(Note: This article is adapted from Rescuing Wayward Children. Follow this link to learn more. It is Part 3 of the series “Unparalleled Blessings from Working with a Wayward Child.”)
The universal conclusion reached by all parents of wayward children is the task is beyond them. Only God can do the work of redemption, so to partner with Him in this work, we must receive His grace. It is the gift of grace that qualifies us for the work. In the last two articles http://www.meridianmagazine.com/author/17 in this series, we discussed the gifts of weakness, redemption, experience, and joy. This week, we will discuss the gift of grace.
The Gift of Grace—Being Yoked with Christ
Heavenly Father programmed the experience of mortality to be one of continual lacking. Our resources and abilities seldom equal what is required of us. Thus, to cope and progress, we find ourselves in a constant state of needing help from a higher, stronger source. We cannot change this reality of mortality. Once we admit that we will never have enough and that we will always need help, we are in a position to humbly come to the one abundant Source, praying that He will make up the difference.
We usually experience grace when we are at the end of our rope. One mother of three discovered grace this way:
My husband and I made a decision to go back to church. Then our world fell apart. I’ve heard that this is normal. Suddenly, our marriage seemed under attack—critical remarks, misunderstandings. I spent a couple of weeks crying. Then our finances plummeted when we couldn’t sell a second house in a timely manner. And the worst thing of all was our son’s dropping out of school because of alcohol and drugs.
I have dabbled with church activity for years, but I have never been too committed. Until recently, my husband has never been interested at all. But a friend had talked to me about the Savior’s love and willingness to help. “Prayer and scripture study bring a power into your life,” my friend said. It all sounded too simplistic, something that Mormons are taught to say in Primary. But I needed real help—and now! [So], as a last resort I decided one night to take my friend’s advice [and] read a chapter in the Book of Mormon, then pray. What did I have to lose?
Nothing, I was to find out; in fact, I had everything to gain. While I read the Book of Mormon, it was as though light was shining from the pages. That gave me confidence. I knelt in prayer and poured out my soul for help. I told the Lord that any one of my problems was too great to handle, and I was dealing with three huge ones. Soon, I felt a quiet prompting to hand over my problems to God. I felt a little strange, as though I were in a meeting for Alcoholics Anonymous. Nevertheless, I followed the prompting and asked God to please help carry my problems and deal with them—I couldn’t handle them anymore.
Then sweetly and tenderly, I felt something, like a hand, that had reached down and lifted my problems off my shoulders. I had the distinct feeling that I had a Partner now. Is this what grace was all about? Is this what I had been missing all these years? It was so simple that I had missed it. I had always thought that the definition of a responsible adult was being strong and independent—not asking anyone for anything. What a Satanic lie that is!
For the last two weeks, as the storm has raged around me, I have been at peace. I do what I can do and daily hand the rest to my Partner. And He always takes it. By the way, we received an offer on our house the morning after I prayed.
God Can Take Care Of Us
One of the great discoveries of mortality is that God can take care of us. When we humbly come to him, expressing our weakness and our need for His help, He proffers us His grace. According to the LDS Bible Dictionary, grace is
Divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ…. [To] receive strength and assistance to do good works that [we] otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to [our] own means. This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts.
Divine grace is needed by every soul in consequence of the fall of Adam and also because of man’s weaknesses and shortcomings. However, grace cannot suffice without total effort on the part of the recipient.[i]
Here, then, is a formula for receiving grace: We come unto Christ in humility and faith, we do all we can do,[ii] and He will make up the difference. And we will never be found lacking.
Rehearsing God’s abundant grace to the wandering Israelites, the prophet Nehemiah taught,
This is thy God that brought thee up out of Egypt, and had wrought great provocations;
Yet thou [the Lord] in thy manifold mercies forsookest them [Israelites] not in the wilderness: the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to shew them light, and the way wherein they should go.
Thou gavest also thy good spirit to instruct them, and withheldest not thy manna from their mouth, and gavest them water for their thirst.
Yea, forty years didst thou sustain them in the wilderness, so that they lacked nothing; their clothes waxed not old, and their feet swelled not.[iii]
The Lord never forsook them. He was with them both day and night. He constantly instructed them. He provided manna and water to sustain them. For four decades of wandering, they lacked nothing.
Amazingly, neither their clothing nor their shoes wore out. The Israelites experienced the Lord’s grace.
At the end of Jesus’ life, just before He entered Gethsemane, He reminded His Apostles of their early missions when He had purposely placed them in a condition of want by sending them out with neither purse nor script. Now He asked them: “When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing.”[iv] If the Apostles needed firsthand experience with the Lord’s grace to gain the necessary power to fulfill their callings, so do we. When we lack, we should go to the Lord; He will take care of us.
If Any of you Lack Anything!
James, the Lord’s brother, gave the solution for those of us who want: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.”[v] Personalized, this scripture could read: “If any person lacks anything, let him ask of God, that will give to that person abundantly, and will never chastise him for asking for the Lord’s grace, and that grace shall be given him.” This is a promise!
Grace allows our lack to be swallowed up in God’s abundance: We come unto Christ in humility and faith, we do all we can do, and he will make up the difference.
And we will never be found lacking. What do we parents lack when we deal with a wayward child? Our lack might include our inability to confront our weakness, such as our impatience, anger, embarrassment, depression, or lack of unconditional love. Our lack would certainly include our limited capacity to rescue and redeem our child. Until we become perfect in the principle of redemption, we must rely upon the Savior’s power—His grace. Because we cannot become like God without divine help, because we can neither redeem ourselves nor anyone else without divine help, we are always in a condition of lacking and totally and continually dependent upon the Lord’s grace.
Grace to Grace by Grace for Grace
When we go to the Savior for grace, we will not find someone who is lacking in grace. He is full of grace.[vi] John the Baptist revealed that Jesus developed a fullness of grace by giving grace away. That is, Jesus grew from grace to grace by giving grace for grace. In other words, as Jesus received grace from his Heavenly Father, He extended that grace to others, grace for grace and His capacity to give grace increased [grace to grace]. Ultimately, He achieved a fullness of “grace and truth.”[vii] And so it is with us. We grow from one capacity of grace to another by extending the grace that we have received to someone in need.
When a child goes wayward and we try with all our souls to rescue him only to come up short, we must seek more grace from Jesus Christ that we might be able to give more grace. Hence, as John revealed, the answer for receiving grace is to give grace. It is a formula for all gospel principles: “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.”[viii] We could say, “Blessed are those who extend grace, for they shall obtain more grace.” This principle also applies to those to those to whom we give grace. Elder Mark E. Petersen said, “love and understanding—cooperation and brotherhood—will reproduce themselves in the hearts of others when given willingly and sincerely.”[ix]
If you will plant a kernel of corn and nourish it, the kernel will grow into a stalk with several ears and many more kernels. Then, if you will plant those kernels, you will eventually have a field of corn and a huge harvest—all from a single kernel. As we humbly seek and receive the Lord’s grace, then extend that grace to others [our wayward children included], the Lord will give us more grace. Elder Boyd K. Packer said, “As you give what you have, there is a replacement, with increase!”[x]
What does this mean for parents of wayward children?
Just this: We grow in our ability to redeem by extending, to our children and to others, the grace that we have been given. As we seek to serve more, love better, live more as would the Savior, and redouble our efforts to hold true to the gospel, the Lord will move us from one grace to another until, like Him, we are full of grace.[xi] Extending grace increases grace, and our capacity to redeem rises proportionately. What President Gordon B. Hinckley said of mercy might be said of grace: “One cannot be merciful to others without receiving a harvest of mercy in return.”[xii]
Strength to Carry Heavy Burdens
Grace provides us divine strength to carry a heavy burden. Because of grace, we do not have to carry our burden alone. Jesus extended this invitation: “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.”[xiii]
Four verbs and phrases describe the pattern of shifting a heavy burden to the Lord:
1. Come unto the Savior
2. Take His yoke upon you
3. Learn of the Savior
4. Find rest in the Savior
(1) Come to the Savior. That is, don’t try to see how long you can tough it out. Don’t drive yourself into spiritual and mental exhaustion by trying to carry the burden alone. Come to me—all of you “that labour and are heavy laden.” The word labour summons the picture of a woman travailing in labor, descending into the valley of death to bring forth new life. To get through her labour, she needs comforting and coaching. When we labour, pouring out our souls, we also seek the Lord’s comfort and coaching—His grace. We do not have the power to labour alone.
(2) Take His yoke upon you. President Howard W. Hunter describes a yoke:
In biblical times, the yoke was a device of great assistance to those who tilled the field. It allowed the strength of a second animal to be linked and coupled with the strength of a single animal, sharing and reducing the heavy labor of the plow or wagon. A burden that was overwhelming or perhaps impossible for one to bear could be equitably and comfortably borne by two bound together with a common yoke. . . .
Why face life’s burdens alone, Christ asks, or why face them with temporal support that will quickly falter? To the heavy laden it is Christ’s yoke, it is the power and peace of standing side by side with a God that will provide the support, balance, and the strength to meet our challenges and endure our tasks here in the hardpan field of mortality.[xiv]
When the Savior said, “Take my yoke upon you,” notice whose yoke it is—the Savior’s yoke. Essentially He is saying, “Because I am the Savior, I am already wearing a yoke. I see that you are laboring under a heavy burden and could use some help. I am going your way and have a place open in my yoke, if you want to pile your burden on and take up the yoke with me.” Then, as if to assuage our anxiety, He adds, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” In other words, “When you take a place in my yoke, you are going to notice a marked difference in the weight of your load.”
Christ said that His yoke is easy. Compared to trying to carry our heavy burden without him, being yoked to Christ makes our burden much easier to manage. But we often dismiss how easy it is. Alma said, “For behold, it is . . . easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss. . . . O my son, do not let us be slothful because of the easiness of the way; for so was it with our fathers; for so was it prepared for them, that if they would look they might live; even so it is with us. The way is prepared, and if we will look [unto Christ] we may live forever.”[xv]
Alma was referring to a critical incident where many Israelites declined the Lord’s yoke because it seemed too easy.
“[The Lord] sent fiery flying serpents among them; and after they were bitten he prepared a way that they might be healed; and the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished.
They missed the point and opportunity entirely: Christ’s yoke is inherently easy! The ancient Israelites refused to easily come unto Christ and take their place in His yoke. Consequently, their burden crushed them; they perished under the weight of it.
How long will we stagger alone under the weight of dealing with a wayward child before we accept a place in the Lord’s yoke and allow him to share or even assume the burden? Ted Gibbons offered these examples of the lightness of Christ’s yoke:
The paralytic [man] lowered through the roof had a bed to carry home after his healing . . . but the bed cannot have weighed more than the infirmity the Savior removed from him. The peace that came to Alma following his repentance and conversion required a lifetime of sacrifice and service, but [such still] required less of him than the burden of pain he felt when [he’d come] face to face with his own rebellion. “Yea . . . and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror.”[xvii]
When we accept a place in the Lord’s yoke, taking advantage of His grace, He essentially says to us, “Now we are in this together.” When the tax collectors asked Peter if Jesus paid tribute, Peter, who represented Christ, erroneously answered yes. Later, Jesus corrected him, and, because they were yoked together, Jesus provided a joint solution “lest we should offend them.” [xviii] Notice that Jesus included Himself in the solution, although He had not falsely claimed to pay taxes. He required Peter to do all that he could do—a requirement of grace—to obtain the tribute money, and then by means of a miracle (grace), Jesus provided the money. When Peter paid the tribute money, Christ said it was to be “for me and thee.” Why? Because they were in it together—yoked.
Later, Peter made another mistake that Jesus rectified. In Gethsemane, when Judas betrayed the Savior, Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest. Because Peter represented the Savior as His Apostle, Peter’s actions were Christ’s actions—they were yoked together. Jesus told Peter to put away his sword, then He healed the servant’s ear and repaired the mistake of his partner.[xix] When we are yoked together with the Savior, His grace covers our mistakes and lightens our burdens. These are comforting thoughts for parents trying to do their best and coming up short.
(3) Learn of the Savior. Friends and loved ones learn of each other. Jesus’ invitation, “learn of me,” suggests a loving relationship that He wishes to improve upon. One could surmise that He is saying, “We are family and we are friends. As we travel along, yoked together, I invite you to get to know me better. “I am meek and lowly in heart.”[xx] I am “wise yet harmless,”[xxi] and I am always willing to help you.” What we learn about Jesus helps us, and this is only made possible after we have taken His yoke upon us.
If adversity drives us to Christ, who offers us His yoke, that adversity is a great blessing after all. Then, as we travel with Christ, what will we learn about Him? Joseph Smith taught that Jesus, like his Father, is everlasting; merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abundant in goodness, perfectly consistent, a God of truth who cannot lie; plays no favorites; is all-knowing, all-powerful, completely just, has judgment that never fails, and is full of grace and truth and perfect love.[xxii]
Once we are yoked to Christ, shift our burden, and begin to journey toward godhood, we will enjoy lots of time learning of Him as He helps us carry our load. But we do not have to know everything about Him at once for His grace to be manifest in our lives. President Boyd K. Packer said, “You need not know everything before the power of the Atonement will work for you. Have faith in Christ; it begins to work the day you ask!”[xxiii]
(4) Find rest in the Savior. “I will give you rest. . . . Ye shall find rest unto your souls.”[xxiv] Twice the Lord promises rest to the weary and heavy-laden who come to Him and take upon them His yoke. Essentially, He promises, “I will share your burden, or if needs be, I will carry your burden. In either case, you can rest.” This is one of the great promises of being yoked to the Savior: “Don’t worry. I am carrying the burden. We’re in this together. Rest.”
Inherent in being yoked to Jesus is the promise of His support in every circumstance. Alma understood the kind of rest that comes from being yoked to Christ. At the end of his ministry he testified,
And I have been supported under trials and troubles of every kind, yea, and in all manner of afflictions; yea, God has delivered me from prison, and from bonds, and from death; yea, and I do put my trust in him, and he will still deliver me.[xxv]
We need not carry the burden of a wayward child alone; the invitation to take a place in Christ’s yoke is ever before us. When we put our trust in Him, He will deliver us.