There is a favorite hymn in my church called, “Count Your Many Blessings.” The first verse goes like this:
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
I’ve sung it many times and felt comforted by its message. I’ve heard people bear testimony of how the simple words had given them renewed hope. I’ve recommended others to try the pattern in their life when they have felt down and troubled. But no matter how many times I’ve counted my blessings, some of my deeper trials continued to haunt me. It didn’t seem fair.
What happens when you are a good person, doing all you can to be Christ-like, making mistakes but repenting along the way, and life’s trials pile up anyway? What happens when you appreciate the blessings, but the agony of life’s problems seems to beat you further down? I admit, I’ve been guilty of dismissing my trials when I’ve been busy counting my blessings. And like closing the door on a messy room, I had forgotten about them, but the mess was still there behind the door. Nothing had changed.
Nothing changed because I didn’t make the necessary changes. And in this case, the change needed to be this: count my many trials—or at least, face one of them.
“And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.” (D&C 78:19) boldface added.
Knowing that God our Father wants us to be grateful for our blessings makes sense, but to have gratitude in all things includes trials. Facing trials of the heart is daunting. It can cause stress, physical pain, and emotional worry, especially if you face them without the conviction to go through them. Like any scary event in life, the only way to overcome it is to go through it. And yet, we never go through them alone when we recognize the Savior’s role in walking beside us.
My biggest trial is this: I have been treated as an outcast for my religious beliefs by some members of my own family. I’ve had family members lie to their children about what Mormons believe. The lies began when the children were very young, and now their feelings about me are suspicious and skewed. It will take a lifetime for them to unlearn what their parents have taught.
I’ve counted my blessings, and here are a few. Other relatives have not treated me this way. I know God loves me for who I am. I have wonderful family and friends who accept my faith, even if they don’t believe as I do. But the trial of bigotry has still been a hard pill to swallow. Each year around the holidays, I’ve had to face the behavior with deference and a smile, hoping maybe they would change, but each year it only got worse. My attempt to shut the door on the situation left a mess that was getting bigger as the years rolled on.
But trials are hidden blessings. When trials bring you to your knees, you see the unseen blessings they have on your eternal soul. I was driven to my knees once again. I knew a one-on-one with my Heavenly Father, solely dedicated to this trial, was the answer. He has never failed me in the past. I knew it was time to take this problem to him and allow Him to carry me through it.
I laid it all out in my prayers. Then I pondered and meditated. As I resumed my responsibilities with work and family life, I continued to ponder the dilemma. I had great faith that He would answer my prayers in a way that I could understand and I could deal with.
I spoke with a friend who’d had similar problems with an in-law in the past. She said he never had apologized for his loutish behavior, but at their last family gathering, he gave her a sincere hug. Heavenly Father whispered to her, “That’s the best he can do.” In this profound spiritual moment, her heart melted, for two reasons. The first, she was given an undeniable witness that Heavenly Father was speaking to her. No one could take that testimony from her.
Second, she understood the message, loud and clear. Her relative was simply unable to apologize. He felt sorry, but he couldn’t say the words. All he could manage was a tender embrace, and hope that it would send the right message. And through the prompting she received from God, it did. She was able to forgive. That gave me hope that I would be able to do the same.
Later on in the week, I began thinking of the people who have fallen away from my faith. I’m not sure why they popped into my head, but they did. As I pondered them and the differences we have between us, I realized I needed to reach out to them and tell them I love them despite our differences. The moment this happened, a feeling of love washed over me, the kind that is eternal and divine. I dropped to my knees. As I spoke with Heavenly Father, I learned what he was teaching me—I needed to rise above my own bigotry. I needed to walk with them in their trials as I wanted Christ to walk with me in mine. They needed to know I loved them no matter what. That was the message I had received from a Father in Heaven who loves me in like manner.
At that moment, I realized the heavy burden of bigotry that I had faced for over twenty years was a tool. It was necessary for me to see the full extent of its evil enough to never pick it up and use on another. If I hadn’t been so mistreated, I may never have seen the times when I was as guilty as those who’ve harmed me. I repented right then and there, and began to reach out to all those who I may have hurt. Not only did it cleanse my wounded heart, but it strengthened my resolve and commitment to Jesus Christ. It opened my eyes to his never ending power to heal and make us better today than we were yesterday. Lastly, it gave me the courage to face the bigotry again, knowing I would not face it alone.
“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they, the prophets which were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12)
My Savior, Jesus Christ taught us to love those who despise you, to do good to those who continually hurt you. When we face the trials that rip at our hearts, we learn more about the path Christ wishes us to follow. We use the trial to clean out the foolish pride we carry, and allow him to replace it with love that overpowers the persecution of the world.
My trial was a blessing. Every trial is a blessing in some way. We need the faith to look at each one separately, honestly, and with a determination to discover its teaching power. Only then can we appreciate all that the Savior has to offer, blessings, trials and all.
Nanette O'Neal loves the gospel and is very happy to share her testimony on LDS Blogs. She is a convert to the church and still feels the spirit burn strong within her heart. She graduated from Mason Gross School of the Arts with a degree in music education and has taught children and adults in the private and public sphere for over twenty years. Nanette continues to study the gospel and the art of writing. She writes weekly inspirational articles on her blog and is currently working on an LDS fantasy novel series, A Doorway Back to Forever. You can find her at NanetteONeal.blogspot.com. Nanette has a wonderful husband, talented son, and three beautiful dogs.