Phew! What a time to be living in!
The protests happening these last few weeks have been pretty intense — more intense than many of us expected, I would say. They’ve eclipsed the state of the pandemic for a moment! That just shows that one issue inevitably follows another. In the past, it seemed like problems were more spread out, but now it seems that they overlap and compound. Once again, what a time to be living in!
These events have reminded me of a principle I heard some time ago, though I can’t say where. It was something about how each generation is sufficiently prepared for the challenges that they will face in their lifetimes. That was true of the generations living during WWII, the Civil Rights movements of the 50s and 60s, and, in essence, every other generation with their specific challenges.
In this there is an incredible truth found when we consider the “general” plan of God for the world. In every age and circumstance, it seems that a generation is raised up to meet the needs at that time. That generation is often led by an inspired, prepared leader, be it Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Moses, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, etc. And those are just the obvious ones we speak of often! There are thousands of unsung heroes in every nation and in every age of the world. When we complain about the challenges that God allows to happen in the world, we must recognize that there is something to be said about the miraculous ways in which He delivers the world!
This same principle — the principle of preparedness — can be applied not only generally, but specifically to our lives (as can almost any principle). The Lord will use our trials as means of preparation for the future.
We all know how painful preparation can be. Anyone that has ever been to a sports practice, studied for a test, started at the bottom of their career path, been swamped with homework, or spent hours at the driving range trying to perfect their swing knows how rough preparation truly is. However, anyone that has received the fruits of that preparation knows it was well worth every effort.
Now, this can feel quite dismal — are trials simply meant to prepare us for greater trials? Is this a never-ending cycle of forced growth? Well, in a way, that is true — trials we have now will prepare us for greater trials to come. And we should be grateful for that. But that is not all they’re for.
Challenges Prepare Us for Joy
I am a firm believer that our trials, both current and future, prepare us for the joy that will be received later on.
This is a principle that is evident everywhere in our lives. I recently took up some part-time work at Pizza Pie Café, a local buffet of pizza, pasta, and salad. I used to go there all the time in high school and enjoyed it. But I’ve learned something about buffets (and food in general): you enjoy it more when you’re hungrier. If you’re really hungry when you walk in those doors, that pizza is going to taste a whole lot better than if you’re already full.
Simple and obvious, but true, huh? Hunger is a preparation before food can be enjoyed. Thirst is a preparation before water can be enjoyed. Fatigue is a preparation before sleep can be enjoyed. Somehow, the lack of something makes receiving that something infinitely sweeter than if we already had it in the first place.
Is the same not true with joy? If we were always happy, happiness would be stale and meaningless to us. That is the way it was for Adam and Eve before they left the Garden of Eden. It is because of sadness that joy can be attained.
Jesus Christ ventured into the greatest depth of sadness and suffering — so deep that it’s not even ;[ conceivable to our minds. He did so “for the joy that was set before him” (Hebrews 12:2). How far we must sink into that abyss before we receive that same joy, I don’t know, but I do know that no matter how far we must go, we will not be alone. Christ will pick us up and the reward will be joy.
Gratitude for Our Mountains to Climb
I absolutely love hearing people describe their mission in this way:
“Every day was its own kind of hard. Every day someone would yell at us, someone would throw something at us, someone we love would cast us away and ask that we stop teaching them, my feet would hurt and the heat would give me a headache. I was always tired and sore. I often missed home and shed a lot of tears. My companions were hard and the language was brutal. I loved my mission more than I can say.”
The listener scratches his head and says, “Uh… are you sure you meant loved and not hated?” The returned missionary then replies, “Oh yeah, I absolutely LOVED my mission! It was truly the best two years imaginable at this time of my life.”
I stand firm in that very conviction. I could talk for hours about the hardships of my mission in Sydney, Australia, but never will I fail to mention that I loved every moment of it!
Yes, I do admit that in the moment, it was pretty dang hard. But with the blessing of hindsight and a heightened perspective of completion, every single moment strengthened and blessed me in ways I could not have then imagined.
I am very, very confident that our lives will be the same way. We will be in heaven after all is said and done, looking back on the time we spent here. We’ll be able to see more clearly how each trial prepared us for the next, and how ultimately those trials prepared us for the joy we’ll be feeling right then. We’ll look back and say, “Wow, life was hard. I loved every moment.”
This perspective can leave us like Spencer W. Kimball, who pleaded “Give me this mountain” so that he could receive the associated blessing from climbing it. (However, we must be cautious, for Henry B. Eyring quoted this in 2012 and promised that the prayer for a mountain to climb will be answered!)
Either way, mountains to climb WILL come, whether we want them or not. But I’m confident that when we stand on top of those mountains, we’ll understand that they truly were what was best for us, for without them we could not have the joy we feel at the summit.
Adam Simpson is a man of many unique talents, from dancing to ultimate frisbee, from drumming to writing. He was born and raised in Layton, Utah, the middle child surrounded by two sisters. He served a mission in Sydney, Australia, and now attends school at BYU. His love for writing comes from a love of philosophy and a love for God.