Expectations. We all have them. For many years, I found myself painting this elaborate picture of what I expected from my life and where I thought my life might take me. I think that we all do this in some form or another. White picket fence, two-story house, perfect family, a wonderful and fulfilling career… the list goes on and on. Then reality hits us square in the face. We all eventually have the rude awakening of how we are not in complete control of every little detail of our lives. The path that we take in life will probably veer off into unforeseen waters and take us deep into a wilderness we never expected. And then, there are the mountains. We would love to just hike around them and keep our life as simple and easy as possible, but unfortunately this isn’t always an option. A lot of the time, the only choice we have is to hoist up our big kid pants and hike the trail over these vast mountains. This grueling and exhausting path that we are forced to take begins to destroy that perfect little painting we had in mind of what our life expectations were. And if we aren’t careful, the deep pits and canyons that we may come upon on our journey over the mountain will swallow us up and torment us until we feel too broken and lost to continue on.
These “mountains” that I am referring to are the difficult trials and challenges that each one of us face. We all are battered by adversity in our lives. Our trials are tailored uniquely for us, and we all have to face each challenge in our own way. But as we surge forward on our life journey and take the trek up each mountain, there is one element that each of us can rely on to give us the strength to reach the top. And that is a firm foundation of faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Over the course of my life, I have had to face some very difficult trials and challenges that have left me feeling very alone and broken at times. My faith has been tested and bruised. The fear and anxiety that I was unworthy of God’s love has terrorized me to my very soul. I have spent many sleepless nights on my knees pleading and crying to God and asking him to take these trials away from me. I have asked God why this was happening to me and why I had to suffer such a strenuous and desolate path on my journey through life. And answers to these prayers didn’t always come quickly or even in the way that I expected. As I felt God’s love for me, I realized that this path that He was leading me on was becoming so overwhelming and difficult because of the expectations that I had placed on myself and my life. Yes, these trials were very hard to cope with! There is no denying that. But, because of the expectations of how my life was “supposed” to go, these mountains weighed deeper and heavier on my soul when my life did not go as expected. This simple-minded outlook on life was holding me back from who I could truly be. We all are afflicted with some form of adversity in our lives. We, however, do not have to let these trials and hardships control every aspect of our lives.
President Henry B. Eyring gave a talk titled “Mountains to Climb” in the April 2012 General Conference that has really given me comfort and peace as I have navigated my way through and over my ‘mountains’. He talks about a man who asked the question, “When I have tried all my life to be good, why has this happened to me?” He then states that the Lord answered this question for the Prophet Joseph Smith in his prison cell. The Lord said:
“And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee: if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.”
All these things…shall be for thy good. These words penetrated my soul when I first read them, and I felt the Holy Ghost whisper the truthfulness of them to me. As I have cut my way through the thorns and bushes on my way up the mountain, I have discovered what a blessing my trials and struggles really are. They have truly been for my good. God knows us and loves us more than we can even comprehend. He doesn’t give us these trials to hurt and damage us. He gives them to us so that we can learn and grow and come unto Him for help and strength. We must have a firm and unbreakable faith in God and our Savior, Jesus Christ. As President Eyring states in his talk, “If the foundation of faith is not embedded in our hearts, the power to endure will crumble… The ground must be carefully prepared for our foundation of faith to withstand the storms that will come into every life… The metal framework around which the substance of our faith is poured is the gospel of Jesus Christ, with all its covenants, ordinances, and principles.” What amazing truth and doctrine this is! In my journey, there were times where my faith was not founded upon the gospel of Jesus Christ. With this frail and fragile foundation, the storms that came into my life began to swallow me up into the darkness. I felt that my ability to endure these difficult and chaotic moments began to deteriorate and I felt utterly alone. But as I strengthened my foundation by building and molding a stronger faith in Christ, my power to endure became more solid. I began to feel the overwhelming love that the Savior has for me. I began to see myself the way that the Savior sees me.
With this firm faith, I have begun to find easier and better ways to navigate my way through my trials. Having faith in God and living according to his commandments does not take away these trials, however. Some of the struggles that we face end up lasting a lifetime. It takes true faith and an enduring love for our Savior to truly overcome the hardships and darkness that these trials may bring into our life. President Eyring said something near the end of his talk that really stood out to me and that helped me out of the depth of despair and agony that I was in. He said:
“I cannot promise an end to your adversity in this life. I cannot assure you that your trials will seem to you to be only for a moment. One of the characteristics of trials in life is that they seem to make clocks slow down and then appear almost to stop. There are reasons for that. Knowing those reasons may not give much comfort, but it can give you a feeling of patience. Those reasons come from this one fact: in Their perfect love for you, Heavenly Father and the Savior want you fitted to be with Them to live in families forever. Only those washed perfectly clean through the Atonement of Jesus Christ can be there.”
As I read this, tears began to fill my eyes. We may not know the exact reason for why we have the trial that we are facing currently. We may not be able to see the good that can come from these challenges. But, through His grace and His atoning sacrifice, we can be made clean and be able to return to Him one day. I want all of you who are reading this post today to know that you are NOT alone in the trials that you are facing. There is a quote by Jeffrey R. Holland that I love so much and has really helped me endure my long road up the mountain. He says, “Because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so.” There is so much comfort and guidance in these words. The Savior is the only person who truly knows the pain and utter darkness that you are going through right now. He has felt every single feeling that you are experiencing. It is only through Him that you can be made whole and overcome the steep and grueling road ahead of you. He loves YOU so much that he gave his life to protect and save you. I know that it can be so difficult to look above your trials and find any form of comfort or peace that everything will be okay. I have felt those feelings, and I struggle with them every single day. But it does bring a comfort to my life knowing that I can go to my Savior in prayer and that He hears me and loves me and wants me to experience happiness in this life.
“If we have faith in Jesus Christ, the hardest as well as the easiest times in life can be a blessing. In all conditions, we can choose the right with the guidance of the Spirit. We have the gospel of Jesus Christ to shape and guide our lives if we choose it. And with prophets revealing to us our place in the plan of salvation, we can live with perfect hope and a feeling of peace. We never need to feel that we are alone or unloved in the Lord’s service because we never are. We can feel the love of God. The Savior has promised angels on our left and our right to bear us up. And He always keeps His word.” -President Henry B. Eyring
I am truly grateful for the blessings that I have in my life. I am so grateful to face the trials and adversities that I do. They are hard; they can be overwhelming at times; they bring me to my knees in sorrow and pain. But they also are the reason for my faith and testimony that we have a real and living Heavenly Father and Savior who love us so much and who want us to return to live with them again. My trials have shaped and molded me into who I am today. I am so grateful for the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the grace and guidance I am given because of this amazing power in my life. We all face tremendous mountains in our lives. I know that if each one of us take the path up the mountain with a firm foundation of faith and hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ, that we can overcome any hardship that is thrown our way and that we will reach the top victorious. As President Spencer W. Kimball stated, “There are great challenges ahead of us, giant opportunities to be met. I welcome that exciting prospect and feel to say to the Lord, humbly, ‘Give me this mountain,” give me these challenges.”