“My son peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes. Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands.” (D&C 121:7-9)
Joseph Smith, Jr. was told this by God while unlawfully imprisoned in Liberty Jail in Independence, Missouri. The Mormons were being raped, tortured, murdered and driven from Missouri and Joseph, always one who waded into a fight to defend the weak, remained locked away in a dark, dank dungeon with only a small rectangle window for weak light and a hole in the ceiling where his jailers would lower a wicked semblance of food. It tore at his heart, at his very sense of being a man and prophet of God, that he could not protect and defend his family, friends and the general membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known as the Mormons. He had surrendered himself into the custody of the Missouri militia, as had his brother, Hyrum, Parley P. Pratt and a few others in the hopes that the Extermination Order would be stayed, and the saints protected. It didn’t work.
Take this scripture, and this lesson, and apply it to our lives today. Some people cruise through life with very little trouble, others fight with everything in them to simply survive another terrifying day. We cannot know what awaits us in life, on a day to day basis, but certainly there are times when it feels as if our burdens are too heavy to bear. As if the world rested on our shoulders, its burden far too heavy to bear, and it is impossible to move forward one more step.
These are the times, more than ever, when we must turn to our Savior, Jesus Christ and allow Him to life those burdens (Matthew 11:28) from our weary shoulders. Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
But also, as mentioned in the scripture at the top of this post, we have trials and travails we are to endure and overcome as part of our mortal probation. But, in allowing our Savior to lighten those burdens, for that is what He’s asked us to let Him do, we are better able to continue moving forward. President James E. Faust, formerly of The First Presidency, spoke on this very topic in an address to the general membership of the Church in February of 2006:
In the pain, the agony, and the heroic endeavors of life, we pass through a Refiner’s fire, and the insignificant and the unimportant in our lives can melt away like dross and make our faith bright, intact, and strong. In this way the divine image can be mirrored from the soul. It is part of the purging toll exacted of some to become acquainted with God. In the agonies of life, we seem to listen better to the faint, godly whisperings of the Divine Shepherd.
Into every life there come the painful, despairing days of adversity and buffeting. There seems to be a full measure of anguish, sorrow, and often heartbreak for everyone, including those who earnestly seek to do right and be faithful. The Apostle Paul referred to his own challenge: “And lest I should be exalted above measure … , there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me.”
The thorns that prick, that stick in the flesh, that hurt, often change lives which seem robbed of significance and hope. This change comes about through a refining process which often seems cruel and hard. In this way the soul can , and strength. For some, the Refiner’s fire causes a loss of belief and faith in God, but those with eternal perspective understand that such refining is part of the perfection process. (James E. Faust, “Refined in Our Trials,” Ensign, Feb 2006, 2–7)
This then is the purpose of our trials, to become refined in the hands of the Savior. But on those days, when our burdens seem too heavy to bear, that is when we turn to our Heavenly Father and ask that the Savior help us carry these burdens. We must keep that eternal perspective if we hope to make it through these trials and tragedies with any semblance of peace, hope and comfort. Indeed we grow stronger and more refined, as servants of God, through these trials IF we keep that eternal perspective.
And so, as this new year begins, if your days seem long and your heart heavy, kneel in humble prayer to your Father in Heaven and ask Him for guidance, for the Savior to ease your burdens, and more than anything, ask for the ability to endure until you triumph over those trials. You heart will be lightened, your vision cleared and your shoulders straightened as you see the path you must take to walk out of this Refiner’s fire whole, complete and ready to serve the Lord, your God.