Choosing a favorite scripture is sort of like choosing a favorite star in the sky — or, if I’m being honest, a favorite topping on pizza (I love all food equally, okay?) — but if I was really hard-pressed, I’d have to say my favorite scriptural passage is found at the beginning of 2 Nephi.
2 Nephi 2:2, when the dying prophet Lehi is leaving a blessing with his sons (specifically, Jacob), he shares some nuggets or wisdom that have comforted me time and time again throughout various trials in my life.
He says (bold added for emphasis),
1 And now, Jacob, I speak unto you: Thou art my firstbornin the days of my tribulation in the wilderness. And behold, in thy childhood thou hast suffered afflictions and much sorrow, because of the rudeness of thy brethren.
2 Nevertheless, Jacob, my firstborn in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.
Now, friends, it’s dissection time… Except it will be way more fun than AP Bio, I promise.
The first lesson I find in these verses is this: our circumstances don’t define our spirituality.
Lehi’s son Jacob has had a pretty rough life. Firstly, he was born in the wilderness. Basically his entire life has been wandering around in the wilderness, struggling to find food, and listening to his brothers fight and/or try to kill his other family members. (Quick sub-lesson: the scriptures are full of dysfunctional families. Don’t be discouraged when your family isn’t picture-perfect! No one’s is.)
So yeah, Jacob’s life has certainly not been all roses. Mostly, it’s been a lot of prickly thorns. He’s seen some really difficult things in such a short lifetime. But even though he’s seen a lot of awful things, he knows the greatness of God. Despite the trials and burdens he and his family have had to endure, He knows that God is real and that He is aware of them.
His circumstances, which were far from peachy, didn’t make him lose his faith. They didn’t prevent him from praising God. His circumstances didn’t define his spirituality.
The second lesson is that God can make bad things good. As Lehi tells Jacob, God can “consecrate [our] afflictions for [our] gain” — or in other words, He’ll make all of the hard things in our lives work together for our good. (Sound familiar? That’s because He said the same thing to Joseph Smith, just in different words. God truly is the same yesterday, today, and forever.)
Orson F. Whitney taught,
No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. … 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. … It is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire.
I remember vividly the first time I heard that quote years ago. I couldn’t believe it — no trial is wasted? Everything works together for our good?
It’s because we have a God who loves us beyond measure. Everything we go through — the dumb mistakes we make, the illnesses we suffer, the familial troubles — will bless us in the end. Everything will, as the apostle Paul said, work together for our good if we only love God and try to follow Him.
Our gospel is one of infinite hope. Knowing that the hard things in our life have meaning and purpose helps me to endure the things that I often feel like I can’t possibly survive. It helps me to know that I’m becoming more like my exemplar in all things, Jesus Christ.
So thanks, Jacob, for going through hard things. Thanks for remaining faithful in the midst of trials so that I know I can, too.