Earlier this week I was listening to a talk from April of last year by Elder Uchtdorf. He said, “I believe that all of us experience times when the very fabric of our world tears at the seams, leaving us feeling alone, frustrated, and adrift.” Then he said this: Then he said this:
I have learned that there is something that would take away the bitterness that may come into our lives. There is one thing we can do to make life sweeter, more joyful, even glorious.
We can be grateful!
We can be grateful. Oh how easy it sounds.
Nephi is ever an example to me. After having sailed towards the Promised Land for many days his brothers and their wives decided to ignore the standards of conduct that had blessed them up to that point, and were “lifted up unto exceeding rudeness.” In response to Nephi’s chastening words, his brothers tied him up and “did treat [him] with much harshness”. Now, Nephi is no stranger to having his brothers tie him up and try to kill him. But before he was always delivered by an angel and/or the Lord giving him strength to break the ropes tying him. But this time “the Lord did suffer it that he might show forth his power”. For four days his brothers held him captive while their parents, wives, children, and everyone else pleaded with them to stop. For four days they allowed the tempest to rage all around them. All the while Nephi “did praise him all the day long; and [he] did not murmur against the Lord because of [his] afflictions.” Finally they let Nephi go when they became so scared of the storm that they felt it was their last hope for survival.
I used to think that I didn’t know how to be like Nephi. I didn’t know how to be grateful when everything was crashing down around me. I had this idea of what gratitude looked like and it didn’t include the copious amount of tears I was shedding on a daily basis. I was doing something wrong. I thought I had to be like Betsy Ten Boom, grateful for the fleas. Betsy is an excellent example of Christlike love, but I don’t think that gratitude has to look like that. As Elder Uchtdorf said, “Being grateful in times of distress does not mean that we are pleased with our circumstances. It does mean that through the eyes of faith we look beyond our present-day challenges.”
Just this morning I was feeling overwhelmed with anxiety. But, having committed to murmuring not, instead of allowing those feelings overcome my sense and experience, I spent some time in prayer. I wasn’t grateful for my trials. But I turn to my Savior for comfort, and I felt gratitude. I am not grateful for my heartache. But I am grateful for who I become as I turn to Christ in order to get through that heartache. I am not grateful for the arguments I have with my husband, but I am grateful for the couple we become as we turn to Him to mediate those arguments. When I am surrounded by His love, it’s easier to “look past the disappointing endings in mortality and see the bright future that the Redeemer of the world has prepared.” Being grateful doesn’t magically make my problems go away, but it helps me see the refiner’s fire for what it is: part of the perfecting process. If I want to be what He wants me to be, I need to allow myself to be shaped. I know that because of the time I spend in the furnace of affliction, I will have a glorious deliverance and a noble and lasting rebirth in Christ. I know it will take a lifetime (and longer) to get there, but I know that who He wants me to be is so much better than what I had planned for myself.