Expecting a trouble free life because you are a good person is like expecting the bull not to charge because you are a vegetarian. – Harold S Kushner
I remember a time in my life when I hoped desperately that I could avoid significant trials by being good. Honestly, I’ve never been a ‘bad’ person. I don’t think I really could be, even if I tried really hard. I have always cared too much about what other people thought of me. I always wanted to please my teachers and other adult leaders, and I NEVER wanted to get in trouble. I remember once as a teenager, my date had wanted to take a short cut across someone’s lawn. I tried to convince him to just take the long way with me because I was afraid that the owner would come out and yell at us. I did not succeed, and I found myself sheepishly following him across the yard. Sure enough, the occupant opened the door and chastised us for being so thoughtless. I profusely apologized and was totally mortified. My date just laughed at me. I avoided big mistakes and bad choices that could cause undesirable consequences like the plague. For the most part, my life was fairly trouble-free. Sure, I had occasional pitfalls, but they were not earth shattering by any means. After my husband finished residency and we settled into a ‘real’ job, I remember feeling really uneasy. I worried that my perfect little world would somehow crumble. I thought of ways that I could be better than just ‘good.’ In my mind, I thought if I could be just a little better and a little closer to perfect, then I would continue to be blessed and ward off any significant setbacks. However, no matter how much better I was, I found that there was always a way to do more. Eventually, I began to feel overwhelmed at the never ending task. I remember asking an older, trusted friend, “Do you think you could be righteous enough to avoid trials.” She just chuckled and said, “But we came here to experience trials. You CAN”T avoid them.”
Jeffery R Holland taught that when we lived with God prior to our birth, “we agreed to such a time of challenge and refinement. We were taught then that facing, resolving and enduring troublesome times was the price we would pay for progress. And we were committed to progress eternally.”
Eventually, I learned to accept this principle and to not fear the big trial that I felt was coming. Not only did I not fear it, but I began to prepare myself and to resolve to face it head on and learn the lessons that I so definitely needed to learn.
Thomas Paine said, “I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and from brave by reflection. It is the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.”
I intend to “grow brave by reflection,” and “gather strength from my distress” as I “smile in trouble.” I have seen light come to me as I have done this. I have seen joy come back into our home. God loves us and he wants us “have joy” even in our times of trials. I know that life can be difficult, but I also know from personal experience that God’s care can get us through and help us prevail.
Questions to Ponder:
How does understanding that trials help us become better give you courage to face them well? How does looking at trials in the past and seeing the things you learned help you face new trials?