If thou art called to pass through tribulation…know thou, my son, that these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. (D&C 122:5,7)While these words were given to Joseph Smith during his imprisonment at Liberty Jail, the principle is the same for all. If we are called to pass through tribulation (I believe we all are), know that all of these things give us experience and benefit us. The call, and the truth that trials bring about good things are like the covers of a book. Between those covers is page after page of tribulations. In section 122, God listed a few of Joseph’s trials. Our list isn’t going to look exactly like his.
I can already tell my book of tribulations differs from Joseph’s. In mine, God points out that the occasional poor behavior of my children will give me experience, and help me develop patience.
Now, don’t get me wrong. In general, my kids are wonderful. And I wouldn’t trade raising them for anything else. Watching them grow and develop always leaves me in awe….and occasionally feeling old. But, like a lot of moms out there, I’d like my kids to be good all the time. This doesn’t happen, and too often I become authoritarian when I don’t get my way.
I asked God one day why it was that my kids were particularly difficult to deal with. We had gone through so much hardship, and I wondered when it would end. I was ready for things to straighten out so I could be happy. I was told this:
“Your kids listen to you about as well as you listen to Me.”
I realize now that the Lord was using my kids as a tool of chastisement. He was providing a physical symbol of my spiritual deafness towards Him. Demanding my kids listen to me perfectly when I couldn’t do the same with God was hypocritical. I wasn’t keeping God’s commandments. I was being taught that I needed to be more patient, and love them despite disobedience. He was helping me understand that I need to love my neighbor (in this case my kids) and by doing so, I would love Him and actually obey His two great commandments.
However, quite a bit of time went by before the lesson really started to sink in. Recently, my desire to see Christ personally while in the flesh has grown a great deal. I asked God to go ahead and send me the challenges that would break me and shift my heart so that He could come. What did He do? He called me to endure my kids when they behaved poorly. I actually recognized a purpose in the chaos. Some very interesting things began to happen as a result.
When I started to flare up because the two year old had thrown one tantrum after another, I heard a Voice in my mind that said, “Remember what this is for.” Oh right! I’m trying to be more charitable and patient with my children! I dealt more calmly with the two year old, and the rest of the kids.
“Remember what this is for.” Sometimes I heard the Voice (let’s be clear, it’s God’s voice.) Sometimes it was me saying it to myself. It worked. I was reminded of the purpose, that this was for my good, more specifically to develop patience and love.
Just as a disclaimer, I didn’t get a 100% success rate, and I still don’t have one. Other times I’ve failed. I’ve been so exhausted, that I got iron-fisted with my kids, and I knew I wasn’t supposed to be that way.
Reminding myself wasn’t working well either. When I paused to ask God why He wasn’t reminding me about what these challenges with my kids were for, He informed me that He said nothing because He wanted me to understand that I cannot do this alone. Additional understanding showed that I began to trust myself. He was displeased that I began to make flesh my arm!
Humbling! So I cannot pat myself on the back here. I find what Paul said of Abraham to be applicable:
Then what should we say Avraham, our forefather, obtained by his own efforts? For if Avraham came to be considered righteous by God because of legalistic observances, then he has something to boast about. But this is not how it is before God! For what does the Tanakh say? ‘Avraham put his trust in God, and it was credited to his account as righteousness.' (Romans 4: 1-3; Complete Jewish Bible)Trusting in my own arm when it comes to learning patience in my trials with my kids produces no fruit. The fruits of patience and love came as a gift from God, in whose arm I am to place my trust! I love Ammon’s response to his brother Aaron, after he rebukes Ammon out of concern for him sounding like he trusted in his own arm:
But Ammon said unto him: I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God. Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever. (Alma 26:11-12)
Praise the Lord for the tribulations you’ve been called to go through! He is trying to teach you something, and has gifts to bestow through them. If you cannot find a purpose in the calamities of your life, fall on your knees and cry out to God for knowledge. He will give it to you, just as He gave it to me. (And I’m a stubborn mule at times. If He hasn’t given up on me, He won’t give up on you either.)
Acknowledge the hand of God in your life, place all confidence in Him, and be blessed by Him.