Into every life there come the painful, despairing days of adversity and buffeting. There seems to be a full measure of anguish, sorrow, and often heartbreak for everyone, including those who earnestly seek to do right and be faithful.
The thorns that prick, that stick in the flesh, that hurt, often change lives which seem robbed of significance and hope. 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 in building lives of faith, usefulness, beauty, and strength. For some, the refiner’s fire causes a loss of belief and faith in God, but those with eternal perspective understand that such refining is part of the perfection process (James E. Faust, “The Refiner’s Fire,” April 1979).
Adversity is a given in life. We will all experience it. It is for this very reason that we are here in this mortal journey – to prove ourselves through our trials and tribulations. During times of adversity, some choose to abandon faith in the Lord. Others choose to remain steadfast and true. They choose to hold fast to their faith and continue to serve the Lord and their fellowmen.
Service is a big part of being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We may be asked to teach Sunday school, conduct music, teach small children, lead the congregation, teach early morning seminary, or to help with the Sunday bulletin. It really doesn’t matter where in the Church we’re asked to serve. What matters is that we serve to the best of our abilities. What matters is that we use the talents the Lord has blessed us with to serve Him and our fellowmen in whatever capacity we’re asked to serve.
I’ve seen and felt the hand of adversity this year. I’ve also witnessed an outpouring of blessings through the selfless service of others.
Yesterday, I was released as the Relief Society (women’s organization of the Church) president in our ward (local Church unit). This means that as of yesterday, I’m no longer the Relief Society president for our ward. A release from a calling in the Church usually comes about when one is being called to serve somewhere else, is moving out of the ward, when personal or family circumstances change, or it might simply be time to give someone else an opportunity to serve in that position. We’re moving back to the West Coast in a week!
As the Relief Society president, I came to love each of the women in the ward. However, there is a special place in my heart for those sisters who experienced great adversity over the past year. Some sisters have serious health-related challenges. Others are struggling financially. There are problems in marriages and other family relationships. The list goes on. Each is dealing with trials and adversity in her own way. With faith in the Lord and with help from her sisters in the Relief Society, each sister continues to move forward, one step at a time.
Sometimes, serving and helping someone else does require a lot from us, but I’ve found that these times are very rare. Most times, it’s the small and sincere acts of love that go a long way in easing someone else’s load. Often times, it doesn’t cost us anything except an hour or two of our time. At times, a smile, a kind word, and a true friend is all that is needed. Someone who will listen and not judge. Someone who understands, who cares, who looks past the shortcomings to the person inside. Someone who is willing to share another’s burden, even if it is just for a few minutes.
Alma, a prophet of The Book of Mormon, taught us that to become true disciples of Jesus Christ, we must be willing to bear one another’s burdens.
And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life (Mosiah 18:8-9).
A wonderful thing happens when we strive to serve and help others during their trials – we forget to dwell on our challenges. Our problems may not disappear completely but somehow our perspective changes. What once seemed insurmountable is not quite so overwhelming. We stop feeling sorry for ourselves.
I’m filled with gratitude for the examples of these sisters. Despite personal trials, these sisters chose to serve and help someone else. They remind me on a constant basis that each of us is our sister’s keeper. We are indeed our brothers’ keepers!
Selfless service is a wonderful antidote to the ills that flow from the worldwide epidemic of self-indulgence. Some grow bitter or anxious when it seems that not enough attention is being paid to them, when their lives would be so enriched if only they paid more attention to the needs of others.
The answer lies in helping to solve the problems of those around us rather than worrying about our own, living to lift burdens even when we ourselves feel weighed down, putting our shoulder to the wheel instead of complaining that the wagons of life seem to be passing us by.
Stretching our souls in service helps us to rise above our cares, concerns, and challenges. As we focus our energies on lifting the burdens of others, something miraculous happens. Our own burdens diminish. We become happier. There is more substance to our lives.
(David S. Baxter, “Faith, Service, Constancy,” October 2006).
This post was originally published in May 2008. Minor changes have been made.