C. S. Lewis put it well when he gave us the analogy of remodeling the human soul and a living house: Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand


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Elder Neal A. Maxwell All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience

28Chapter 3

28The Fellowship of His Sufferings

28An equally hard but essential doctrine, if we are to understand life itself, is the reality that since this is a gospel of growth and life is a school of experience, God, as a loving Father, will stretch our souls at times. The soul is like a violin string: it makes music only when it is stretched. (Eric Hoffer.) God will tutor us by trying us because He loves us, not because of indifference! As already noted, this sort of divine design in our lives clearly requires the omniscience of God. No wonder those who wrongly think of Him as still progressing with regard to the acquisition of knowledge will not be able to manage well the hard doctrines in this chapter.

28Because our lives are foreseen by God, He is never surprised by developments within our lives. The sudden loss of health, wealth, self-esteem, status, or a loved one—developments that may stun us—are foreseen by God, though not necessarily caused by Him. It is clear, however, that this second estate is to be a learning and a testing experience. Once again, it is relevant to remind ourselves that when the Gods discussed us and our earth experience, their declaration was, "And we will prove them herewith." (D&C 98:12; Abraham 3:25.)

29Clearly, we had to be moved on from the first estate—where the truth that "all these things shall give thee experience" no doubt seemed so very logical to us—moved on to this earth, where all these experiences are sometimes so inexplicable and even nearly intolerable.

29C. S. Lewis put it well when he gave us the analogy of remodeling the human soul and a living house: "Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently, He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace." (Mere Christianity [New York: Macmillan, 1960], p. 174.)

29It should be clear to us, however, that when we speak of meeting life's challenges and suffering, it is wise to distinguish between the causes of suffering. There are different kinds of "remodeling."

29Type I

29 Some things happen to us because of our own mistakes and our own sins, as contrasted with suffering brought on because we are Christian. Peter makes this distinction very well: "But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf." (1 Peter 4:15-16.)

30Even indecision—about whether or not to be a believer—can produce its own unnecessary trial and sorrows, as President Brigham Young observed: "As to trials, why bless your hearts, the man or woman who enjoys the spirit of our religion has no trials; but the man or woman who tries to live according to the Gospel of the Son of God, and at the same time clings to the spirit of the world, has trials and sorrows acute and keen, and that, too, continually." (Journal of Discourses 16:123.)

30Type II

30Still other trials and tribulations come to us merely as a part of living, for, as indicated in the scriptures, the Lord "sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matthew 5:45.) We are not immunized against all inconvenience and difficulties nor against aging. This type of suffering carries its own real challenges, but we do not feel singled out.

30Type III

30There is another dimension of suffering, and other challenges that come to us even though we seem to be innocent. These come to us because an omniscient Lord deliberately chooses to school us: "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth" (Hebrews 12:6); "Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith" (Mosiah 23:21).

30Abraham, for instance, had his faith tried as he took Isaac up to Mount Moriah. The Lord later described this as a deliberate chastening experience for Abraham. (D&C 101:4.) Fittingly, Abraham, who was later to become a god, learned through obedience what it was to be asked to sacrifice his son. (D&C 132:37.)

31A good friend, who knows whereof he speaks, has observed of trials, "If it's fair, it is not a true trial!" That is, without the added presence of some inexplicableness and some irony and injustice, the experience may not stretch us or lift us sufficiently. The crucifixion of Christ was clearly the greatest injustice in human history, but the Savior bore up under it with majesty and indescribable valor.

31Paul indicated that "there was given to me a thorn in the flesh." (2 Corinthians 12:7-9. Italics added.) Use of the word given suggests that Paul knew wherefrom this affliction came. Further, as it must be with anyone who seeks sainthood, Paul had to be "willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him." (Mosiah 3:19.)

31There may be those who choose to debate the significance of whether or not an omnipotent God gives us a particular trial or simply declines to remove it. The outcome is obviously the same either way; God is willing for us to undergo that challenge. Yet He promises us that His grace is sufficient for us. (2 Corinthians 12:9; Ether 12:26-27.) He even indicates that some of the weaknesses and infirmities given to us can actually become a strength to us. It is in our weakness and extremity that God's power is fully felt. Only when, of ourselves, we are helpless is His help truly appreciated.

31Parenthetically, those who worry if they currently seem to be untested should not feel guilty or anxious, nor should they pray for trials. First of all, the absence of major tribulation can, ironically, produce the trial of tranquillity with its very grave risks of careless ease. Second, the Lord does require a few intact individuals and families to help others manage their trials and tribulations, even though these roles often rotate. (Moses, who was very "anxiously engaged" and who was in the midst of having his leadership of ancient Israel tested, was blessed by the solid counsel of an observing—but somewhat less involved—Jethro about delegation.) Third, life is not over yet, and there can be, as we have all seen, a tremendous compression of trials. Finally, the absence of Type I trials, those arising out of our own sins and mistakes, is obviously never to be regretted.

32In further illustration of the third category of trial, the tribulation and suffering of the righteous, we need only to look at the Lord Himself. Paul, speaking of Jesus, said that an innocent Jesus learned "obedience by the things which he suffered." (Hebrews 5:8.)

32Furthermore, the very act of choosing to be a disciple and a believer can bring to us a certain special suffering (a variation of Type III). This was dramatically the case with Moses, who chose Christ (a significant reference, by the way, to Christ in His Old Testament role), having decided to forgo the luxuries of the courts of Egypt in order "to suffer affliction with the people of God." (Hebrews 11:25-26.)

32Regardless of the type of suffering, however, if one examines the ecology of suffering, he will see many things. The mistakes and sins of some often cause great suffering among those who are, in a sense, innocent. The parents of disobedient children suffer because of the unrighteousness of their children. Likewise, the suffering of aging parents coping with real health problems can cause resentment in the children of these faithful parents. Often, even though the person who is undergoing the primary suffering is handling it well, those who are suffering secondarily react less well.

33Others of us may struggle so much with (and murmur over) Type II suffering—the routine but still challenging things that come with life—that the Lord is not able to give us some of the growth experiences of Type III because we are barely coping with Type II.

33To pretend that the boundary lines between types of suffering can be drawn with clinical precision and that demarcation is possible in all circumstances would be a mistake. Moreover, the interplay between the various forms of suffering makes them interactive. But, even so, there is a certain utility in being able to distinguish between that pain which is self-inflicted, such as the agony an adulterous father experiences as he watches the spreading impact of his error on his wife and children, on the one hand, and the suffering of an individual who is mocked by associates and is denied certain opportunities because he is a declared Christian, on the other hand.

33There is a clear and obvious difference between being "given" a "thorn in the flesh," as Paul was, and willfully impaling ourselves on the spears of sin. In the former circumstance, the afflicted may ask "Why?"—but in the latter situation that is not a useful question to address to anyone but ourselves.

33The regret can be real enough, for instance, when one has falsely accused another, and if it is, then repentance can occur and the pain can prove productive, but the blame for the pain can scarcely be attributed to God.

33The process of aging, with its accompanying challenges, can be very real and even painful, but there is a reasonable egalitarianism about the process of dying and the aging that precedes it.

34Thus life itself brings to us dying—though in different ways and at different stages of this mortal experience. We may understandably ask, at times, "Why this way—painful and protracted—of exiting?" But meanwhile, we are not surrounded by souls who bear a total exemption from exiting at all. Of the first two general types of suffering, it can safely be said that there are no exemptions.

34It is much more useful and instructive to contemplate the third type of suffering, however. Is the added challenge, such as Paul had, given to all—or only to those who have reached a point when God gives it because they can take it? Only God and the Savior would know with perfect precision. Yet it does seem that Abraham's offer of Isaac is the clear equivalent—in suffering and chastening—of going the extra mile in serving others. It is the going "above and beyond" dimension that comes with deep discipleship, reflecting particularized planning by God and calling for faith and special trust in Him and in His purposes.

34The alcoholic, at least in his sober moments, knows whence his misery comes, while the suffering Saint must discern God's severe and tutoring mercy, recognizing it for what it is. But, oh, the marvelous difference between momentarily feeling forsaken, as Jesus did on the cross, crying out "Why?" to Father—because He knew Father WAS there—and that futility borne of faithlessness in which man assumes utter aloneness!

34But all is managed in the wisdom of God and in ways that we mortals must simply trust, because of our faith in the omniscient Lord. It is significant, in this as well as in many other respects, that the vision of those in the celestial kingdom (seen by the Prophet Joseph Smith) was of those "who overcome by faith"—not because while in mortality they had it all figured out, being perpetually able to give a logical, precise explanation for everything. (D&C 76:53.)

35These faithful also pray—and "being in an agony," pray more earnestly. (Luke 22:44.) Our condition clearly does affect our petitions. As George MacDonald wisely said, . . . there are two doorkeepers to the house of prayer, and Sorrow is more on the alert to open than her grandson Joy." (Life Essential, p. 49.)

35The depth of the concepts in the Book of Mormon are a constant source of inspiration, if we will but contemplate them. There, more abundantly than in any other volume, the Lord opens the windows of heaven, not only to pour out blessings, but to let us look in. He lets us see things, if only fleetingly. In the description of the exquisite suffering of Jesus in His atonement, we are told that Jesus took upon Himself the infirmities of all of us in order "that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities." (Alma 7:12. Italics added.) Being sinless Himself, Jesus could not have suffered for personal sin nor known what such agony is—unless He took upon Him our sins, not only to redeem us and to save us, but also in order that He might know how "according to the flesh . . . to succor his people according to their infirmities." A stunning insight!

35Thus the compassion of the divine Jesus for us is not the abstract compassion of a sinless individual who would never so suffer; rather, it is the compassion and empathy of One who has suffered exquisitely, though innocent, for all our sins, which were compounded in some way we do not understand. Though He was sinless, yet He suffered more than all of us. We cannot tell Him anything about suffering. This is one of the inner marvels of the atonement of Jesus Christ!

36In a tender revelation, the Lord spoke to Joseph Smith about the latter's sufferings and said, with divine objectivity, that Joseph's tribulations were (at that time) less than those of Job. Then, in one of those divine interrogatives that is also a declarative, He asked the Prophet, in view of how the Son of God suffered, if the Prophet really wished to have immunity. (D&C 122:8.)

36In point of fact, the bread of adversity and the water of affliction are, as it were, our nourishment while in the solitary cell of suffering. (Isaiah 30:20.)

36In this third category of suffering and tribulation, believers sometimes suffer "for righteousness' sake" and "because of the word." (Matthew 5:10; 1 Peter 3:14; Matthew 13:21.)

36We also sometimes suffer for the "name of Christ" and "as a Christian" and, ironically, for "well doing" and "for the cross of Christ." (1 Peter 4:14, 16; 1 Peter 3:17; Galatians 6:12.)

36Our very blessings contain within them some of our tribulations. President Joseph F. Smith observed that there never was a people who were guided by revelation, or united of the Lord as His people, who were not persecuted and hated by the wicked and corrupt. (Gospel Doctrine, p. 46.)

36It appears to be important that all who will can come to know "the fellowship of his sufferings." (Philippians 3:10.) At times, we are taken to the very edge of our faith; we teeter at the edge of our trust. Perhaps, even as Jesus did on the cross, we in our own small way may feel forgotten and forsaken. To go to the very edge is possible, of course, only when we believe in an omniscient and omnipotent God. When we understand that all things are present before His eyes and that He knows all things past, present, and future, then we can trust ourselves to Him as we clearly could not to a less than omniscient god who is off somewhere in the firmament doing further research. (D&C 38:2; Moses 1:6.) "The Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words." (1 Nephi 9:6.)

37Several cautionary notes are necessary—even urgent. We may be surprised at the turn of events, but God in His omniscience never is. He sees the beginning from the end because all things are, in a way which we do not understand, present before Him simultaneously in an "eternal now." Further, the arithmetic of anguish is something we mortals cannot comprehend. We cannot do the sums because we do not have all the numbers. We are locked in the dimension of time and are contained within the tight perspectives of this second estate.

37A simple little diagram may indicate the problem better than a multiplicity of words. The nine dots are to be crossed, using no more than four straight, continuous lines. It can only be done by breaking outside the usual limitations:


Obviously, we can only break outside our present conceptual and experiential constraints on the basis of deeper understanding that is gained by the Spirit. If we think only in the usual ways, we will not understand the unusual experiences through which we must sometimes pass. But if we can trust God and know that He is there and that He loves us, then we can cope well and endure well.

38Interviewed on television recently was a young wrestler who is blind and who wants to try out for the 1980 U.S. Olympic team. This marvelous young man apparently asks of his opponents only that they touch him (fingertip to fingertip) as the match begins, which, frankly, is all that some of them remember, because he is so fast and pins them so quickly! But as the young wrestler's strong but sweet attitude came through in the interview that followed, the scripture came to mind in which a disciple of the Savior said, "Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?" "Neither," said the Savior, reassuringly, "but that the works of God should be made manifest in him." (John 9:2-3.)

38There are some things allotted to us in life that have been divinely fashioned according to our ability and our capacity. When we see individuals coping with what seems to be a tragedy and making of it an opportunity, then we begin to partake of the deep wisdom in the Savior's response concerning the blind man.

38The Lord has said, "I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction." (Isaiah 48:10; 1 Nephi 20:10.) He knows, being omniscient, how we will cope with affliction beforehand. But we do not know this. We need, therefore, the refining that God gives to us, though we do not seek or crave such tribulation.

38Is not our struggling amid suffering and chastening in a way like the efforts of the baby chicken still in the egg? It must painfully and patiently make its own way out of the shell. To help the chick by breaking the egg for it could be to kill it. Unless it struggles itself to break outside its initial constraints, it may not have the strength to survive thereafter.

39Afflictions can soften us and sweeten us, and can be a chastening influence. (Alma 62:41.) We often think of chastening as something being done to punish us, such as by a mortal tutor who is angry and peevish with us. Divine chastening, however, is a form of learning as it is administered at the hands of a loving Father. (Helaman 12:3.)

39Elder James E. Faust of the Council of the Twelve has said, "In the pain, the agony, and the heroic endeavors of life, we pass through the refiner's fire, and the insignificant and the unimportant in our lives can melt away like dross and make our faith bright, intact, and strong." (Ensign, May 1979, p. 53.) Elder Faust continued, "This change comes about through a refining process which often seems cruel and hard. In this way the soul can become like soft clay in the hands of the Master." (Ibid.)

39It was President Hugh B. Brown who observed, "If we banish hardship we banish hardihood." And, further, "One man's disillusion may be another's inspiration. The same exposure to pain, misery, and sorrow that coarsens the mind and callouses the soul of one may give to another a power of compassionate understanding and humility without which mere achievement remains primitive." (New Era, December 1974, pp. 4-7.)

39There are ironies, sometimes sublime ironies, in all of these experiences. We are often at the same time both the worker and him who is being worked. So much is always going on simultaneously. Therefore, as George MacDonald observed, "He who fancies himself a carpenter finds himself but the chisel, or indeed perhaps only the mallet, in the hand of the true workman." (Gifts of the Child Christ, p. 32.)

40We are accustomed to noting, in connection with sin, how "one thing leads to another." And so it does. But the chain of righteous conduct operates in much the same way. Joseph, the son of Jacob, in a story that someday we shall have the full and fascinating particulars of, overcame what could have been the disabling shock of being sold into slavery. The gall of bitterness was not in him then, nor had bad breaks made him bad. He later rose to positions of trust in the household of Potiphar. His same refusal to resent "all these things" was there subsequently in the unjust imprisonment of Joseph; his resilience could not have emerged if he had been a bitter prisoner. Should we then be surprised by his later anonymous generosity to his hungry brothers—the very brothers who had sold him into slavery? Resilience begets resilience!

40As one who suffered much in a concentration camp, Victor Frankl observed that the one freedom that conditions cannot take from us is our freedom to form a healthy attitude toward those very conditions, grim as those may sometimes be.

40Thus, Joseph's quality service to Potiphar and his management skills even in the jail were a clear foreshadowing of his brilliant service later on as the "prime minister" of the Pharaoh. But it all sprang from within; Joseph's spiritual strength could not be shaken by things from outside.

40Bad breaks, therefore, need not break a good man; they may with God's help even make him better!

41There will be some tests that will be collective in nature as well as individual. President Harold B. Lee referred to the contrast between the tests in the early days of the Church and the tests of the latter period of this dispensation, which he characterized as "a period of what we might call sophistication," a period of time constituting a "rather severe test." This test, said President Lee, would be a special test for the youth of the Church—exceeding any test of affluence that previous generations of youth have passed through. (Instructor, June 1965, p. 217.)

41Another trying, and sometimes even puzzling, experience is to see the casualties, including relatives and friends—those who drop out of the Church. We will not always be able to understand why some people who have grown up in the Church choose to behave and live very differently—and sometimes sinfully. Earlier members of the Church had that same experience, as we see in this verse:

41"Now these dissenters, having the same instruction and the same information of the Nephites, yea, having been instructed in the same knowledge of the Lord, nevertheless, it is strange to relate, not long after their dissensions they became more hardened and impenitent, and more wild, wicked and ferocious than the Lamanites—drinking in with the traditions of the Lamanites; giving way to indolence, and all manner of lasciviousness; yea, entirely forgetting the Lord their God." (Alma 47:36. Italics added.)

41President John Taylor wisely said, "I do not desire trials; I do not desire affliction." He went on to say that if affliction came upon him or the saints, "let it come, for we are the Saints of the most High God, and all is well, all is peace, all is right, and will be, both in time and in eternity. But I do not want trials." (Journal of Discourses 5:114-15.)

42Of the various tragedies about us, President Kimball said,

42"Could the Lord have prevented these tragedies? The answer is, Yes. The Lord is omnipotent, with all power to control our lives, save us pain, prevent all accidents, drive all planes and cars, feed us, protect us, save us from labor, effort, sickness, even from death, if he will. But he will not.

42"We should be able to understand this, because we can realize how unwise it would be for us to shield our children from all effort, from disappointments, temptations, sorrows, and suffering. . . . If we looked at mortality as the whole of existence, then pain, sorrow, failure, and short life would be calamity. But if we look upon life as an eternal thing stretching far into the pre-earth past and on into the eternal post-death future, then all happenings may be put in proper perspective."

42Then President Kimball observed with great wisdom, "The gospel teaches us there is no tragedy in death, but only in sin." (Tragedy or Destiny?, Deseret Book, 1977, pp. 2, 6.)

42Elder Orson F. Whitney wrote, "No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted." Such cosmic conservation! He continues, "It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God." (Ibid., p. 4.)

42President Kimball observed that he likely would have protected Paul and healed his "thorn in the flesh," had he had the power. "And in doing so I might have foiled the Lord's program." (Ibid., p. 5.)

43With summational inspiration concerning our customized challenges President Kimball said:

43"We knew before we were born that we were coming to the earth for bodies and experiences and that we would have joys and sorrows, ease and pain, comforts and hardships, health and sickness, successes and disappointments. We knew also that after a period of life we would die. We accepted all these eventualities with a glad heart, eager to accept both the favorable and the unfavorable. We eagerly accepted the chance to come earthward even though it might be for only a day or a year. Perhaps we were not so much concerned whether we should die of disease, of accident, or of senility. We were willing to take life as it came and as we might organize and control it, and this without murmur, complaint, or unreasonable demands." (Ibid., p. 12.) "We sometimes think we would like to know what was ahead, but sober thought brings us back to accepting life a day at a time and magnifying and glorifying that day." (Ibid., p. 11.)

43There is, in the suffering of the highest order, a point that is reached—a point of aloneness—when the individual (as did the Savior on a much grander scale) must bear it, as it were, alone. Even the faithful may wonder if they can take any more or if they are in some way forsaken.

43Those who, as it were, stand on the foot of the cross often can do so little to help absorb the pain and the anguish. It is something we must bear ourselves in order that our triumph can be complete. Elder James E. Talmage said of the Savior at the point of greatest suffering on the cross, "that the supreme sacrifice of the Son might be consummated in all its fulness, the Father seems to have withdrawn the support of His immediate Presence, leaving to the Savior of men the glory of complete victory over the forces of sin and death." (Jesus the Christ, p. 661.)

44Thus there ought to be expectations that in this laboratory of life we will actually see each other in the process of being remodeled, sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing. We will obviously be aware of others who are also in the "furnace of affliction." However, we will not always have a smooth, ready answer to the question, "Why me?" "Why now?" "Why this?"—for as Moroni observed, "Ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith." (Ether 12:6. Italics added.)

44As we see ourselves, and others, passing through fiery trials, the wisdom of Peter, who had his own share of fiery trials, is very useful: "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you." (1 Peter 4:12.)

44We do know, however, that God will not suffer us to be tempted above what we can bear. "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape." (1 Corinthians 10:13.)

44God carefully scales "all these things," since we cannot bear all things now. He has told us: "Behold, ye are little children and ye cannot bear all things now; ye must grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth." (D&C 50:40.)

44We sometimes must do the hard things we have been asked to do before we will be blessed. Joshua and his priests, in a little-read replication of the parting and crossing of the Red Sea, crossed the flooded Jordan River in another miracle. But the miracle did not begin for ancient Israel until after Joshua and his priests got the soles of their feet wet. (Joshua 3:15-17.)

45The words of President John Taylor spoke of learning through suffering, calling it "a school of experience." President Taylor also observed of one Church member who had been mobbed—driven from a fifth home in less than two years: "I have seen men tempted so sorely that finally they would say, 'I'll be damned if I'll stand it any longer.' Well, you will be damned if you do not." (Journal of Discourses 22:318.)

45In viewing life as a school in which the gospel message facilitates growth, we also see how very generous and loving God is. Past mistakes and imperfections need not keep us from present and future joy.

45One of the classic cases of pain and genuine suffering (because of reproof) is Eli, who, as a prophet, had apparently "not restrained his sons" from doing evil, and who apparently had been insensitive to some of the promptings of the Lord and thereby had, ironically, to hear the message of the Lord from a much younger Samuel. But to Eli's everlasting credit, when he realized the Lord had been communicating with Samuel, he told Samuel to tell him "every whit" and to hold back nothing. After Samuel recounted what the Lord had said to him, Eli, long familiar with the Spirit of the Lord, said, "It is the Lord: let him do what seemeth him good." (1 Samuel 3:18.) In those painful moments Eli had learned, as we all must, to do as Peter said with regard to our relationship to the Lord: "Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you." (1 Peter 5:7.)

45Eli still knew enough about obeying to obey. He knew that he must not rebel against an omniscient God's purposes, but that he must—and could—remain a part of them.

46Observe at what point the Lord began with one of His greatest leaders, Enoch. Enoch's self-concept was "I . . . am but a lad, and all the people hate me; for I am slow of speech." (Moses 6:31.)

46Moses also rose above his slowness of speech. The key to his marvelous personal development is undoubtedly to be found in a virtue that was cited in one scripture noting that he was the most meek man upon the face of the earth! (Numbers 12:3.)

46Peter overcame a failure experience to become the President of the Church.

46Paul overcame the stigma of his being a persecutor and became an apostle with the widest missionary sway of his time!

46The justice, mercy, and love of God blend appropriately in providing us with adequate growth opportunities in this life. We will not be able to say shruggingly at judgment time, "I was overcome by the world because I was overprogrammed or overtempted." For the promises are that temptation can either be escaped or endured. (1 Corinthians 10:13.) The promise is also that throughout tribulation God's grace is sufficient for us—He will see us through. (2 Corinthians 12:9; Ether 12:26-27.)

46The thermostat on the furnace of affliction will not have been set too high for us—though clearly we may think so at the time. Our God is a refining God who has been tempering soul-steel for a very long time. He knows when the right edge has been put upon our excellence and also when there is more in us than we have yet given. One day we will praise God for taking us near to our limits—as He did His Only Begotten in Gethsemane and Calvary.

47But would one so submit to a God who was not both omniscient and all-loving and enter the "furnace of affliction"? Might we not resent it all otherwise?

47How much glorious inner comfort came to Christ in Gethsemane and Calvary from His knowing that, literally, He did "nothing" save that which "he seeth the Father do." (John 5:19-20.)

47Even the Savior had His Model!

47Thus, for a host of reasons, correct conduct under stress is more likely when one has correct expectations about life. If we understand the basic purpose of life, we will find it easier to see purpose in our own life.

47To err by having naive expectations concerning the purposes of life is to err everlastingly. Life is neither a pleasure palace through whose narrow portals we pass briefly, laughingly, and heedlessly before extinction, nor a cruel predicament in an immense and sad wasteland. It is the middle (but briefest) and proving estate of the three estates in man's carefully constructed continuum of experience.

47One day we will understand fully how complete our commitment was in our first estate in accepting the very conditions of challenge in our second estate about which we sometimes complain in this school of stress. Our collective and personal premortal promises will then be laid clearly before us.

47Further, when we are finally judged in terms of our performance in this second estate, we will see that God indeed is likewise perfect in His justice and mercy. We will also see that when we fail here it will not be because we have been tempted above that which we are able to bear. We would find that there is always an escape hatch were we to look for it—or we would also find that were we to call upon it, the grace of God would give us the capacity to endure and to bear up well.

48We will also see that our lives have been fully and fairly measured. In retrospect, we will even see that our most trying years here will often have been our best years, producing large tree rings on our soul, Gethsemanes of growth!

48Just as no two snowflakes are precisely alike in design, so the configurations of life's challenges differ also. We must remember that while the Lord reminded the Prophet Joseph Smith that he had not yet suffered as Job, only the Lord can compare crosses. Some of our experiences are not fully shareable with others. Thus, others, try as they may, cannot fully appreciate them. They must trust us, our generalizations, and our testimonies concerning these experiences.

48Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not know if God would spare them from the fiery furnace. They simply said: "If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." (Daniel 3:17-18.)

48Note the words "but if not." These are words of unconditional commitment. The possibility of "if" was with these three until the very moment of their rescue, but they had determined their course regardless. Sometimes we must "take the heat," even if we are not certain the thermostat of trial will soon be turned down.

48When we have that kind of courage, neither will we walk alone in our own "fiery furnace," for, as is recorded in Daniel, there was a fourth Form in that fiery furnace with the valiant threesome, and the Form was "like the Son of God"! (Daniel 3:25.)

49Appropriate to this chapter are the eloquent, though not necessarily doctrinally precise, words of faith of Malcolm Muggeridge as, with tenderness, humor, and insight, he looked back on his life and looked forward to the great adventure ahead:

49I feel so strongly at the end of my life that nothing can happen to us in any circumstances that is not part of God's purpose for us. Therefore, we have nothing to fear, nothing to worry about, except that we should rebel against His purpose, that we should fail to detect it and fail to establish some sort of relationship with Him and His divine will. On that basis, there can be no black despair, no throwing in of our hand. We can watch the institutions and social structures of our time collapse—and I think you who are young are fated to watch them collapse—and we can reckon with what seems like an irresistibly growing power of materialism and materialist societies. But, it will not happen that that is the end of the story.

49You know, it's a funny thing but when you're old, as I am, there are all sorts of extremely pleasant things that happen to you. . . . The pleasantest thing of all is that you wake up in the night at about, say, three A.M., and you find that you are half in and half out of your battered old carcass. And it seems quite a toss-up whether you go back and resume full occupancy of your mortal body, or make off toward the bright glow you see in the sky, the lights of the City of God. In this limbo between life and death, you know beyond any shadow of doubt that, as an infinitesimal particle of God's creation, you are a participant in God's purpose for His creation, and that that purpose is loving and not hating, is creative and not destructive, is everlasting and not temporal, is universal and not particular. With this certainty comes an extraordinary sense of comfort and joy.

49Nothing that happens in this world need shake that feeling; all the happenings in this world, including the most terrible disasters and suffering, will be seen in eternity as in some mysterious way a blessing, as a part of God's love. We ourselves are part of that love, we belong to that scene, and only in so far as we belong to that scene does our existence here have any reality or any worth.

50The essential feature, and necessity of life, is to know reality, which means knowing God. Otherwise our mortal existence is, as Saint Teresa of Avila said, no more than a night in a second-class hotel. ("The Great Liberal Death Wish," Imprimis, May 1979, Hillsdale College, Michigan.)

50This mortal life could not be a "first class" experience if we did not encounter some "first class" challenges as measured out by an all-wise God who is perfect in His love for us. Nor can we expect to pass through this mortal experience without having relevant experiences in learning to love others by serving them. We could not learn love in the abstract any more than we could learn patience and the other cardinal virtues. Just as we cannot know the "fellowship of his sufferings" without suffering, we also come to know real fellowship with our fellowmen only by serving them.


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