I don’t know if I’ll be getting to Part Deux of the Q&A anytime soon. The last one was a little…wordy (I know, you’re shocked), so I need to think about the next one a little more before I write & post it.
Today’s topic is trials (just like it says in the title! AMAZING, right?!). Specifically, how grateful and glad I am for the trials I have had in my life. In fact, I would dare say that the hard times in my life have been my greatest blessings.
This seems quite contradictory, of course. Aren’t blessings, by definition, the exact OPPOSITE of trials? Clearly, Dyany, you have gone even more crazy. So, of course, I have to explain. Let’s see if I can do it without writing another novel. 😛
Everybody has trials, okay. EV.RY.BO.DY. In various degrees and various amounts, no one is immune. Sometimes a trial seems worse than another, from one person to another, because our strengths and weaknesses in various areas vary. Sometimes they are the result of what other people do to us, sometimes they are the consequences of our own actions (or inactions), and sometimes they just plain happen. It doesn’t really matter.
When life started getting seriously hard for me–I don’t mean the whiny little complaints most of have in high school or what not, but the serious, I-don’t-know-how-I-can-go-on stuff–I had choices. Lots of times it feels like we don’t have choices in those circumstances, and sometimes our choices are limited, but we do have choices. I can choose how I am going to react. I can choose if I am going to see what I can learn from it. I can see if I will roll over and play dead, or get angry that life isn’t fair (which honestly, is one of the stupidest things I think people can say. Would you like to suffer the worst consequences for all your mistakes? Would you care to suffer the worst injustices that can be experienced in the world? Of course it isn’t ‘fair’ because there IS no ‘fair.’ Everyone is different, and every experience is different. That’s just the way it is, so throw that whine out the window and either come up with a more valid complaint or deal with it). And I can choose if my definition of what makes life ‘bad’ trumps the idea that there is a God and He is good.
Let’s focus on that last one for a minute. Now, setting aside the suffering caused by people making bad choices, bad things still happen to people. Illness. Accidents. Natural disasters. One of the biggest arguments against God is that if He existed, and if He were real and good, then He would stop those things from happening. Because those things are Bad, right? Good cannot allow Bad, right?
But consider this: if you are a parent, do you feel it is your responsibility to ‘save’ your child from every struggle, failure, and hardship they will ever come across? Do you feel that doing so would help them to be better and stronger people? Or do you realise that doing so would cause them to grow up as weak, entitled, whiny pansies? I’m serious. All parents have different ideas of how much discipline and help is the right amount to give their children. But most decent parents realise that if they ‘save’ their children from all these things, they are doing them a serious disservice.
God is our Heavenly Father. As a parent, he understands this principle and works the same way. Sometimes He helps us. Sometimes He doesn’t. He wants us to become stronger and better (in an ETERNAL way, not necessarily in an earthly way). Not just have a good time. Therefore the argument that a good and loving God would remove anything hard or painful from every second of our lives is invalid.
So, back to trials. When they started hitting me hard, as I said, I had choices. Very hard choices. Because choosing to look at these difficult and painful things happening and trying to see purpose, or good, or a positive side to them is not a remotely natural thing to do. But I had an advantage. God, of course, is always there. And earlier in my life, when things were easier, I had chosen to try to figure out if God actually existed, and as I said in the last post, I tested it and started to gain evidence that He did, and He loved me, and He is good. So as things got harder, I had that understanding to start with. It wasn’t enough to get me through the hard times. But it WAS enough to have taught me that I could do more testing and see if God would get me through the hardships. It was enough that I could start with a little faith that the tough times would work for my good, instead of being all bad (even though I didn’t know that completely at that point). That God was still in charge and had my back.
Note that I said trying to see purpose and good. Because, as with all skills, for everybody, I started out pretty weak at this. I had my whiny, whimpery days. A lot of them. I had days when I just plain failed at everything. I had days when I gave up. But, amazingly, though I didn’t always stick to the plan, God did. He was always there for me. Staying on target. Not giving in to the kid throwing the tantrum on the grocery store floor (that’s me, by the way). And as time passed, and as I had more good days, and I put more effort into it, things started to change. I started to see amazing things that I didn’t even realise existed.
I saw that some trials, which I thought were awful and terrible and insufferable, actually helped to prepare me for harder trials up the road, making them more bearable.
I saw that, as I began to recognize and face my weaknesses and mistakes, that it gave me more understanding and sympathy for the weaknesses and mistakes of others, allowing me to love them rather than always getting angry and judging them when their mistakes or weaknesses were different than mine or hurt me.
I saw that it was okay to not be perfect or have a perfect life, and that I could actually be happy even when things didn’t go according to plan.
I saw that some things that look all bad are not really all bad, but have a purpose I hadn’t thought of that is really very good. And everything has SOME good to it, even if it is just what you or others learn from it.
I began to learn the value of diligence, hard work, and not quitting.
I began to learn the value of forgiving others and forgiving myself.
I began to be able to laugh more at myself when things went wrong, and cry more with others when they hurt.
I began to see that the events in this life are not as important or long lasting as we sometimes think they are, but our choices are everything.
I saw that as I learned to make these choices that helped me be happier and stronger, the choices became easier to make.
I saw that letting my weaknesses, trials, and struggles define me and my life was as restrictive and miserable as a prison, but if I instead learned to deal with them, and work with God on them, and accept and understand and utilise Christ’s atonement on them, that I became more free and happy than I ever thought possible.
And from all of these things, I began to really learn how much God and Christ actually DO love me, and ARE there for me, and DO turn all the things that happen to me to my good. ALL of them. Because in learning and testing these things (and it took many years, and I’m still not done), I was still collecting data on the original questions: does God exist and does He love me?
The data is pretty consistent.