Last night I had the chance to visit with a family where one of the teenage daughters frequently struggles with depression, migraines, and other various medical problems. For example, late last Sunday night, the daughter had literally crawled down the hallway from her bedroom towards her mother's door, her head throbbing with magnificent pain, where she scratched at the door, sobbing and begging for help to make the pain go away.
The mother was greatly disturbed by this (who wouldn't be?!), and last night we had a difficult discussion about faith and hope and a willingness to accept things that we are powerless to change. The mother had been struggling with maintaining hope when it seems that nothing ever seems to get better for her daughter.
In the course of the discussion, I was reminded that we do not always have the power to overcome our difficulties. Sometimes things simply don't ever get better. When that happens, are we to lose faith, forget hope, and abandon ourselves to misery and sorrow? Or are we to strengthen our resolve and press forward? I was reminded at the time of a scripture from the New Testament's Gospel of Matthew (11:28-30), where Jesus Christ said:
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
You see, this good woman had been feeling that this burden was hers alone to bear. She had forgotten that she is not alone, that she is not solely responsible to help her daughter, to attempt to "fix" things. Sometimes when things are particularly difficult, we often feel very much alone, and forget that we have family and friends who can help us. This particular woman is surrounded by people who do their best to practice the following words from a prophet named Alma, as recorded in The Book of Mormon's Book of Mosiah (18:8-9):
... as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death ...
Her good family was standing by, literally feet away from her, as she expressed her sorrow and her frustration to me at her inability to make things better for her daughter. Why did she not look to them for comfort? Why did she not seek support from them? She clearly needed to speak to somebody, but she had felt this burden was hers alone to bear, and that her family could not help her. What faulty thinking! What a sad moment it was for me to see the looks on her family's face as I reminded her that this isn't her challenge alone. They nodded with empathy and clearly were grateful that I was saying what they somehow had not been able to express.
I reminded her of a scripture from the Doctrine and Covenants (122:8) -- a revelation received by the prophet Joseph Smith when he was feeling particularly down that reminded him to be humble and recognize our place:
The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?
We are children of our Heavenly Father. Jesus Christ is our Savior. He has suffered beyond all to take upon Him our transgressions, if we will but repent and look to him for forgiveness. Any measure of pain and suffering we can experience in this life pales in comparison to that which the Savior experienced to bring us to Him again. Let us remember the words from the Old Testament's 23rd Psalm:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
A beautiful psalm which reminds us of the promises set before us. Regardless of what happens in this life, what troubles or afflictions we must bear, we have been promised that we can return to live with our Father in Heaven again.
We do not understand the plan that God has for each of us. We do not know all it's details; our ignorance is an integral part of that plan, required to properly test us and to enable us to exercise our free will. What will we do with that blessing and that burden?
Perhaps this woman's daughter will never get better. Perhaps it is our Father's plan that she suffer her entire life so that those around her can be blessed with the opportunity to comfort her, to learn patience, and to be a witness to her willingness to endure suffering. Perhaps Father will take her Home early -- there is no evidence of that, yet if it were so, that would be all right, too, in the end. Or perhaps, hopefully (please let it be so!), the Lord will have mercy on this young girl and her mother, and heal her from her infirmities. One never knows.
But what I do know is that regardless of what may happen in this life, we have been given some counsel which we should not forget. It comes from the prophet Nephi, as recorded in the 2nd Book of Nephi (31:20) in the Book of Mormon, which reads:
Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.