08 January 2014

Fresh Courage Take

Our oldest son is going through a time of uncertainty and transition that is causing him anguish and insomnia. He has struggled with this for a long time and thinks that he "has depression". I think he is simply discouraged by the vicissitudes of life. I get that way myself. Vicissitudes is defined as "unexpectedly changing circumstances, as of fortune." Here's a talk I wrote about making it through life.

In Our Extremities

My mother has always told me she didn’t believe in morning people and night people until she had me.  I was not a morning people!   I was the proverbial night owl.  Just before I started 9th grade my parents gave me a clock radio so I could get up on my own to attend early morning seminary at 5:55.  At that time of the morning it was dark, though, in San Diego, it was never very cold.  We often sang the hymn “There is Sunshine in My Soul Today,” (Hymn #227) hoping the cheerful music and lyrics would wake us up.  I despised that song.  Although I loved Seminary and learning of the gospel and scriptures I never became accustomed to the early hour and there was never much sunshine in my soul.
My feelings about that hymn began to change when I attended my brother’s wedding in England 30 years ago and we sang it for the opening song at the ceremony.  It was a lovely day; I was in England, and at a wedding.  What could be happier! 
Over the years I’ve learned to play it on the piano and memorized all the verses.  I really like that hymn. 
Recently I had occasion to recall it when circumstances in my life conspired to fill me with despair to the point of dark depression.  I was doing dishes in the kitchen crying.  Into my mind came this hymn and I began to sing through all the verses.  The message sunk deep into my soul and I understood once again the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  
It is through the Atonement that we can feel grace, mercy and we can be healed.  The Light of Christ lifts us from darkness.
Alma taught about the Savior:
“. . .he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; . . . and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know how to succor his people according to the infirmities.”  (Alma 7:11-12)
During Christ’s visit to the Nephites “. . . it came to pass that when Jesus had thus spoken, he cast his eyes round about again on the multitude, and beheld they were in tears, and did look steadfastly upon him as if they would ask him to tarry a little longer with them.  And he said unto them: Behold my bowels are filled with compassion towards you.  Have ye any that are sick among you?  Bring them hither.  Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or withered, or that are dear, or that are afflicted in any manner?  Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you, my bowels are filled with mercy. . . . And it came to pass that when he had thus spoken, all the multitude with one accord, did go forth with their sick and their afflicted, and their lame, and with their blind, and with their dumb, and with all them that were afflicted in any manner; and he did heal them every one as they were brought forth unto him.” (3 Ne. 17:5-7, 9)
No one escapes experiencing the “vicissitudes of life;” from the school child who is teased or bullied, the youth who is tempted to follow friends into sin, the young adult struggling with life’s decisions, and longing for marriage, the married couple longing for children, parents agonizing over wayward children, adults dealing with job loss, business failures, betrayal, or illness, to the silver haired senior, still spry in spirit trapped in a debilitated body.
Bad things happen to good people even as we watch good things happen in the lives of disobedient and wicked people.  Lehi taught “that there must needs be an opposition in all things.”  (2 Ne. 2:11)  Much of what we experience in this life is simply because we live in a mortal world; we get sick and feel physical pains associated with having a mortal body.  Some of what we experience is the consequence of our own choices.  The gift of agency is universal—so are the consequences.  Some of what we experience is the consequence of other’s choices over which we have no control. 
And some are simply experiences the Lord wants us to have to teach us, strengthen us and prepare us for service in his kingdom.
We must not be afraid of the trials and tribulations that are part of this mortal probation.  We are away from our heavenly home at this earthly boarding school; we take classes, learn lessons, do projects and take tests.   The Headmaster is Jesus Christ.  He will not leave us alone to blunder our way through life.  We have teachers and textbooks to help us.  And when all else fails we can appeal to the Headmaster himself, for He knows us better than anyone.
Years [after the pioneers settled in Utah], a group in Cedar City were talking about [those] who were in the ill-fated [handcart] companies. Members of the group spoke critically of the Church and its leaders because the company of converts had been permitted to start so late in the season.
“One old man in the corner sat silent and listened as long as he could stand it. Then he arose and said things that no person who heard will ever forget. His face was white with emotion, yet he spoke calmly, deliberately, but with great earnestness and sincerity.
“He said in substance, ‘I ask you to stop this criticism. You are discussing a matter you know nothing about. Cold historic facts mean nothing here for they give no proper interpretation of the questions involved. A mistake to send the handcart company out so late in the season? Yes.
But I was in that company and my wife was in it. . . . We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but did you ever hear a survivor of that company utter a word of criticism? Not one of that company ever apostatized or left the Church because every one of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives, for we became acquainted with him in our extremities.’ ” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Our Mission of Saving,” Ensign, Nov 1991, 52)
All of us will, at one time or another, find ourselves ”in our extremities.”  The way to look is up, the person to look toward is the Savior, the name to call on is Jesus.
There are many hymns that point us to the healing mercy of Christ’s Atonement.  We sang two of them in Relief Society today.  #141 Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee; and #113 Our Savior’s Love.  Another of my favorites is not in our hymn book.  I first heard it sung on my mission in the deep South.
What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and grief’s to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In his arms he'll take and shield thee; thou wilt find a solace there.


I bear testimony that Jesus Christ lives and is our personal Savior and Redeemer.  He can heal the broken heart, lift the faltering, and strengthen the weak.  His invitation is the best we’ll ever receive.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
                                                        Matthew 11:28-30

Yesterday driving back from a doctor's appointment I was pondering my situation in our little twig, and feeling pretty discouraged. The words of another hymn came into my mind and I sang as much as I could remember (then decided I want to memorize all the verses again).

Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear; But with joy wend your way.
Though hard to you this journey may appear, Grace shall be as your day.
'Tis better far for us to strive Our useless cares from us to drive;
Do this, and joy your hearts will swell--All is well! All is well!

Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard? 'Tis not so; all is right
Why should we think to earn a great reward If we now shun the fight?
Gird up your loins; fresh courage take. Our God will never us forsake;
And soon we'll have this tale to tell--All is well! All is well!

We'll find the place which God for us prepared, Far away in the West,
Where none shall come to hurt or make afraid; There the Saints will be blessed.
We'll make the air with music ring, Shout praises to our God and King;
Above the rest these words we'll tell--All is well! All is well!

And should we die before our journey's through, Happy day! All is well!
We then are free from toil and sorrow, too; With the just we shall dwell!
But if our lives are spared again To see the Saints their rest obtain,
Oh how we'll make this chorus swell--All is well! All is well!

So as we press forward in this new year, we can "fresh courage take" and not give in to discouragement. Rather, let's exercise faith in our Savior, hope for better days, and show forth an increase in love to those around us through service.

1 comment:

  1. I recently read that Joseph Fielding Smith wrote the words to the hymn, "Does the Journey Seem Long" in a letter to his then-seven-months-pregnant wife. Yes, sometimes life is difficult, but we can gain comfort, strength, and help from the Savior.

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