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Our world always feels so personal. It’s as if the whole universe revolves around us and our suffering. It’s important and even profound to realize, that while all our experience is FOR us, not all of it is ABOUT us.
Several years ago, a friend shared an enlightening experience that changed her forever:
“I remember when my little boy with severe heart condition was at Stanford for his first surgery. He had died, and the doctors were working on him to try to revive him. Absolute fear and panic completely overwhelmed me in such a way that I had never experienced before. At that agonizing moment I heard a voice say, ‘IT’S NOT ALWAYS ABOUT YOU!’
“I believe the Lord knew I needed an abrupt ‘slap to the face’ to get me out of the paralysis of fear that I was in. And, in the next 3 minutes, he taught me more than what would have taken a lifetime. He explained that not all trials are for just that one person, but affect so many around us for good, how all this had been planned, how my son volunteered in the pre-existence to take on this rare condition in order to teach the physicians what they needed to know in order to save future lives.
“By the time they revived him and rolled him to the elevator for emergency surgery, I was at complete peace. I mean, the kind of peace that is surreal, holy, celestial, PURE.”
The Lord helped her see the big picture.
The Larger Picture –Planned from the Beginning
When we are neck deep in a trial, we become so self-absorbed with our suffering that we don’t see the larger picture. It DOES feel like it’s all about us! Often the challenges we are going through, or the pain we are feeling has been designed and planned before we were even born.
In the Worldwide Youth Fireside, Wendy Nelson wisely taught:
“The only thing that matters, really matters, is that you and I are doing exactly what we committed, even covenanted with our Heavenly Father that we would do, while we are here on earth. What were you born to do?…I believe if you could remember who you said you would help while you are here on earth, or what anguishing experiences you agreed to go through, that whatever really tough situation you are presently in, or will be in, you would say, ‘O, now I remember! Now I understand! This difficult situation makes sense to me now! With the Lord’s help, I can do this!” (Wendy Nelson, Worldwide Youth Fireside 2018)
Yes, He can help us do what we were born to do, which sometimes involves suffering. Knowing that we may have chosen to go through challenges for the express purpose of helping others, can give us strength to willingly go through them. When we do, others may see God through us, as we’re receiving power and peace through our trials.
Developing Terminal Cancer to Save His Mother
John Lerma, a hospice Doctor, tells about a remarkable young patient named Matthew. He was a fragile, 9-year-old who had recently gone blind from the illness. He had a soft-ball-sized tumor protruding from his right scalp. Matthew explained to Dr. Lerma that there was a very good reason he had developed terminal cancer. When questioned, he simply said:
“My illness will bring my mom to Jesus Christ, and that is worth it!”
He explained that his mother had lost her faith after his dad left them. She had no job, and her husband wouldn’t help them financially. It was at this juncture that Matthew got cancer. His mom became angry with God, refusing to accept that a loving God would allow all these bad things to happen to her.
Young Matthew told Doctor Lerma that angels visited him often. They taught him why he got cancer. They also told him that they could heal him if he wanted, but in spite of his pain, he declined their healing. Matthew said that he told them:
“I’m trying to help my family, and that’s more important.”
He believed that if he allowed himself to be healed, his mother would go back to unbelief.
Matthew begged to be taken to his school class, so he could “show and tell” his tumor to his classmates. He also wanted to teach his class about God, and angels. Many people came to visit him because of his beautiful faith. Shortly before he passed, he profoundly stated:
“When people volunteer to suffer for others, it changes the lives of the people they suffer for. Even from my bed I’m able to help so many people.” (John Lerma, M.D. Into the Light, p26,32,35)
His mother, and many others came back to faith through his suffering.
Sometimes when we pray to help others, we receive trials that are meant to help the person or persons we want to help.
A friend, I’ll call Debra, had an experience where she fervently prayed that she would be able to help her wayward, estranged daughter. She pleaded with the Lord that she would do anything to help her daughter. Soon afterwards, she got cancer, and nearly died. This illness brought a new dimension to their relationship. The positive way Debra handled her disease melted her daughter’s heart, and she humbly came back to the family. The extended suffering also brought the daughter back to the Lord because she began earnestly praying for her mother. From there she sought light on her own, and found a new life of faith.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught:
“The gospel glow we see radiating from some –amid dark difficulties – comes from illuminated individuals who are of good cheer. To be cheerful when others are in despair, to keep the faith when others falter, to be true even when we feel forsaken – all of these are deeply desired outcomes during the deliberate, divine tutorials which God gives to us – because He loves us. These learning experiences must not be misread as divine indifference. Instead, such tutorials are a part of the divine unfolding. (Neal A. Maxwell, General Conference Oct. 1982)
His Trial – Our Gain
We can also look at the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith and see how he prevailed under enormous opposition. At one point he was unjustly sentenced to live for months in a filthy, and very cold jail cell, where he couldn’t even stand up to his full height, and the food he was given was often bad. It was a time where it seemed that hell had been let loose against him, BUT, it was in THAT prison cell that the Lord revealed some of his most exquisite doctrine. During that dreadful time Joseph received:
“…and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God.” (D & C 121:45)
Another amazing scripture he received during this anguishing time was:
“My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; (D & C 121 :8)
The revelation he received was like gold from the refiner’s fire. It was Joseph’s “trial” for millions to reap. It was so much more meaningful for all of us because of the suffering he faced at that time.
Why Were You Born?
Life is a complicated mix of circumstances, many of which were prearranged from the life before. It turns out that trials we go through are NOT ALL ABOUT US.
Although suffering feels so personal, if we can grasp our trial with cheerfulness, surrender and faith, others may see God’s Divine plan unfolding through us, and we may understand one of the reasons why we were born.
You Can CONTACT Anne at email@example.com.