Sometimes we “want” a nice car and all we get is what we “need” – an old Beetle that gets us from Point A to Point B. (How about that – The Stones and The Beatles in the same post?) I find myself telling my kids these lyrics frequently, especially during meal-planning – I know you want a vegetable-free meal but you need vegetables . As of late, I’ve been feeling my Heavenly Father has been telling them to me. In the BYU Hawaii Devotional, “Bread or Stones: Understanding the God We Pray to,” S. Michael Wilcox says, “All things given from God are good; and, sometimes if what I desire is different from what I need, if what I expect is different from what I’m given, I may, if I’m not careful, turn the given bread into a stone.” How can we recognize that all gifts/answers from the Lord are for our good and that we “get what [we] need”?
A Lesson from Nephi
Nephi understood this and he lets us know it at the very beginning. In 1 Nephi 1:1 it states, “…having seen may afflictions in the course of my days…” The footnote for “afflictions” states, “Blessing; Gifts of God.” Nephi recognized the difficulties that he faced throughout his life were for his benefit and made him the man that he became. While reading his account you can see his trials were numerous and included fratricidal brothers, being charged with building a boat, taking on the bread-winner role with a broken bow, and many others. In my own experience, I can look at the difficulties of my childhood and I know that they were a large part of making me the person I am today. If you had asked me when I was 14, if it was beneficial to not know where I would be sleeping that night and wondering if a parent’s jealous ex would come barging into the house, I probably wouldn’t say, “Yes. I think it will mold me into the person I need to be!” But, in hindsight, I can see that it helped me to set my priorities in such a way that my children wouldn’t need to worry about such things and to know that they will always be my top priority.
Many of the intense moments for Nephi occurred while the family dwelt in tents. (See what I did there?) When Nephi and his brothers go to get the plates from Laban, it talks about all of the wealth Lehi had accumulated and how they use it to try to bargain with Laban for the plates. In some ways, it seems as if “My father dwelt in a tent” was Nephi’s way of demonstrating just all of the superficial things his father had given up for his cause and because of his conviction. Sometimes, it seems, that we not only “can’t get what we want” but are asked to give up the things that we have that we want so that the Lord will demonstrate to us that we have (or he will provide) all that we need. Sometimes we need to de-clutter – not only physically but also emotionally and spiritually – and focus on the things that are essential.
The Fight for your Life
This past week our family took off camping. There was wifi and cell service but we left our phones off. We were sick of being tethered to them – waiting impatiently for news about job opportunities (or rejections) for my husband. As we drove through the mountains, I gave myself a much needed lecture from Elder Holland to remind me to cast not away therefore my confidence in my first prompting about cutting back on my work. I thought about how all I “need” was in that vehicle. My eternal family is intact. Despite all the temporal chaos we are facing, that very essential and eternal part of life is on track. We also listened to a favorite Elder Holland talk of mine, However Long and Hard the Road. In it, he states, “if all you can see is this class or that test, this date or that roommate, this disappointment or that dilemma, then it really is quite easy to throw in the towel and stop the fight. But what if it is the fight of your life? Or more precisely if it is the fight for your life, your eternal life at that? What if beyond this class or that test, this date or that roommate, this disappointment or that dilemma, you really can see and can hope for all the best and right things that God has to offer? Oh, it may be blurred a bit by the perspiration running into your eyes, and in a really difficult fight one of the eyes might even be closing a bit, but faintly, dimly, and ever so far away you can see the object of it all. And you say it is worth it, you do want it, you will fight on.” (emphasis in original)
“What if beyond this class or that test, this date or that roommate, this disappointment or that dilemma, you really can see and can hope for all the best and right things that God has to offer?”
What if your current trials, uncertainties, and difficulties are necessary for your eternal progression? What if what you will learn from them will refine you in such a way as to lead to your salvation? What if it is necessary for your children to go through these obstacles for the sake of their salvation? Is it worth it? Of course it is! That perspective has helped me to keep on pushing through or, in some cases, wait with hope. (I find it interesting that the Spanish verb for “wait” is also the word for “hope.”) I have worked to trust my Heavenly Father and that he would not give me a stone and, even though I struggle, I have sought to find the bread in what could first be perceived as a stone.