Stay positive. Have a good attitude. Have faith. Focus on something else. I can be patient. I can do hard things. It’s not as hard a trial as I thought.
I think we all give ourselves a version of this pep talk when we are experiencing a trial or enduring a particularly difficult experience. I know I have. We want to psych ourselves up; We are good people and we are strong. This trial isn’t as trying as you would think. People can’t even tell I am having a hard time, right? So people who look close shouldn’t be able to tell either. Right?
It seems somewhat healthy to want to endure it well, to work through something difficult and still be able to be positive, but is that really what we are doing?
I know there are times when we are given strength and are able to endure it well and do more than we thought we could amidst a trial. But it that always the case?
During more than one trial, I have tried to adopt this attitude, but perhaps, under a guise. A guise of denial. I told myself I can’t worry, I need to be happy, and grateful and remain positive. I need to eliminate the stress I have had from this trial because it sure wont help. I need to continue to smile and not let this trial phase me.
Boy, did I think I was clever! I had outsmarted this trial! It had no power over me! But what does that really mean? That I had found strength from a higher power? Or did it mean I had decided that I actually wasn’t sad because of the path I was now on.
Here is the problem. I was sad. And I was feeling upset. And just a little confused. But I was hurting. More than I wanted to say, or to admit, and more than I thought those around me could handle. And after all, I was a strong Christian woman with a solid foundation anchored in Christ. Trials shouldn’t rock me this much, right?
Ha. If only. Sometimes, unfortunately, we are given specific trials because we can handle them. We are allowed to struggle through our trials because “God needs brave sons [and daughters]” ( link here). God needs us to endure difficult things in order to become more.
So often we plead to Father to remove the trial from our lives. And almost as often, the Father stays his hand and allows us to move forward, enduring, with Him behind us. But do we really understand that although we must endure and trudge through the mud of life, that we will have our omnipotent Father on our side?
Do we not believe he can help, or are we so prideful, we feel weak asking for help, or are we we not confident enough in ourselves?
Rather than move forward in the mud we often turn, turn away from Him, somehow thinking turning away from it all will help.
Do we retreat from a trial? Distance ourselves from the pain, hoping we can endure it from afar and still gain the renewal from the journey?
Can we really fully immerse ourselves without the pain? Do we turn away from a trial, like an uncomfortable moment in public, thinking if we cannot see it, cannot dwell on it, it will not pierce us quite as deep?
But without that depth, and its understanding, is our experience, and the seemingly smaller amount of pain we feel when we turn away, all in vain?
There was one who came before us who also asked to have the burden taken away from him. “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine be done”(Luke 22:42).
I am sure the Father hears many prayers like this from his children who are suffering, and that many of us seek to ask why? Why me? Hoping to hear some great revelation about the grand plan of the Father, and may even ask in a tone, not ready to hear the answer.
I entreat you to actually ask why. Why do I need to have this blessing taken away, why must I wait for this blessing, why must I be unsure of my next steps. Ask in earnest, why would God allow for this trial to be part of my journey?
Some trials helps us to become stronger, others to help us understand the gospel of Jesus Christ better, others to set in motion new ways for us to serve others around us. But the two answers that strike me the best at this point in my life are this: We must learn to greater trust in the Lord and in his plan, and we must experience hard things to better help when the person next to us experiences the same thing; we must learn how to make it through hard things, so we might help guide and empathize with the next traveler to come down that road.
Some refuse to really feel the pain their struggle brings, and chose to become sarcastic, overly funny, apathetic to their lives, hoping making light of our trials will erase our pain. What we really do is create a mask for the grief we actually feel, only causing a greater delay in the blessings we are promised.
When we allow the pain of loss or missed opportunities or heartbreak to really penetrate our heart and our souls, it is painful. True sorrow pierces our soul, our spirit, irreparably so, that all seems lost; that none can comfort and none could understand; a pain that surely couldn’t have been part of the plan….our bodies seem to break right alongside our spirits, and we give up control, because what else can we do?
I have had a moment like that. Where it seems overwhelming, that I cannot seem to hold it in any longer, or brace myself with positive affirmations any longer; I must feel it. And my knees give out, my face contorts and becomes covered in tears, and I feel as a mourner in scriptures, weeping and wailing, and pounding the ground with my fists. I think that anger will suffice, but I begin to realize it is not anger I feel, but sadness, and I soften my fists and lie on the ground, allowing the pain to manifest as I really feel it.
Somehow it begins to exit as I allow it to pass through me fully. And then there are no more tears and the calm comes as I catch my breath.
I was not the first to feel this overwhelming amount of pain because of a trial I was allowed to endure.
“And being in agony, he prayed more earnestly….. and there appeared an angel unto him from Heaven, strengthening him” (Luke 22:44, 43)
When Christ was in agony, he did not turn from it, he did not retreat. He did ask for it to be removed, but when it was not the Fathers will, he allowed the pain to continue and helped fulfill the Fathers plan.
One of the greatest blessings from Christ’s atonement in the garden, is that he knows what it feels like to want out of a trial and to endure seemingly impossible pain. He knows that pain very well.
And because he allowed himself to feel that pain fully, he is able to better succor us as his children. There may be few who can understand your pain, but there is one: our Savior Jesus Christ. We must first allow ourselves to feel it so that he can be the angel on our shoulder as we struggle.
When we allow the pain to penetrate our hearts, we can feel it and we can gain strength and as I have seen, once the dust settles and the silence returns, we can better hear the whisper of the Holy Ghost guide us and comfort us as we seek for the road ahead.
This jump into the painful dark requires faith, but it is only after the trial of our faith with God reveal himself more fully unto us. (Ether 12:12)
Do not allow the pain you feel (or try to ignore) be in vain. We have pain so that we might grow, help others who hurt, but also, that we might see the power of the Savior in our lives. In my experience, we will continue to hurt until we allow ourselves to feel the weight of our losses, and then allow the Savior to take it from us, and make weak things become strong.
Must we struggle?
We must struggle that we might become strong in Him.