Maurine Proctor writes her column every Tuesday on Meridian.
Is there any more painful rattle in your soul than when you are waiting for rescue and it hasn’t come yet?
We, who suppose ourselves brave, may do quite well at first when life is hard. We are like a survivor on a life raft, certain the ship will come along any minute to relieve us. Then, however, day by day we begin to run out of food; then the water is gone. Our bravery recedes. The sun beats hard and we begin to feel sick. We are frightened, with a clutching darkness that tells us that all is lost. The raft springs a leak. The sharks are circling—and still the rescue has not come along.
Just when we were hoping it might get better, it gets worse.
Hasn’t the Lord heard our voice? He is the abundant giver. Hasn’t he heard our repeated pleas for rescue? Doesn’t he know we can hardly take any more? We thought ourselves quite capable of handling trial, but when it continues relentlessly, our resolve is ground to powder, our very identity and life threatened.
Now would be a good time for relief, Lord, we pant, out of breath, out of steam. How about now? What do we think if rescue still seems nowhere in sight? What do we think, more precisely, of God who tells us he is plenteous in mercy?
It is at such times I think of Keith Facer, my husband Scot’s uncle. He had a beautiful, youngest daughter, named Laraine. She was everything to make a father happy. She was fun and lively, took her Church callings with extraordinary devotion, and organized the reunions for the extended family because her love extended to every one of us.
Then one day at work, while she was still in her forties, she began to notice something. She worked as hard as everyone else, but her stack of finished product at the end of the day was smaller. That was at first. The harder she worked, it seemed only to bring diminishing returns. She forgot things that used to be easy. She was frustrated, bewildered. What could possibly be happening?
The doctor had the answer—a devastating one. Though she was still so young, she had Alzheimer’s disease, and she could only expect that all she knew would fade gradually from her mind, that her children’s faces would become unfamiliar to her, that this mind of lively connections would begin to be empty paths, blankness.
The once warm and familiar world would disappear for her into a sea of gray anonymity and she would disappear with it, still living but gone.
It happened just as the doctor said it would, this gradual retreat of her self, until she did not recognize her husband, who was a constant caregiver, and she wondered with great fear who this strange man was who was always so near.
As she came not to know those dearest to her, they came not to know her, too, because the mother they had known had vanished, bit by bit, day by day.
Laraine died at age 55 and my husband Scot flew from Virginia to Utah to say goodbye to the cousin he adored. At one point during the viewing, Laraine’s father, Keith, pulled away from the crowd to sit on the couch and have a quiet moment. Scot came to sit down beside him and asked, “This is your precious, youngest daughter lying in this coffin, Keith. How do you really feel right now?”
This was the answer from a man, truly without guile, an answer that has stayed with us ever since. “Scot,” he said, “I have trusted in the Lord all my life, and I feel to trust him now.”
“I feel to trust him now.” This wasn’t mere lip service or the right thing to say. These words emanated from a place of great stillness in his soul, a pool of peace where the storms on life’s surface could not intrude. It was a place that kept him whole when life’s events could have just torn him apart.
Was he heartbroken to lose Laraine, and watch her dissolve away? Absolutely. Was he undone? Not at all.
How did he find that place, so invulnerable to the ravages of a fallen world? Why is it so difficult to find this place for so many of us? Perhaps the secret is in the first words, “I have trusted in the Lord all my life.” At some point, having had a witness, he consecrated himself and did not look back—and that consecration gave him power.
Jesus told his disciples, “Wherefore, settle this in your hearts, that ye will do the things which I shall teach and command you” (JST, Luke 14:28). What magnificent language this is—“settle this in your hearts.” It implies a decision about our relationship to God. It means we will stop flirting with our devotion, testing the Lord and then retesting him to see if he is good. It means we will stop bargaining with him about our loyalty. It means we will stop seeing him only in terms of his immediate usefulness to relieve our current situation.
Prophets have been shot through by a mob, hung upside down, cast into a pit, burned while the wicked disdained them, all uttering praises to the Lord in their last breath. God may not relieve you in your time frame; he may not remove the thorn from your side in this life, but, nevertheless, this is the moment to say, “I feel to trust him now.”
Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, “Being settled keeps us from responding to every little ripple of dissent as if it were a tidal wave. We are to be disciples, not oscillators, like a ‘reed shaken in the wind’ (Matt. 11:7). More members need the immense relief and peace which can come from being “settled” without which those individuals will be like “the troubled sea, when it cannot rest”[i] (Isa. 57:20).
I like the idea of “immense relief.” That is the rescue we are seeking, when we are troubled. We fool ourselves into an exhausting exercise when we hold ourselves back from trusting God entirely. It is true that God doesn’t do things our way. He doesn’t see things our way. Trusting him means we will not abandon what we know of him just because the going is rough for a season, even a long season. Yes, we may have to give up part of our agenda, have the script of our life edited, perhaps even endure proximate pain and uncertainty. Even Lehi murmured from hunger when Nephi’s bow broke.
But who are we fooling? We are not more secure when we hold part of ourselves back from the Lord and there are many ways to do that. We may hold back our hearts, our confidence in him. We may hold back our prayers, thinking they are of no use since he has not come to our immediate rescue. Yet, we are not in more control if we clutch at our doubts for safety, make our demands or shout in bewildered pain at the Lord because we think it makes us feel better. We are not here to prove him, but he is seeking to prove us.
If it seems we are giving up our self, our very identity in the blows that hammer at us, it is because the Lord has in mind to create a new, more glorious self that is fit for his presence. The piece of us we are giving up may be the very piece that is required to give up.
Yielding our selves to the Lord and trusting him, no matter what, is not dangerous. It is the only safety we have.
Oh, the relief of finally saying, I know who God is for I have seen him in the past in my life. I know that he hears me, and if today I have no rescue, than I shall endure in confidence that a sunrise is coming.
Trials are made so much more intense if we compound them with dismay at God, questioning his love and goodness. Trials are made so much easier if we say, in Reality, in God’s economy, I am not insecure, I only think I am.
What cures our wavering heart and creates that still place inside that Keith knew? As Elder Maxwell said, “Only greater consecration will cure ambivalence and casualness in any of us… Consecration is the only surrender which is also a victory.”
When we are waiting for rescue, we can take it as an invitation to come unto him, not an excuse to run from his presence. “I have trusted in the Lord all my life, and I feel to trust him now.”
[i] Maxwell, Elder Neal A., “Settle This in Your Hearts”, “Ensign”, November 1992, pg. 65.