Recently, a series of books I have read have impacted my life profoundly. I have learned by coming face to face with greatness, what enduring well means. I have been filled with a desire to become what God wants me to become and to face every earthly trial with great faith and integrity, by turning to that God who created me and expects me to succeed.
Pa Ingalls tells his daughter in the beginning of “The Long Winter,” that we are human, and thus
we have freedom to choose our actions, our thoughts, our feelings. This is a freedom that animals have not, and is reserved for man alone, God's children. The purpose of life is to show God that we will behave as He would have us behave, in all circumstances. Pa later had experience enough to teach his daughter by example, not just words. As they faced extreme cold and possible starvation month after month, Pa could have easily turned bitter and discouraged. He could have behaved dishonestly. He could have decided to turn from God in anger. Pa chose to do none of these things. Instead, he exemplified faith, courage, optimism, gratitude, patience, perseverance, ingenuity, and fortitude.
In “The Kingdom and the Crown” series by Douglas Bond the family was persecuted for their religion relentlessly. Their people were murdered, their homes were burned down, and even their women and children and elderly were not spared. Yet, this family remained faithful to God. The father figure constantly taught the family, “We are not in the king's hands, we are in God's.” They went to worship in spite of many physical dangers. The main lesson that hit my heart from this book was that sometimes keeping the faith may take physical courage.
Harriet Beecher Stowe's famous character Uncle Tom faced hardships that were horrendous. He was in complete slavery, with no legal rights whatsoever, ripped away from his wife and children and all he had ever known. Yet Tom behaved with such love, faith, humility, and integrity to every challenge that came his way. Like Job, though tempted to reject God, he clung to the God that sustained him through severe physical beatings and even eventually death.
Gerald N. Lund explains in “Divine Signatures” of God that in order for a person to make it through trials successfully, we must have a personal and correct understanding of God's character. We have to be able to trust Him. If we think that God is spiteful, vacillating, or distant and uncaring , we will not turn to Him in times of need. Instead, we will turn away from Him in anger and blame. However, when come to a correct understanding that God loves us, and that every trial He allows us to face He only allows out of love, we can truly learn to weather the storms of life, love Him and be obedient to His commandments in spit of any circumstances.
In a Megan Whalen Turner series she shows how man's concept of God can change. In book one, “The Thief,” the main character sees his gods as not real. He follows certain rituals in worshiping them out of tradition and habit, not out of true belief. Then he has an experience that wakes him up to their reality. This is much like the tender mercies of the Lord that Gerald Lund mentions in his book. God makes certain miracles happen in our lives with such great timing and with such unique circumstances, that we are given eyes to see that these are not coincidence, but God, working in our lives. In book two, “The Queen of Attolia” the thief begins worshiping out of sincerity. However, his faith is tested. In the end something happens that makes him feel the gods have betrayed him. He is heartbroken until they explain the greater picture to him. Suddenly the Thief knows he was not betrayed, but was blessed by his gods. Sometimes we act that way to God also. When trials come we believe God has abandoned us, or is punishing us, or doesn't care, or is mean. We think “Doesn't God love me anymore?” And yet, if we could only remember that our reason and knowledge are so limited compared to our all-knowing Heavenly Father's. Someone once said, “God's will is what we would choose if we knew all the facts.” When we are allowed to have new understanding, or we choose to look at things from an eternal perspective, our feelings are changed and we suddenly know that God as merciful and loving.
My “fondest dream” is to fulfill the measure of my creation—to become like Christ. To prove to God that I will be faithful to Him in all things, under all circumstances. In essence, to have my calling and election made sure. And yet, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. When trials come, I look at the way I have behaved, and I am saddened. At times I have turned away from God, I have lost faith and hope and given into despair. How can I change that? How can I be prepared for my next trial so that I will turn to Christ and let Him heal me, and carry me through and purify my heart of all ungodliness? How can I get to the point where I know I would never deny Christ, and give even my life for Him?
I believe the way to learn to truly love God with all my heart, might, mind, and strength, is to spend time with Him. As I have delved into my scripture study lately by asking questions, reading until the Spirit witnesses to my heart that I have found an answer, and then writing down my prayers of thanksgiving, I have felt such love from God! Such peace! Such hope! Such great desire to do whatever He asks me. As I spend time with Him and develop a relationship with Him, I learn to love Him, I learn what His will is for me, and I am given strength through Christ to act on promptings. I feel my strengths becoming greater, and my weaknesses getting smaller. Elder Bednar said that the Atonement is not just to help us get rid of the bad things in our lives, but also to help us to become good. He also reminded us in a recent general conference that this process of true conversion is just that--a process, and it takes time. This is why we must endure to the end.
God has thought out everything! Through every trial He has provided a way for my deliverance. The Atonement of Jesus Christ truly is the power whereby I can repent and change. As I learn to turn daily to Christ, The Prince of Peace, the Prince of MY peace, I can “shed the sins and troubles” I carry with me, and my “burdens may become light.” As I take upon me the characteristics of Christ, I really can become like Him, through Him, to always live with Him someday. Though the winter seems long, let no regrets grip my heart! I will turn to that Jesus who stands ever ready to succor the weak. I will remember to have eternal perspective and have faith that spring will come!