Dad used to quote an old saying that went something like this: I felt sorry for myself because I only had one leg, until I met a man with no legs. That’s not an exact quote, but close enough.
While feeling sorry for myself recently, I received a message from a friend that she’d gotten a call from someone at church whose friend had just committed suicide. The woman was beside herself with grief. In an instant, I was brought back to the reality of my sweet life. While I later had waves of the old sadness, it didn’t have quite the sting that it had before I received that message.
We all have trials in our lives, and each person’s trials are different. If we get wrapped up in the sadness and depression caused by our trials, we don’t move on and grow. As I write this, I’m trying to figure out what I’m supposed to learn from my current trial. I know there is a lesson there somewhere, I just have to find it.
Over the past few years, I have prayed many times prayers of thanksgiving for this peaceful time in our lives. I’ve told my Heavenly Father that I knew there would be trials to come, and that I was grateful for the calm before the storm. Now, as the storm beats down, I need to take courage and strength from the peace that I have felt for the past few years. Finding the lesson in the trial will help bring back the sense of peace.
Adversity can be a jumping point for great things. I know that because I’ve had my share. Several of my children were born ill. Quite frankly, I wonder how two of them survived. Each time we went through that experience, we gained strength in how to deal with life in general.
Our first child had to have two major operations before she was 12 hours old. I was only 22 years old, so I grew up quickly. Talk about parental baptism by fire! Each time we dealt with a sick child, as well as the miscarriage I had, we learned the importance of viewing life as a precious gift. When you go through something like that, there is greater appreciation for life, children, family, friends, and the prayers from those we love.
While the trial in my life now is nothing like the trials of the past, I know there are lessons to be learned and growth to be had. The question now is will I feel sorry for myself and let sadness pull me into depression, or will I brush myself off, pull myself up by my boot straps, and decide that what doesn’t kill me will make me stronger. I come from a long line of strong women. I have no intention of letting my current issue defeat me. Defeat is not in my vocabulary.
I love the hymn “Count Your Blessings,” (Hymn 241, Text by Johnson Oatman, Jr., Music by Edwin O. Excell) which says,
“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’m counting my blessings today. They are many. There are people who have struggled and survived much worse trials than have come my way. That gives me hope and courage. Sometimes when your own strength fails you, you can borrow strength from others. Today I’m thinking about an ancestor who pushed a handcart across the plains. I remembering another ancestor who shielded his wife with his own body from a mob’s rocks coming through the window of their cabin as she gave birth.
I’m thinking about my father’s 26 months in the South Pacific during World War II, and my mother struggling to keep the home’s fires burning. I’m remembering a loved one who was lonely until her 50s when she found love. I’m thinking about a brilliant friend who struggled with cystic fibrosis, and knowing that he wouldn’t live to graduate, enrolled in college and spent his last years gaining knowledge. I ran into another friend in the temple a couple of weeks ago whose 4-month-old baby died a few years back. There are many people who can loan me their strength and their courage.
Sadness doesn’t have to be a permanent thing. Adversity doesn’t have to drag us into the depths of despair. Knowing who we are, where we come from, and where we are going helps give perspective. We know that we are given trials in our earthly experience to grow and learn.
One person’s trials aren’t any more significant than anyone else’s adversity. We each have our own cross to bear. Yet, we can help each other get through our trials by sharing our life experiences with others. I’m grateful to know the stories of my ancestors, and I’m grateful for family and friends who have shared their experiences with me and confided in me their deepest sorrows.
Tomorrow is a new day.
Tudie Rose is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California. You can find her on Twitter as @TudieRose. She blogs as Tudie Rose at http://potrackrose.wordpress.com. She has written articles for Familius. You will find a Tudie Rose essay in Lessons from My Parents, Michele Robbins, Familius 2013, at http://www.familius.com/lessons-from-my-parents.