It Doesn’t Matter How Strong You Are

I often ponder the Lord’s words,

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30).

I find immense comfort in this invitation and promise. I think the parable of the widow’s mite provides a beautiful example of what His invitation means. As usual, I think children best explain the most important gospel principles.

(If the video is about baptism, skip ahead to video 7 in the playlist.)

 

 

Herein lies one of my favorite principles in the gospel of Jesus Christ: God doesn’t expect perfection or exceptional results. He simply expects our individual best with our full devotion to Him.

Who can meet this expectation? Anyone and everyone. In my mind, that’s the central miracle and message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

My best isn’t your best. Your best isn’t your neighbor’s best. The expectation depends on the individual. Now that’s an easy yoke and light burden!

God hasn’t prepared heaven for perfect people, nor has He prepared it exclusively for exceptional missionaries, outgoing leaders, spectacular sponsors, or that one person you know who seems to have it all together. No, they don’t set the bar for eternal life.

Rather, the Lord has prepared heaven for the faithful, the loyal, the ones who love Him with all their heart, might, mind, and strength… the ones who give all they have, no matter the amount. This includes the imperfect performers, the clumsy speakers, the high school dropouts, the recovering addicts, and repentant sinners. This includes the honest, humble, fault-filled followers of Christ. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, God has prepared heaven exclusively for these.

This means that when I falter, lose my temper, relapse, or let a repulsive four-letter word escape my lips, I can repent. Praise the Lord, I can repent! And once I receive His forgiveness I can move forward with complete confidence that I have met His expectations.

What a relief! What a source of rest to my soul, indeed.

Of course, the more I keep the commandments of God the more peace and happiness I’ll enjoy. And while I work toward that unending goal, I’ll place my trust in Jesus Christ, my Hope and my Salvation. I invite you to do the same.

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).

Advertisements

Always

boy-and-landscape

Photograph by iStock/Thinkstock

 

It’s late, but I like to pretend I’m still young, so I’ll share some of my thoughts. :)  I am tired though and I know from experience the consequences of unwisely choosing to begin a work week without adequate rest. I’ll keep this brief.

“I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.”

Today was a good day. Our bishop gave an incredible talk in church about doubt, faith, weakness, and grace, among other things. I needed to be taught and hear these principles.

On numerous occasions throughout the past few months I’ve had reason to doubt why God would give me these trials. I’ve felt overwhelmed by fear that I would lose my wife to this pregnancy, or that we would lose our new baby, or that I would lose them both.

This kind of trepidation was new to me. Before recent events, I couldn’t fully understand the depth of doubt inherent in simply fearing for a loved one’s life. I know that fear now, and it is powerful! But by the grace of God I have gained a testimony of principles more powerful than fear. I want to share my testimony with you.

Many times in the last few months I have felt moments of distress and even anger. I’ve also felt sudden surges of joy and peace. I have learned that life guarantees the former. Disquietude, fear, uncertainty—these are inevitable, and I anticipate I’ll get more than my fill of them. I think we all will and do.

The moments of comfort and reassurance came too. They came amidst my roller coaster of imperfect faith as I struggled to place my trust in a painful plan. As the trial extended over several weeks, a pattern emerged and the Lord mercifully showed it to me. He showed me something I didn’t expect.

I’ve learned that I shouldn’t feel guilty for experiencing doubt. Undoubtedly, doubt is a good thing to experience. Doubt gives me the chance to exercise my faith. Without doubt, I would have no cause to trust. In fact, without doubt I could never learn to trust.

With that concept in mind, I’ve learned that my faith cannot exist without doubt. Indeed, what is faith but an open admission of doubt coupled with a determination to trust?

Like many principles of the gospel, this one seems a paradox to me. But it is true nonetheless. And just as assuredly as life brings pain and suffering, faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement brings relief, peace, and even joy. It always brings these things!

I know this is true because I am living it! When I place my faith in my Savior, when I share my doubts and fears with my Father in Heaven, They always encourage me. Always!

When I seek guidance and wisdom to know how I can better care for my wife and children, They always give it to me.

When I ask for Their blessing that I will do my job well during these trials so that I can provide for my family, They always give it to me.

When I sincerely plead for forgiveness after losing my temper and patience, They always give it to me.

When my trials scare me and I feel discouraged by my imperfect and weak faith, and I think that choosing to move forward in faith would not make sense… when I pray for faith and help to move forward anyway, They always give it to me.

“Therefore, ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for he that asketh, receiveth; and unto him that knocketh, it shall be opened.”  – Jesus Christ, 3 Nephi 27:29

I am a witness of God’s love for His children because I know He loves me and my family. He teaches me this repeatedly, daily even. I can depend on His every word. The more I choose to trust Him instead of my doubts, the more He shows me just how trustworthy He truly is.

These trials are hard, but they no longer feel impossible because I know the Lord is with me.

“And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.

“And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions” (Mosiah 24:13 – 14, emphasis added).

 

Babies and Valleys

more_important_than_the_race

 

My wife and I recently learned we’re having another child. I wanted to scream for joy when she told me (which I did after we ended our phone call). I love being a father and I’ve wanted to have another child when the time was right. Apparently the time is right!

My dear wife suffers immensely during pregnancy. I won’t go into details but suffice it to say the doctor has officially diagnosed her with a rare condition. It’s so rare, in fact, that literally 1% of pregnant women experience it. Her suffering pains me. Between the pain, drugs, and dehydration, she’s left bedridden and unable to care for herself in many ways.

As I care for her, I find myself experiencing my own suffering. It pales in comparison to hers, but I understand it’s just as real. I feel lonely. I miss my friend and life companion. I struggle to balance my family’s needs with my own needs, work, and cleaning the house. My daughter needs more attention than I can give. I see her suffering and it pains me. I wish I could do more for her and Jess.

I’ve never felt so much weight on my shoulders. I’ve never felt so stretched. As our family’s trial continues I find myself wanting to turn to my addiction more, and I find myself depending on the Lord more fully and more willingly. I would be lost without Him. I have felt His sustaining hand daily.

I want to be a good husband for Jess and a good father for Isla and I can’t do either without taking care of myself. Making time for my own spiritual, emotional, and physical health has proven essential to my ability to move forward.

These trials have called on my best faith. Trusting the Lord’s plan for my family, trusting that this pain and suffering is for our good if we remain faithful, and trusting when I wake up every morning that He will get me through the day has been a difficult and continual decision.

I fear that I’ll relapse. I fear that I’ll fail in my responsibilities at home and at work. I fear that my failures will exacerbate my family’s suffering and add to their burdens. Most of all I fear that I’ll relapse, and that such an event would trigger an overwhelming avalanche of doubt and pain for my wife and me.

As I seek to trust in God, I am intrigued by the principle of grace. I know grace is real because I’ve felt it. I’ve felt the complete draining of my body and spirit only three hours into a Monday, followed by the encouragement received in that moment upon praying for help, and later the astonishment of reaching the end of the day with the sudden realization that the world is still turning, I didn’t yell at my daughter as much as I did the day before, and I didn’t turn to pornography.

I’ve been studying the ink out of the scriptural accounts of Alma’s people and Limhi’s people in the Book of Mormon. This has been a topic of study for me since my fifth month serving as a missionary, but not so intensely important to me as it is now.

I want to understand why the Lord paved the way for Alma and his people to obtain freedom from suffering and bondage, and why He helped and ultimately delivered King Limhi’s people as well, but noticeably not in the same manner. I need to understand why.

The Lord mercifully continues to teach me and answer my sincere questions despite my impatience and doubts. In some moments I even feel angry with Him. Yet He remains ever ready to comfort and succor me, to run to my aid in the very moment I turn to Him.

I do feel that these trials are for my good and the good of my family inasmuch as we faithfully endure them. I’m trying to take it all one day at a time.

The Lord is my Shepherd.

The Lord is my Shepherd;

I shall not want.

He maketh me lie down in green pastures.

He leadeth me beside still waters.

He restoreth my soul,

He leadeth me.

He leadeth me;

I shall not want.

 

The Lord is my Shepherd.

The Lord is my Shepherd;

I shall not, I shall not want

Thou prepares a table before me

Within presence of mine enemy,

Thou anointest my head;

My cup runneth over, runneth over

I shall not want.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil;

I will fear no evil For thou art with me;

For thou art with me!

Thou comfortest me; I shall not want.

 

The Lord is my Shepherd.

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.

Surely goodness and mercy

Shall follow me all my life,

And I will dwell in the house, the house of Lord,

Forever, forever, forever, forever.

I shall not want. I shall not want, I shall not want.

— “I Shall Not Want,” a song based on Psalm 23

 

Fishing Hooks and False Comforts

Fishing Hook

“When a trout rising to a fly gets hooked on a line and finds himself unable to swim about freely, he begins with a fight which results in struggles and splashes and sometimes an escape. Often, of course, the situation is too tough for him.

“In the same way the human being struggles with his environment and with the hooks that catch him. Sometimes he masters his difficulties; sometimes they are too much for him. His struggles are all that the world sees and it naturally misunderstands them. It is hard for a free fish to understand what is happening to a hooked one.”

Karl A. Menninger

My dog died this week. I miss her already. I saw her twice in the last five years since moving to Utah, but both times she recognized and welcomed me home with the excitement and affection that only a dog can offer. I remember sitting at home feeling depressed years ago and she plopped herself on my lap and licked my face way too many times. She always made me feel loved. I miss her.

Her death pains me, and not surprisingly the devil swiftly reminded me of the best pain killer I know. Man, I really don’t like that guy. I’m grateful to the Lord for giving me real comfort without price.

My addictions are too much for me. It’s so easy for me to get lost in a frenzied attempt to free myself, not only from addiction but also from the cares of life. I forget so easily that I have a Savior, the Son of God, whom my Father in Heaven sent to rescue me from and console me through all of this.

I feel that I lack adequate language to describe what it’s like to be hooked. Satan would have me feel alone, but I choose to place my trust in my God instead. Tomorrow I resolve to do the same.

Quote

HOW IT WORKS….

HOW IT WORKS

…we were at Step Three, which is that we decided to turn our will and our life over to God as we understood Him. Just what do we mean by that, and just what do we do?

The first requirement is that we be convinced that any life run on self-will can hardly be a success. On that basis we are almost always in collision with some­thing or somebody, even though our motives are good. Most people try to live by self-propulsion. Each per­son is like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way. If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great. Everybody, including himself, would be pleased. Life would be wonderful. In trying to make these arrange­ments our actor may sometimes be quite virtuous. He may be kind, considerate, patient, generous; even modest and self-sacrificing. On the other hand, he may be mean, egotistical, selfish and dishonest. But, as with most humans, he is more likely to have varied traits.

What usually happens? The show doesn’t come off very well. He begins to think life doesn’t treat him right. He decides to exert himself more. He becomes, on the next occasion, still more demanding or gracious, as the case may be. Still the play does not suit him. Admitting he may be somewhat at fault, he is sure that other people are more to blame. He becomes angry, indignant, self-pitying. What is his basic trouble? Is he not really a self-seeker even when try­ing to be kind? Is he not a victim of the delusion that he can wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if he only manages well? Is it not evident to all the rest of the players that these are the things he wants? And do not his actions make each of them wish to retaliate, snatching all they can get out of the show? Is he not, even in his best moments, a pro­ducer of confusion rather than harmony?

… if the rest of the world would only behave…

What­ ever our protestations, are not most of us concerned with ourselves, our resentments, or our self-pity? Selfishness—self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. Some­times they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self which later placed us in a position to be hurt.

So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves, and the [addict] is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn’t think so. Above everything, we [addicts] must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us! God makes that possible. And there often seems no way of entirely getting rid of self without His aid. Many of us had moral and philosophical con­victions galore, but we could not live up to them even though we would have liked to. Neither could we reduce our self-centeredness much by wishing or try­ing on our own power. We had to have God’s help.

This is the how and why of it. First of all, we had to quit playing God. It didn’t work. Next, we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director. He is the Principal; we are His agents. He is the Father, and we are His children. Most good ideas are simple, and this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which we passed to freedom.

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, The Big Book, Chapter 5, p. 60-62

Trying in a new way, a less worried way

meme-bednar-alone

 

In my last post I attempted to explain that the amount of recovery I receive is not in direct proportion to the amount of work I perform.

I do believe, however, that the level of recovery I experience is directly related to the level of trust I place in my God. In other words, the more I submit my will to His, the more recovery I receive.

I don’t have all the answers, but this has certainly been my experience as I’ve sought recovery.

“And now… I would that ye should remember, that as much as ye shall put your trust in God even so much ye shall be delivered out of your trials, and your troubles, and your afflictions, and ye shall be lifted up at the last day” (Book of Mormon, Alma 38:5).

For nearly two years I attended addiction recovery meetings almost weekly. If I went out of town, I looked up AA meetings and attended those. I found strength from interacting with fellow addicts. I no longer felt alone.

I was self-evaluating, reading scriptures, praying, fasting, exercising, eating healthily, worshiping in church, and serving others.

I was learning about addiction, reading numerous books and blogs, and meeting regularly with my bishop. I even managed a couple stretches of abstinence, one of which lasted long enough for me to worship in the temple again. I was working hard and progressing.

But I wasn’t getting sober. I kept relapsing.

Continue reading

Guest post: Deliverance from Pornography’s Poisonous Whirlwinds

tornado

 

This spring we planted a new orange tree in our backyard. Four feet tall we have watched it take hold over the last two months. Strong winds on Saturday blew off all the tiny green fruit that were starting to form after the blossoms. Elder Anderson wrote in his recent conference address about whirlwinds.

“In nature, trees that grow up in a windy environment become stronger. As winds whip around a young sapling, forces inside the tree do two things. First, they stimulate the roots to grow faster and spread farther. Second, the forces in the tree start creating cell structures that actually make the trunk and branches thicker and more flexible to the pressure of the wind. These stronger roots and branches protect the tree from winds that are sure to return.

“You are infinitely more precious to God than a tree. You are His son or His daughter. He made your spirit strong and capable of being resilient to the whirlwinds of life. The whirlwinds in your youth, like the wind against a young tree, can increase your spiritual strength, preparing you for the years ahead” (Read the full talk here)

How do you prepare for your whirlwinds?

“Remember … it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, … his shafts in the whirlwind, … when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power … to drag you down … because of the rock upon which ye are built” (The Book of Mormon, Helaman 5:12).

This is your safety in the whirlwind.

I read in my scripture study this verse from Zeniff’s “rescue” temple address to his people after Ammon and his three brothers showed up.

“But if ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, he will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage” (The Book of Mormon, Mosiah 7:33)

My recovery is like the young orange tree in my backward. The whirlwind of addictions seem to swirl around all times and everywhere from the media I consume, to the people I encounter at work/church/shopping to the old memories Satan likes to choke me with like a dust devil. I know if I “sow filthiness” I will reap the chaff and the effects thereof – this is interesting – Zeniff writes, “are poison.”

I cannot think of a better description for porn than poison. Turning to the Lord, TRUSTING HIM (step 3) and serving him brings the assurance he will deliver me.

Burt Williams

Link

How to turn a close call into a relapse

How to turn a close call into a relapse

Matt, a friend of mine over at EmbracingPowerlessness.com, offers great insight to the insanity of addiction. Click the link above to read more.

Had it not been for the great friends I’ve made in the addiction recovery program, I would have ended today with numerous “close calls” and ultimately in relapse remorse. For the first time in my recovery, God answered my prayers of surrender with a simple instruction: “Call someone.” Of course, I struggled with the thought (“Oh wretched man that I am!”), but the Lord gave me the faith to obey Him.

Because of Him, and through my friends in recovery, I end today with a grateful heart knowing that I am powerless, God is not, and my only hope is to trust Him.

(Did I mention that Matt’s post is incredibly insightful? Please read it!)

Quote

How my God judges my race

track

 

“At a youth conference in Kungsbacka, Sweden, John took part in a 1500-meter running race. He had no chance to win. Rather, his was the opportunity to be humiliated, mocked, derided, scorned. Perhaps John remembered another who lived long ago and far away. Wasn’t He mocked? Wasn’t He derided? Wasn’t He scorned? But He prevailed. He won His race. Maybe John could win his.

Continue reading