by Kathy Penrod
The Book of Mormon begins with a story of a family in Jerusalem who lived during the time of the Old Testament prophet, Jeramiah. The father, Lehi, is a prophet who is trying to preach repentance to the Jews. They become angry with him and want to kill him. Consequently, God instructs Lehi to flee for his life into the wilderness and eventually to a promised land. (1 Nephi 2:1-2) So, Lehi and his family left, avoiding death at the hands of his neighbors. A short time into the family’s journey, Lehi is instructed by God to send his four sons back to Jerusalem to retrieve the sacred record, or scripture, from their cousin, Laban. (1 Nephi 3:2-4) Laban was not a kind man and they knew it. He was wicked and dangerous. If he kept the records hidden away it would mean a whole nation would be ignorant as to the commandments of God.
The sons of Lehi understood this was not an easy task. The two older brothers had to be prodded and encouraged often by the two younger brothers to not give up in the task. Simply said, going back to Jerusalem was dangerous. Because of Laban’s wickedness, it took a while. So long, that mom, Sariah, began to worry for her sons’ lives. (1 Nephi 5:1-3)
Now, here is where I break from the story. I want to look closer at Sariah. Obviously, if she was married to a prophet of God, she had to be a pretty upstanding character herself. For her to be willing to leave “all manner of riches” (1 Nephi 3:16) behind and venture into the unknown with her family, she had to have some element of faith within her.
But she complained. She worried. She mourned.
Sometimes, I feel like Sariah.
I know I have faith – at least, some element of it – and yet, when the trials hit, I worry. I complain. I mourn. I totally get where Sariah is coming from.
It is much easier to have faith when things are going mostly as planned. A hiccup here and there doesn’t derail us too much. We keep going. But what happens when you have a trial that, very literally, knocks the wind out of you? If I thought that a devious, wicked man had murdered all four of my wonderful, sweet boys, that would very literally break me. So, I understand Sariah’s reaction.
My own personal reactions to trials have not been very graceful. I mentally kick and scream. I try to rush the learning process so I can be through with it. I question why it is that I have to endure a particular trial.
There is a part of me that accepts that God knows all and will make everything right in the end. But there is another part that wonders if I will really receive such blessings. On one side, I can echo Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Come what may and love it.” And yet, I have been hit by trials that have nearly broken me. While I can recognize that I have been carried through tough times in the past, somehow, that doesn’t make the breaking of my heart less painful now.
So how do you maintain faith when your heart is so broken you just maneuver through the motions on a very basic level? In the thick of the battle, when things are down right awful – it is so hard to remember those things I know and that I have been taught.
Sure, God can cure my failings. But will He? Are these trials I am experiencing supposed to be taken away by God? When God says He can heal, does He mean He WILL heal? And what if He chooses not to heal? Is it because He doesn’t think its time or is it due to my lack of faith? So many questions run through my head while my heart has huge chasms ripping through it.
For me, it all comes down to one thing. And that is choice.
Long ago, I chose to believe in an all-powerful, all-knowing, infinitely compassionate God. I have heard the arguments against His existence. I have spoken with people who doubt His interest in their lives. I know you could come up with hundreds of Google results to prove that He is a figment of imagination.
But, I also know the other side. I know that you can find equally as many results to prove His existence. I know you can find evidence that He does love us. And, something that can’t be proven with Google, you can find so much peace by believing in a caring and loving God.
So, I made a choice: A choice to believe in God. A choice to accept His perfect Son’s sacrifice. A choice to accept that love and peace He so willingly offers to those who open their heart.
When life bowls me over and I think I can’t do another day of my current trial, I remind myself that I have already made the choice to believe He will carry me. I know the zombie-like days will come to an end, that joy will fill my life again and that I won’t be in pain forever.
Because of this choice I have made, when the hard times hit, I have already overcome the hardest part of the trial. I already know that God will be there for me. He will carry me.
Returning to the story of Lehi and his family, we read that, once her sons returned, Sariah knew with a surety that her husband had been commanded to flee into the wilderness and that God protected her sons (1 Nephi 5:8)
Perhaps Sariah just needed a little reminder, like so many of us do, that God was in the details of her life. She was faithful, but heartbroken, so she questioned. However, for the rest of the family’s journey, it was never recorded that she questioned ever again. It is my opinion that once she was reminded, and knew of God’s tender love, she was able to be sustained through out their nearly decade long journey and the subsequent heartbreak of loosing two of her sons (and their families) after arriving in the promised land.
The truth is that God really is in the details of our lives. If we will open our hearts He will allow us to see His gentle touch in our journey here on earth. Sometimes, we may need reminders. I believe that is part of learning who we are and who we can become. If we continue forward, believing, we can eventually return to our own promised land – we can return to live with Him again.