Sunday, November 2, 2014

Thy Will and Not Mine…

If you live and breathe and find yourself in relationships, you know all too well that sometimes you get your way and sometimes you yield for the greater good of family, friends, colleagues and significant others.  We have come to understand and expect this in our collective circles, and even in our play.  A sense of respect flows in the symphony of “give and take”.  In spite of this understanding, we don’t like to be on either end too long or the equilibrium is unsettled.  While indeed a balance, it is not necessarily an overly delicate one.  Often it can be lop-sided for a period of time based on need and we all find ourselves called upon to shoulder such responsibility from time to time.  We are a service oriented people and that is just what we do.

The “give and take” of which I have just described is more temporal in nature.  Our humanity thrives on fairness and equity - on reciprocity.  From time to time, we evaluate and even terminate relationships that don’t invest with the same intensity and loyalty that we do.  Such relationships sap our energy and life and even our resources.  Life is short and there is only so much time and energy to go around.  We save that energy for those most important to us.

However, this is not the type of “give and take” that I am writing about.  There is a more eternal "give and take" that sometimes requires far more faith and understanding than we feel possible.  I am talking about the Lord’s will for us when it seems so harshly different from our most righteous desires and goals.  I am talking about outcomes that challenge the notion of righteous living following God’s commandments, followed by promised and expected  blessings.  I am talking about reassurances that things will be okay, yet sometimes they ultimately go very wrong.

Since we are talking about the word “okay”.  There seems to me to be a temporal meaning of “okay” and an eternal definition of “okay” that almost seem like polar opposites.  For the record, I prefer the temporal “okay.”  This is the “okay” that everything will be fine, will work out how we are expecting it will and leave us warm and fuzzy.  This is the “okay” that our painful moments will not require too much of us personally and will be fairly temporary.  The eternal “okay” requires far more stretching than I feel like I want for myself on any given day.  The eternal “okay” is a type of gut-wrenching struggle that calls into question everything you know to be true.  It is my humble opinion that this word should be substituted with something more realistic such as, “acceptable after commiserate blood, sweat and tears over a much longer period than you feel humanly possible.”  That is the meaning of eternal “okay.”  They should just say that so that we don’t get confused.

When asked to drink from the sometimes truly bitter cup of accepting God’s will, how do we do so without becoming bitter ourselves?  Why me? Why us? Why now?  Most recently I have wrestled with those very questions.  My thoughts turned to my beliefs that if we expect a certain outcome based on our behavior and our sacrifices, we are demonstrating a sense of entitlement to our Maker.  Since I abhor entitlement, I had to process things in a different way.  Why not me? Why not us? Why not now?  My ability to see God’s tender mercies and small miracles were poured out abundantly as I shifted my thought process from initial feelings of bitterness with a bit more humility.  I may have missed the blessings the Lord was trying to shower on us during a most difficult situation.  He had not left us alone and I could have missed it all if I had focused my energy on anger.

“Trust in the Lord with all thine hear; and lean not unto thine own understanding.”  Proverbs 3:5

President Ezra Taft Benson taught that through our obedience to the Savior, “Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can.  He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace.”

In the Book of Mormon it states, “And I will . . . ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.”  Mosiah 24:14

When it comes to submitting our will to God, it is really the only thing we can give to Him that is not His already.  Elder Neal A. Maxwell says it most eloquently, “The submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar.  The many other things we ‘give,’ …are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us.  However, when you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him!  It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!”

I am quoting quite a bit because I have found myself lacking and void of any profound wisdom on how to submit to the really hard stuff.  For as long as I can remember I have been an advocate of fairness.  Lectures of “life is not fair” have not resonated with me because I believe with all my heart that life should be.  My work ethic is strong and I have never expected something for nothing.  This perhaps leaves me a little bewildered when blindsided with unfairness.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.”  Isaiah 55:8

Having the desire to redirect my pleas from why us, why now, to please give us the faith and the strength to accept Thy will and not mine, is summed up so completely by Elder David A. Bednar.  “We learn we need to gain the faith that the Lord is in charge whatever the outcome may be, and He will guide us from where we are to where we need to be….Please give me the faith to accept whatever outcome Thou hast planned for me.  Thus even with strong faith, many mountains will not be moved.  And not all of the sick and infirm will be healed.  If all opposition were curtailed, if all maladies were removed, then the primary purposes of the Father’s plan would be frustrated.  

Ten days after our son and his wife lost their first full term baby, I still have no answers for Why them?  Why us?  Why now?  What I do know is that the more fully I accept God’s will, the more aware I am that He is with us and with them.  He has been on our right hand and on our left and His angels have been round about.  I am comforted knowing that these things can stretch us beyond what we could have imagined.  My comfort includes knowing that the Lord will make shoulders strong to carry the load and that He will accompany us in our affliction.  For now, I acknowledge a limited understanding of “why” and yield to He who knows more than I about what is in store for my kids.  For He who has blessed my life in more ways that I could ever count, I will give Him the only gift I can offer and that is trusting His will over my own.

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Aubrey said...

I don't think I'll ever understand the why or the why not. I always appreciate your insight and perspective which is quite amazing considering the circumstance.

JimL said...

Thanks Teresa. Please give our love to your son and daughter-in-law. They are in our prayers. Mary and I lost a full term daughter and our only son at 3 months to SIDS. It was the hardest thing I have ever experienced and despite my knowledge of the Gospel, I searched for many years for the answer to the question "why?" In the end, I had to come to accept and trust in our Heavenly Father's will and the "hope for a better world." Ether 12:4. All the best to you and Mike. Jim Lundberg