In my experience, sometimes it’s really hard not to lose hope.
Maybe it’s after your 15th doctor appointment when the umpteenth specialist you’ve seen shrugs and sighs: “We can’t find anything wrong with you.” Maybe it’s looking at the 40th pregnancy test you’ve taken in the last few years only to find ANOTHER negative. Maybe it’s seeing a loved one make the same poor choices over and over again, or maybe it’s struggling through therapy session after therapy session with your spouse only to find that things seem no different.
Whatever the circumstance — and we all have difficult, unique ones — it’s easy to become discouraged. It’s easy to think, “This is never going to get better; this is never going to become less miserable or less hard.” It’s easy to give up: to stop fighting, to stop praying, to stop trying.
I’ve found myself at the brink of giving up time and time again. I’ve been mad at God, mad at myself, mad at doctors, and everything (and everyone) in between. There have been countless nights where, in the wake of an excruciatingly painful stomach ache, I wept into my pillow, squeezing my eyes shut and just wishing that my life could be over.
Try as I might, I can’t articulate the deep, soul-searing pain that accompanies the feeling that hope is lost and that life will never improve. It hurts perhaps even more than any physical pain I’ve experienced.
In his beautiful talk “Never Give Up,” the late apostle Joseph B. Wirthlin spoke about perseverance in the face of pain, discouragement, and sadness:
Perhaps the best-known Old Testament example of perseverance is the story of Job. As you know, it narrates the afflictions that befell a righteous man and considers reasons for those afflictions. It does not entirely answer the question of why Job, or anyone, might suffer pain and sorrow, but does state clearly that affliction is not necessarily a sign of God’s anger and a punishment for sin, as Job’s friends told him. The book suggests that affliction, if not for punishment, may be for experience, discipline, and instruction (see Bible Dictionary, LDS edition of the King James Version, s.v. “Job”).
I do not know of anything that members of the Church need more than they need the conviction and perseverance of Job. He was a just man who feared God and avoided evil. . . . his afflictions included the loss of his seven sons and three daughters, the loss of his wealth in flocks and herds and serious physical illnesses. Remaining faithful to the Lord through his indescribable sorrow and suffering, Job was able to say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him. … He also shall be my salvation. … For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth … yet in my flesh shall I see God” (Job 13:15–16; Job 19:25–26) [emphasis added].
The result of Job’s perseverance is told in the conclusion of the story. The Lord blessed him with a family, good health, and great possessions. He continued in his course, despite unrelenting opposition, until he saw the Lord (see Job 42:5).
The Book of Mormon is filled with stories of great people who endured to the very end, from Lehi and his family through Moroni, the son of Mormon. The life of Moroni is especially instructive in teaching perseverance. The obstacles he faced may seem beyond belief to us. He saw the entire Nephite nation destroyed by the sword in a terrible war because of the wickedness of the people. His father and all of his kinsfolk and friends were slain. He was alone for about twenty years, perhaps hiding and fleeing from savage Lamanites who sought to take his life (see Morm. 8:2–7). Yet he continued to keep the record as his father had commanded him.
As a result of his perseverance and righteousness, he was ministered to by the Three Nephites, whom the Savior permitted to tarry until His second coming (see Morm. 8:11). In these latter days, Moroni had the divine commission of instructing Joseph Smith in his calling as the Prophet of the Restoration and delivering the Book of Mormon record to him.
No matter what trials and hardships we face in this life — no matter how trying and exhausting they may be — there is always hope because there is always Jesus Christ.
Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we know that all wrongs will be made right. With Christ, we know that all things can be overcome. With Christ, we know that this life is not final and that there is glory and joy awaiting us in the world to come. We can have happiness in our lives right this minute knowing that our spirits are eternal and that the troubles we face here and now will one day fade away (although certainly we hope that they will be resolved sooner!).
As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland once reminded us,
I testify that this is [Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ’s] true Church and that They sustain us in our hour of need—and always will, even if we cannot recognize that intervention. Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don’t come until heaven; but for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come (Jeffrey R. Holland, “An High Priest of Good Things to Come,” October 1999).
Things will be okay. You will be happy again, pain-free again, and, most importantly, whole once again. Turn to Christ. Pray for His enabling power in your life. Plead for His help to endure. With His help and strength, though your circumstances may not change, YOU will change. You will be able to find joy, hope, and peace in this life — even in spite of your afflictions.
Amy Carpenter is the site manager and editor for LDSBlogs.com. She served a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Denver, Colorado, where she learned to love mountains and despise snow. She has a passion for peanut butter, dancing badly, and most of all, the gospel.