Strength During Struggles

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Devotional Talk Given at
Brigham Young University–Hawaii

April 11, 2000
Elder L. Lionel Kendrick

Life is not always easy to live, but the opportunity to do so is a blessing beyond comprehension. In the process of living we will face struggles, many of which will cause us to suffer and to experience pain. Many will suffer in their own personal struggles while others will suffer as they watch their loved ones in pain.

To gain strength in our struggles, we must have a positive perspective of the principles in the Plan of Salvation. We must realize that we have a personal Savior who we can trust and turn to in our times of need. We must also learn and live the principles that the Lord has given to receive the strength needed during our struggles.

POSITIVE PERSPECTIVE

In the Grand Council in Heaven, the decision was made to "make an earth whereon these may dwell." (Abraham 3:24) This earth is the place to prove ourselves worthy and to prepare to return to the presence of the Lord. He explained:

"And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them." (Abraham 3:25)

The Lord continued with His counsel giving the purpose for which we must be tested during this earthly experience:

"My people must be tried in all things, that they may be prepared to receive the glory that I have for them." (D&C 136:31)

It is a part of the plan that "there is an opposition in all things." (2Nephi 2:11) Everything in life has its opposites. We are given the agency to choose between these opposites in the proving process. (See 2 Nephi 2:27; D&C 29:35)

In our pre-earth life, we understood and sustained the Plan of Salvation with the principles of opposition and agency. We knew that we would have experiences in this life that would cause us to struggle and to sometimes suffer.

Nature of Struggles

Some of our struggles involve making correct choices while others are a result of the choices that we have made. These struggles are self imposed and can be controlled by our choices. A portion of our struggles result from choices that others make which affect our life. We cannot always control everything that happens to us in this life, but if we so choose, we can control how we respond to everything that happens. Many struggles come as problems and pressures which sometimes cause pain. Others come as temptations, trials and tribulations. Elder Boyd K. Packer counsels:

"All of the troubles in the world are born very tiny. . . They can grow as big as dinosaurs, but they are always born little" (Boyd K. Packer, Area Conference Report, August 1971, p. 128).

Struggles and Sanctification

Struggles are a part of the sacred sanctification process. We must remember that there are no soft or slothful ways to become sanctified to the point that we are prepared to live in the presence of the Savior. There can be blessings in the burdens that we bear. As a result of these struggles our souls are stretched and our spirits are strengthened. Our character becomes more Christlike as we are tried and tested.

Even though these experiences may cause pain, suffering and sorrow, we have the absolute assurance given by President Spencer W. Kimball that:

"No pain suffered by man or woman upon the earth will be without compensating effects if it be suffered in resignation and if it be met with patience." (President Spencer W. Kimball, The Teaching of Spencer W. Kimball [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft] p. 168)

The Savior gave comfort and counsel to the Prophet Joseph Smith while he was suffering in Liberty Jail, explaining the beneficial effects and blessings that come if we bear our burdens well. "All these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good." (D&C 122:7) He continued:

"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; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes." (D&C 121:7-8)

Responses To Struggles

People respond to struggles in different ways. Some feel defeated and beaten down by the burdens they are called to bear. Many begin to blame others for their difficulties and defeats and they fail to follow the counsel of the Lord.

It is a natural tendency to seek the easy road on life's journey and to become discouraged, filled with doubt and even depressed when facing life's struggles. We must always remember that:

Where there is no challenge,
there is no growth.
Where there is no growth,
there is no life.
Where there is no life,
there is only death.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell distinguishes the differences in men's responses to difficulties:

"The winds of tribulation, which blow out some men's candles of commitment, only fan the fires of faith of [others]" (Neal A. Maxwell, Conference Report, October 1974, p.15).

If we follow the revealed eternal principles, we will gain strength during our struggles and will be blessed as we bear our burdens and deal with difficulties and overcome obstacles in our life. If we are to gain the strength that we need, we must come to know the Savior and follow His counsel.

A PERSONAL SAVIOR

He Knows Us

The Savior knows each of us in a personal way. He has assured us of His personal acquaintance, His awareness of our needs and His presence in our times of need. He counseled:

"I say unto you that mine eyes are upon you, I am in your midst and ye cannot see me." (D&C 38:7)

Elder Dallin H.Oaks explains the meaning of the Savior being in our midst:

"The Savior is in our midst, sometimes personally, frequently through his servants, and always by his Spirit." (Oaks, Dallin H. The Lord's Way. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1991, p. 14.)

The Savior knows all things present, past and in the future. Jacob taught, "For he knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it." (2Nephi 9:20) He knows the things that we stand in need of even before we ask. (See 3 Nephi 13:8) He knows everything about us including our thoughts, and the intents of our heart. He knows the temptations that we face and the weaknesses that we possess. He also knows all of our actions.

1. Thoughts and Intents

The Lord knows our thoughts and the intent of our heart. He sees into the inner most parts of our eternal spirit. There are no hidden spots as we are totally transparent to Him. He counseled Ezekiel of old, "I know the things that come into your minds, everyone of them" (Ezekiel 11:5) Ammon warned: "He knows all the thoughts and intents of the heart." (Alma 18:32)

The Savior proclaimed: "there is none else save God that knowest thy thoughts and the intents of thy heart." (D&C 6:16)

2. Temptations

He knows the temptations that we face as we struggle. The Savior was tempted beyond any temptation that we could ever face. It was said "He suffered temptations, but gave no heed unto them." (D&C 20:22) He stands ready to deliver us in our times of temptation. Paul counseled "For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted he is able to succor [help] them that are tempted." (Hebrews 2:18) Peter proclaimed: "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations." (2Peter 2:9)

3. Weaknesses

The Savior "knoweth the weaknesses of man" (D&C 62:1) In spite of our weaknesses, He loves us in an incomprehensible manner. The Savior gives us great hope in His counsel concerning our weaknesses:

"I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things strong unto them." (Ether 12:27)

4. Actions

He knows all that we do in this life, He said, "Behold, mine eyes see and know all their works. . ." (D&C 121:24) (See also 2 Nephi 27:27) "I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works. . ." (Rev 2:19)

He Will Assist Us

The Lord stands ready to assist us through our struggles. We have His assurance and His promise that He will be there to assist us in the days of our difficulty and will respond to our righteous request that we make to Heavenly Father:

"Draw near to me and I will draw near unto you, seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name it shall be given unto you, that is expedient for you." (D&C 88:63-64)

1. He Will Comfort Us

He stands ready to comfort and to counsel us in our season of struggles and in our suffering. Jacob gave this counsel:

"Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith and he will console you in your afflictions. . . " (Jacob 3:1)

He gives us a spirit of hope and a feeling of comfort and confidence that we can overcome the obstacles that we face. He has shown the way to gain strength during our struggles. We have the ability to succeed in our struggles with His assistance. Listen to His words of counsel and comfort:

"Fear not little children for ye are mine, and I have overcome the world and none of them that my Father hath given me shall be lost." (D&C 50:41-42)

Again, with a feeling of love, He reassures us that He is near and that He will lead us through the darkest days of our life. His strength will sustain us during our struggles even when we feel weak:

"Wherefore I am in your midst, and I am the good shepherd, and the stone of Israel. He that buildeth upon this rock shall never fall." (D&C 50:44)

2. He Is Our Advocate With Our Father In Heaven

Because of His infinite love for us, He is our advocate with Heavenly Father. He pleads our cause with Him. He pleads for forgiveness of our sins. The Savior gives us this counsel of cheer:

"Lift up your hearts and be glad, for I am in your midst, and am your advocate with the Father."(D&C 29:5) (See also D&C 32:36; D&C 45:3; D&C 62:1; D&C 110:4)

3. He Will forgive Us

If our struggle is with sin, we must remember that He stands ready to forgive us if we truly repent. Too often we forget that He is a loving, caring, and merciful God. Some may feel that there is no hope because they have failed too many times. The Lord has counseled that there is great hope for the sinner if he truly repents:

"If he confesses his sins before thee and me, and repenteth in the sincerity of heart, him shall ye forgive and I will forgive also. Yea, as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me." (Mosiah 26:29-30)

We must approach the Lord as Enos of old did. He said:

"And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens." (Enos 1:4)

It may take this intensity of soul bearing to receive a remission of some sins. Serious and grievous sins must be confessed to a Common Judge in Israel.

The Lord heard Enos and his sincere soul searching supplication. He responded to Enos with the answer that Enos had sought:

"And there came a voice unto me saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed. And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore my guilt was swept away." (Enos 1:5-6)

The results of true repentance and remission of sins bring with it feelings of peace, hope, joy and a clearness of conscience. (See Mosiah 4:3) Alma described the feeling with these words:

"I could remember my pain no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. And, oh, what joy and what marvelous light I did behold; yea my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain." (Alma 36:19-20)

Mormon taught the process that occurs when we receive a remission of our sins:

"And the remission of sins bringeth meekness and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitations of the Holy Ghost, which comforter, filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come. . ." (Moroni 8:26)

STRENGTH TO CHANGE

If the Lord is to help us in gaining strength during our struggles, we must do the things that He has counseled us to do. This involves turning to Him and applying certain principles of the Gospel.

Turn To The Lord

When we turn to the Lord to gain spiritual strength to change our lives, we must truly trust Him and follow His counsel. He has given us promises of hope that we should ponder and from which we can draw strength.

1. Trust The Lord

Trust involves humility, a willing and submissive spirit to rely on Him and His revealed counsel. The Lord counsels "Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not." (D&C 6:36) We must submit our will to His will. Strength comes when we seek His will and not our will in our life. He tenderly tells us to "Be humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answers to thy prayers." (D&C 112:10) He is the way and only through him will we succeed.

2. Follow His Counsel

Great strength comes from following the counsel of the Lord. Jacob gave wise counsel when he said: "Seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hands. . ." (Jacob 4:10) Alma gives the counsel with a promise to "counsel with the Lord in all thy doings; and he will direct thee for good. . ." (Alma 37:37)

The Lord gives counsel in the answers to our prayers. He counsels us as we search the scriptures for answers to our concerns. Nephi counseled:

"Feast upon the words of Christ; for behold the words of Christ will tell you all things what you should do." (2 Nephi 32:3)

The Lord also gives His counsel through His chosen servants. He said, "whether by mine own voice or the voice of my servants, it is the same." (D&C 1:38) Inspired counsel may also come from loved ones and those who care about us. When we are struggling, we do not always see and think clearly. This is the reason we should listen to counsel. It takes courage to respond to the counsel that we receive. The Lord has warned us that when we think that we are above the counsel of the Lord, His servants and those who care, we will "fall and incur the vengeance of a just God. . ." (D&C 3:4)

3. Ponder His Promise

The scriptures are replete with powerful promises to those who follow the counsel of the Lord. We should ponder these powerful promises and develop faith and trust in the Lord. His promises are sure.

Through King Limhi we receive a great promise of strength:

"But if ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, he will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage." (Mosiah 7:33)

The Savior gives us other marvelous promises that should strengthen us during our struggles:

"Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you. . ." (D&C 68:6) "And inasmuch as ye are humble and faithful and call upon my name, behold I will give you the victory. I give you the promise, that you shall be delivered this once out of your bondage." (D&C 104:82-83)



Principles

The Lord has revealed powerful principles to gain personal inner strength. If we apply these principles, we will be blessed with power and peace of mind.

1. Responsibility

Change can never take place unless a person has the ability to admit their weaknesses and mistakes and accept personal responsibility for their choices in life.

To admit and accept responsibility for our choices and their consequences is a critical and initial step in the process of change. The Lord explained that "because thou hast seen thy weakness thou shalt be made strong. . ." (Ether 12:37) (See also D&C 135:5) In the Grand Plan the Lord ordained:

"That every man may act. . . according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgement." (D&C 101:78)

When we place blame for our actions on others or circumstances that we find ourselves in, we can never gain the strength to change. Some have a tendency to rationalize their behavior, or to make excuses. These approaches are deceptive devices that are used to relieve guilt and gain temporary escape from the feelings of failure to make proper choices in life. They weaken our character and prolong our suffering and stress.

2. Faith

It is essential that we have sufficient faith to make changes in our life. Faith gives us power to make necessary changes (See 2 Nephi 1:10). If we do not have sufficient faith, we cannot change or be healed of our infirmities. Our weaknesses can never become strong without full faith. It takes sufficient faith to be healed. (See 3 Nephi 17:8) It takes faith to get answers to our prayers. (See D&C 10:47) Moroni taught this principle:

"Behold, I say unto you that whosoever believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him. . ." (Mormon 9:21)

We must never underestimate the power of the Lord even when we feel powerless. Nephi reminds us of the infinite power of the Lord with these words:

"Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things according to his will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith in him? Wherefore, let us be faithful to him." (1 Nephi 7:12)

He is indeed a God of Miracles. He testifies that "I am God and I am a God of Miracles. . ." (2Nephi 27:23) Moroni cautions: "For if there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracles among them. . ." (Ether 12:12) The Lord cautions us concerning faith: "Remember that without faith, you can do nothing. . ." (D&C 8:10)

3. Desire

Our motivation to change comes from the desires of our heart. Without a deep, divine desire to change, there will be no change. Our spirit must crave the need to change. Alma taught this powerful principle when he said, "I know that he granteth unto men according to their desire. . ."

(Alma 29:4)

4. Commitment

Without a commitment, our desires tend to become diminished and die. Commitment gives us strength and power to make the appropriate changes that we desire. This commitment must be to the level of that of Nephi of old. When given a difficult assignment, he responded with a Christlike commitment to succeed:

"I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandment unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them to accomplish the things which he command them." (1 Nephi 3:7) (See 1 Nephi 3:15)

5. Fasting And Prayer

The Lord has commanded us "that ye shall continue in prayer and fasting from this time forth." (D&C 88:76) Great power is received as we fast and pray concerning our struggles and our spiritual welfare.

When we fast we should do so with a purpose, with prayer and with "an eye single to the glory of God." (D&C 4:5) We should strive for mastery of self having pure thoughts and meditate and ponder spiritual things. We can gain strength through scripture study during the fast. We should listen to the promptings of the Spirit as we seek for solutions.

We should petition the Lord in soul searching prayer for strength and deliverance from the bondage of our behaviors. (See Alma 58:10; Jacob 3:1) We should pray for strength to resist temptations. The Lord warns and counsels us to pray always lest you enter into temptations and lose your reward." (D&C 32:12) (Also D&C 61:39; D&C 10:5) We should pray to seek forgiveness, and to express our love and gratitude to Heavenly Father.

As a result of our sincere prayers and fasting we will receive forgiveness. We can feel the fruits of the Spirit as joy (See D&C 59:13). We can become sanctified (See Heleman 3:35) and inherit eternal life. (See Omni 1:26)

Fasting and prayer will help us to control our thoughts, feelings, passions and appetites. We can bring these and our bodies under subjection of our spirits. We will experience added spirituality, strength, power, humility and testimony. We will be able to get answers to our prayers and enjoy feelings of peace and comfort. Our guilt will be swept away as we truly repent. We will enjoy the companionship of the Spirit. We will experience an increase of love. Ill feelings will be removed from our souls. We will have added power to resist temptations and to overcome weaknesses. We will become free from undue worry. Our faith and hope will be increased. Feelings of doubt, discouragement and even depression will be dispelled.

6. Priesthood Blessings

When we are struggling, we may seek a priesthood blessing. For the blessing to be effective, we must be humble and teachable. We must be willing to submit our will to the will of the Lord as spoken to us in the blessing. This blessing can be a great source of counsel from the Lord. Our minds can be enlightened and our knowledge and understanding quickened. Our vision can be expanded. He has given a powerful promise concerning that which will be spoken by the priesthood holder who is giving the blessing:

"And whatsoever they speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost. . . shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord and the power of God. . ."(D&C 68:4)

We must have full faith and complete confidence in the counsel that we receive. We must have the courage to follow that counsel. If we do so, we will receive added power to succeed in our struggles.

A priesthood blessing should be a great source of comfort to us. It is the means by which we can have feelings of peace, hope, and love. Our confidence can be restored as a result of the blessing. Our mind and body can become invigorated. Our spirit can be renewed and we can feel a divine determination to deal with our difficulties. We can feel the presence of the Lord and the companionship of the Spirit.

7. Patriarchal Blessing

Our patriarchal blessing is another source of increased strength during our struggles. President Ezra Taft Benson gave great insight into one of the purposes of our patriarchal blessing. He said of the Savior:

"He knows in advance every strategy the enemy will use against you. . . He knows your weaknesses and He knows your strengths. By personal revelation you may discover some of your strengths through a careful and prayerful study of your patriarchal blessing." (Benson, Ezra Taft. The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988, p. 214.)

President James E. Faust also taught the principle of power in a patriarchal blessing in giving strength during struggles:

"God knows our spirits; he knows our strengths and weaknesses. He knows our capabilities and our potential. Our patriarchal blessings indicate what the Lord expects of us and what our potential is. Our blessing can encourage us when we are discouraged, strengthen us when we are fearful, comfort us when we sorrow, give us courage when we are filled with anxiety, lift us up when we are weak in spirit." (Faust, James E. "Patriarchal Blessings." New Era 12 (November 1982): page 6)

CONCLUDING COUNSEL

If our struggles are with sin, perhaps, our priesthood leaders, and those who care for us, would endorse the passionate plea of Alma:

"And now my brethren, I wish from the inmost part of my heart, yea, with great anxiety even unto pain, that ye would hearken unto my words, and cast off your sins, and not procrastinate the day of your repentance; But that ye would humble yourselves before the Lord, and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be lead by the Holy Spirit becoming humble, meek, submissive, patient full of love and all long-suffering; Having faith on the Lord; having a hope that ye shall receive eternal life; having the love of God always in your hearts. . ." (Alma 13:27-29)

The words of the Savior would be appropriate concluding counsel for our struggles that are not as a result of sin:

"Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good, if ye walk uprightly and remember the covenant wherewith ye have covenanted one with another." (D&C 90:24)

All of the counsel found in the scriptures and from the Brethren, are counsels of hope. They reflect the love the Savior has for us and His desire that we succeed. There are no other ways to gain strength in our times of need. If we follow this counsel, we will find infinite strength during our struggles. To this I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.