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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Failures vs. Opportunities

Well, we are back home from all the traveling! After throwing out all the spoiled food in our cabinets and opening all our wedding presents from the reception, we sat back, looked around, and thought, "This is home. This is life." It's a lovely life.


I say that right this second because I have to document every time I truly feel that way and am not weighed down by stresses, frustrations, or trials. This last week has been particularly stressful as we've dealt with some news that could be bad, but maybe not. You know how it goes--some questions can't be answered right now. Time is such a meanie in that sense, innit? At any rate, I'm a worrier, and of course, with any uncertain news, I automatically think the worst and worry about every little thing. I haven't been sleeping much and because of that, I've been less exhilarated and thrilled with the experiences of every day life, which is a habit I always try to foster.

Stephen suggested last night that we fast today about this uncertain news, and so we prayed and fasted that the news be good. I felt the need, however, to also fast for steadfastness in case the news were bad. To continue being a strong disciple of Christ, no matter what our current situation. Well, I guarantee every time that the Lord will answer your prayer when you pray for help in being a steadfast disciple of Him. Today, I'd like to talk about some insight I've received. It's not news to anyone, but those are often the lessons we need the most--because we keep learning them and re-learning them over and over throughout life. They are the lessons that will eventually get rid of our dross and help us to become who we are meant to be.

The first answer the Lord gave me came when I was reading a talk by Neal A. Maxwell called "Brim With Joy." That is a wonderful talk in itself, but Maxwell quoted Brigham Young a few times. This morning, I read the following quote from President Young:
When the Latter-day Saints make up their minds to endure, for the kingdom of God's sake, whatsoever shall come, whether poverty or riches, whether sickness or to be driven by mobs, they will sayit is all right, and [they] will honor the hand of the Lord in it, and in all things, and serve Him to the end of their lives, according to the best of their ability. . . . If you have not made up your minds for this, the quicker you do so the better. [JD 1:338; emphasis added]
Elder Maxwell emphasized the blessings of this principle, the perspective of saying, "It is all right" when we are steadfast. When I read this, though, I was drawn to the stipulations. We may have this perspective when we make up our minds to endure for the kingdom of God's sake. It is when we have an eye single to the glory of God that we can see ourselves and our lives more the way He sees us, and can then feel that things will be all right.

As a support to that answer, our opening hymn in church today was "O My Father." I've sung this hymn a lot, but today, the words in the last verse particularly pierced me: "Then, at length, when I've completed all you sent me forth to do, with your mutual approbation let me come and dwell with you." I had the distinct impression that God has sent me forth to do much in the building up of His kingdom. He has faith in me and in what I will do with the time He has given me. I must constantly be mindful of how I am using my time here and how I am contributing to the building of God's kingdom here on earth. It was a moment where I was reminded and motivated to act (the moment I decided I would try posting more regularly again on this blog, in fact).


Another answer came in the third hour of church, when a woman whose name I don't know gave a lesson about... oh gosh. I can't remember everything the lesson was about. I remember she used Nerf guns to illustrate the principle of achieving a goal (or hitting a target) with and without the help of someone who has more perspective than you. However, I took note of something she said that struck me. She said that when we are doing the Lord's will, we cannot fail. We think we have failed, but the Lord knows this is not true. I was very moved by this idea. We really do see failures sometimes in our lives, but where we see failures, the Lord sees opportunities. Do not be stopped by your circumstances.

This idea was developed more when I got home and talked with Stephen about the principles we'd learned in Sunday school. Our teacher talked about how she didn't see Satan as being so much the embodiment of all evil or anything, like we may depict him with horns, a tail, and engulfed in flames. She said she thinks of Satan more as a man who has had his priorities mixed up. Stephen and I talked more about this after church and thought of how frustrated Satan must be because he probably still believes his plan is better. Which, from Satan's perspective, his plan would be better because he wouldn't be as miserable as he is now. As it is, Satan and all of his followers are miserable and they must think it's because God's plan isn't the best one. While their priorities are clearly misaligned, it made me realize how easy it is to get off track and be consumed with our plans when we're not humble and watchful enough to see God's plan for us. Of course we become frustrated, stressed, and sad when we do not look up and see that this failure is really an opportunity.

I say the word, "opportunity," thinking of what Neal A. Maxwell said in his talk, "In Him All Things Hold Together." He says that "for the serious disciple, the cardinal attributes exemplified by Jesus are not optional. These developmental milestones take the form of traits, traits that mark the trail to be traveled." I love that he says that these traits are developmental milestones. I take that to mean that while we may measure our lives in terms of events and goals we've set, Heavenly Father measures our lives in terms of what characteristics we've adopted to become more like Him and our Savior. This life is measured in our refinement, and when we realize that, we come to see so many trials not as failures, but simply as other routes (better routes, usually) that will help us progress in our lives when we see that progress is an internal process.



How wonderful is that?! This day has answered my prayers. It has given me power to refine myself into a better being that is more like my Savior. The trials set before me might not be easy, and I may need to rely on the Lord much more heavily than myself sometimes, but that is not a failure. It is an opportunity for me to see how I may be better used as an instrument in God's hands. I promise you that if you ask God what He has sent you here to do, you will begin to see a vision of who you can become. And as you take these opportunities in this life to teach yourself and refine your spirit, you'll be so delighted to see yourself becoming more like that vision of a better you. The lifestyle of a disciple of Christ is not a passive one. We have been sent here to help, uplift, and illuminate the world. We are building up the kingdom of our Father in Heaven, who has a plan for us that entails nothing but the utmost and perfect joy. I know this is true. I promise it is, and you will feel the truth of this principle as well when you come to see your circumstances as He sees them. And in a little while, when you need reminding, you can see them again and again, as is the process of this miraculous gospel.

I hope you all have a lovely day. And that you have many opportunities to become the people God wants you to be.


PS-
While writing this blog post, I was reminded of some ideas from a couple lessons I'd taught in Relief Society a few months ago, so I thought I'd post them here in case anyone wants more quotes/scriptures on the matter:
Henry B. Eyring's "Where is The Pavilion" lesson plan

PPS- I suggest that you seek after the company of those who can help you have a better perspective in challenging moments-- both a perspective about how small your challenge really is, as well as how mighty you are in comparison to your challenge. Thank you, Stephen.

3 comments:

Heidi said...

I always gain a lot of insight from your blog posts. I especially needed to be reminded of the truth "where we see failures, the Lord sees opportunities." Thanks for taking the time to share, Whitney :)

Melissa Buckley said...

That was fantastic Whitney, thank you so much for sharing that. I might have to print that out for myself.

Anna Marie Brendel said...

This is fabulous, Whitney. So uplifting and full of truth. Thank you! Prayers are headed your way during this difficult time, but it's clear that God is carrying you all the way through! <3