&C 19:23).

We are blessed to experience trials! While that statement may sound strange and is certainly hard to believe in the midst of a trial, the Lord teaches that if we are called to pass through tribulation all “these things shall give [us] experience, and shall be for [our] good.” For, “the Son of Man hath descended below them all” that “he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” Remember, “God shall be with [us] forever and ever” (see D&C 122:5-9; Alma 7:11-13). Through our obedience we choose to be with Him forever and ever.

If we rely “wholly on the merits of him who is mighty to save” and “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God” in good times and in bad, we can learn obedience through our sufferings, as the Savior did (2 Nephi 31:19).

Find peace and comfort in the words and teachings of the Savior, for, said He, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

I know this to be true.

Jeremy

1.       Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Ministry of Angels,” Ensign, Nov 2008, 29

2.       See Elder L. Whitney Clayton, “That Your Burdens May Be Light,” Ensign, Nov 2009, 12-13

3.       See Richard G. Scott, “Peace of Conscience and Peace of Mind,” Ensign, Nov 2004, 15–18

4.       See Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “And None Were With Him,” Ensign, May 2009, 87-88
‘Now I speak very carefully, even reverently, of what may have been the most difficult moment in all of this solitary journey to Atonement. I speak of those final moments for which Jesus must have been prepared intellectually and physically but which He may not have fully anticipated emotionally and spiritually—that concluding descent into the paralyzing despair of divine withdrawal when He cries in ultimate loneliness, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; emphasis added.)
‘The loss of mortal support He had anticipated, but apparently He had not comprehended this. Had He not said to His disciples, “Behold, the hour … is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me” and “The Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him”? (John 16:328:29.)
‘With all the conviction of my soul I testify that He did please His Father perfectly and that a perfect Father did not forsake His Son in that hour. Indeed, it is my personal belief that in all of Christ’s mortal ministry the Father may never have been closer to His Son than in these agonizing final moments of suffering. Nevertheless, that the supreme sacrifice of His Son might be as complete as it was voluntary and solitary, the Father briefly withdrew from Jesus the comfort of His Spirit, the support of His personal presence. It was required, indeed it was central to the significance of the Atonement, that this perfect Son who had never spoken ill nor done wrong nor touched an unclean thing had to know how the rest of humankind—us, all of us—would feel when we did commit such sins. For His Atonement to be infinite and eternal, He had to feel what it was like to die not only physically but spiritually, to sense what it was like to have the divine Spirit withdraw, leaving one feeling totally, abjectly, hopelessly alone.’