This is a topic that will likely take more than one post to address. There are a lot of insights, opinions, and revealed truths I can share, but it will likely take more time than today to do so (my wife tells me I should consider making my posts shorter which I plan to do, at least as much as possible; that was already a goal of mine). Sorry if this one doesn’t conform. Thanks, honey. I love you. If you read my previous post entitled Finding Peace/Joy in Death, it talks about some of the reasons why we have to undergo pain and hurt here in this “mortal probation.” It also addresses how being a Mormon changes our view of many things, including death. That word, “probation,” is an especially important one when it comes to this topic. A “probationary period” is a period of preparation. In the case of a criminal, for example, it’s a time for them to prepare to receive their freedom once again and reenter society as a fully functional citizen. It requires time, sacrifice, and lots of hard work to meet the requirements for so doing in most cases. Our life has been referred to in the scriptures as a probationary period, a time to, as they say, “Prepare to Meet God.” (Alma 34: 32). What does pain have to do with it all? A lot. Pain is important for three main reasons, in my personal experience and according to most Mormon theologians:
First, pain exists in this world to help humble us, to mold us … into sons and daughters who rely on our Father in Heaven. Pain/loss help us turn to Him, rely on His mercy, and seek His comforting influence in our lives. If nothing bad ever happened in our lives, would we really need him? Would we remember him? Would we stop once in a while in our busy pursuits to recognize His Hand? I wonder. We do know this: it is in and through our becoming more humble that we truly become like Christ. He was the meekest man of all and we know that He suffered greatly, even more than all of us combined.
Second, if we never knew pain, we could never know joy. The same thing applies to dark and light, cold and warmth, failure, and success; the list goes on and on. There must be “opposition in all things,” as the scriptures tell us. They even suggest that Satan is allowed by God to tempt us and cause darkness to exist in this world in order that we can learn to choose between right and wrong (Click Here for a list of verses that address this topic). It’s kind of ironic if you think about it because if Satan had wanted to really screw up the Plan of Salvation (the plan for this life that our Father in Heaven created), he [Satan] would have never attempted to make Adam and Eve fall. He would’ve left them all alone in the Garden of Eden forever. His tempting them to eat of the fruit is part of what assured the human race would exist. He didn’t understand, I guess, that the rest of us could never have come to earth otherwise. They [Adam and Eve] exercised their free agency, made it possible for mortality (and the rest of us) to come to pass, and the entire plan of God had its start. It unfolded from that point. There’s more to it but this is at its heart. Pain is part of this story, as much as we might wish otherwise a lot of the time. Without it, we would never grow and, literally, would never have been
Third, not only are we supposed to become like Christ (more humble, pure, and kind, etc.), but we really should, in our lives, seek to come unto Him and one of the ways we do this is through experiencing pain. Here’s an exercise I highly recommend that can help you and those you know in this process:
Every time you feel pain—be it small or large, brief or lasting, minor or major—take a moment to picture in your mind the Savior Jesus Christ that climactic night in the Garden of Gethsemane when He paid the price for all of our sins. If you can try to picture Him, even just briefly, then try saying to yourself, “This is a tiny glimpse of what Christ felt when He Atoned for my sins and my pain! It’s the smallest taste but it’s still a taste of what He suffered” (See Luke 22: 41-44). If you do this, instead of just feeling angry, hurt, sorry, or depressed, you can literally use the experience (the feeling of the pain) for what it’s worth: you can become as they call it, more “spiritually centered” each time. The opposite is to be “temporarily centered” and gain absolutely nothing from the experience.
Trust me, it’s not easy, but if you’ll try to remember this and utilize this approach in your life, it can quite literally change everything henceforward. Not only will you go through painful experiences with a different perspective, and maybe more patience, strength, and understanding, but you will come to know your Savior like you never have before.
A great example of this comes from The Book of Mormon where the prophet Nephi and his family were crossing the ocean aboard the ship that they had constructed. Laman and Lemuel, the two rebellious older brothers, had tied Nephi up and he ended up spending three days with his hands and feet bound to the ship. A massive storm arose and was threatening to sink them when finally the brothers relented and let him go. Here’s the kicker though: the entire time Nephi was bound and suffering, He prayed and praised God’s name. He didn’t grumble, complain, or shake his fist at the sky. He “used it for what the experience was meant” and, in the process, stayed spiritually centered. It’s a great example of how to deal with pain, loss, and heartache in our lives in the right way, and not just “waste it.” We are here to learn … to grow … to become like Christ and come unto Him. Little else can help us accomplish this more … and nothing is more important in this life. It’s a powerful tool and a reminder that can help us a great deal. Trust me. It works. (See 1st Nephi 18: 15-22, especially verse 16).
By the way, I decided to write this post today because I went mountain biking with my boys at a place called “Gateway Green” and crashed my bike, landing pretty hard, and scraping up my right arm pretty badly. Worst of all, it’s the same arm I just had right-ulnar surgery on in January of this year. Suffice it to say … it hurts and, once again, as has happened many times in my life, has provided me with my own opportunity to “think on Christ.” It’s not always easy to remember to do this like I said but, I’ll tell you, it does make a difference. And, God is always still there. He hasn’t given up on us—ever. He has a plan for us, He loves us, and all things will be made right one day through Christ Jesus. This I know.
That’s all for today, everybody.
Thanks for checking in.
Patrick Laing – Portland, Oregon USA
PS – This song by Clay Walker, Just A Few Questions, does a great job, I think, of explaining how many of us feel about this topic. It’s pretty perfect.
Click Below to Watch the Music Video: