2 Nephi 3:29-66
I read these verses often as I consider the unknowns and struggles in my life- Nephi was a righteous man and went through many of the same things I have. I used to read this and think of the verse about making his path straight before him, to mean that it was Nephi asking God to show him all that was to come. But as I read it and then read beyond it, it appears to me that Nephi probably wasn’t shown what every tomorrow would bring.
In fact, looking through the scriptures, it appears that most of the subjects therein were forced to live, act and walk as mere humans – not having future knowledge for most of their lives. Clearly, they had understanding given to them from time to time, but most probably didn’t have every important aspect of their life laid out perfectly before them. Daily life, and all the challenges that it brings was something they had to wade through. And for the rest of their lives which we don’t have scriptures for, all we can assume is that they went forward as followers of Christ and in faith.
We do not see what effects that had in their lives – we do not see the times of anxiety over changes, or unanswered questions, or times where they were crying into their pillows at night as they struggled with unknowns; although I believe it is safe to assume that they did all these things. Rather, the picture we are given is that God gave them enough guidance to persuade them to press forward despite lacking what I’m certain they, like us, desired – to clearly know their path.
Hebrews 11 is a wonderful overview of those we would consider to be “heroes” of Christianity for their example of steadfastness, dedication and faith. And yet, we see it laid out clearly that they were persuaded by something that was in the future, distant, and something they didn’t attain while in the flesh. This knowledge is something that can bring us comfort, or could bring some aspect of despair – am I to live life this way? Like Abraham who spent his life wandering, or Noah who acted on something that was a foreign thing (a flood?), which brought about mocking and trial? Like Joseph who found himself wading through lengthy, unjust trials? Or Sara who was given a promise of a child that took until her old age to come to pass, or Rahab who had to hold to the faith that when the walls fell, she would not be destroyed with it? Or Moroni, who in Moroni 1:1-4 tells us that he had not planned on writing more because he thought he would be dead, but as he was wandering from place to place keeping hidden from his enemies, he took time to write just a few more things that would be of worth to us. Each day was an unknown to him, whether he would be violently killed by the Lamanites or he would pass in some other manner, and when.
I have often found myself wishing and praying that God would interact with me in this manner:
God says “Aadam, on April 22, 1999, you will have a final in Algebra. The answers are A, A, C, B.
God says “Aadam, on July 23, 2000, you should apply for a job at this business. Speak with John, he will like you and hire you.”
God says “Aadam, on December 19, 2005, you will be hired onto a police department, so make sure you are physically and mentally prepared.”
God says “Aadam, on June 3, 2011, your father will pass away. Spend time with him now so you have no regrets then.”
God says “Aadam, in August of 2017 life will become incredibly difficult and will change significantly. Prepare your family and yourself for this now, do not wait.”
The problem is, this is often how it goes:
Aadam says “God, I don’t know where to go in life, I need your help.”
Aadam says “God, I am lonely, how long will I have to be alone?”
Aadam says “God, I need to know how to make this financial decision, what is the best direction to go?”
Aadam says “How long Lord, until life becomes normal again. And what is normal?”
In the above statements, it isn’t that God didn’t help me or meet me, but the level of understanding I wanted was not given far in advance and sometimes I didn’t see an answer to my particular question or concern. But was God absent, did He not care? Absolutely not.
It would be easy to just say: Have faith and trust that God will take care of it. Which is true, sound advice. But I am probably not the only one who has trouble with this. I hope to bring forth a few things for you to consider which will help your faith and for us all to work on as we look at a new year with all it’s unknowns.
- Connections come through connecting. We connect with God through prayer and meditation, reading scripture, listening to and singing spiritual songs, hearing testimonies, fasting, and I’m sure you can you add more to your list. God’s word helps us to know His mind, His ways and His plans for us. Sometimes uncertainties or questions of opportunities are simply answered by reading what has been given for our benefit. Conversing with God via prayer is essential. And now, prayer works by faith, so how does faith grow where faith is required? If you have no experience to draw on, you should start simple, as we find in Alma 16 concerning planting a seed. But if you are experienced with God, you must draw on those times He answered, responded, unburdened etc. Let these past experiences guide you to have confidence for future petitions.
If we consider 1 Corinthians 2:9-16, we learn that the things of God are spiritually discerned. A man can only know the things of a man, but as we draw closer to God and we begin to see things through the mind of Spirit, we begin to see life and beyond through the eyes and mind of Christ. As humans, we are only be able to look forward as humans, plan and endeavor as humans, and perceive as humans. As we connect with God, we come to know more and more of the mind of Christ.
As a husband, I only know what my wife likes and dislikes, what makes her happy and sad, her hopes and dreams by connecting with her. A work in progress for sure, but I have come to understand more and more the mind of my wife. This is the same with our connection to God.
- Count your blessings. There is a wonderful song in our hymnal, Count your Blessings. The chorus says “count your blessings, name them one by one.” Do this. Sit down and write them out. Talk about them with your spouse and children. Nothing is too small.
I read an interesting statement by C.S. Lewis the other day about blessings and how we sometimes fail when considering them: “It seems to me that we often, almost sulkily, reject the good that God offers us because, at that moment, we expected some other good. Do you know what I mean? On every level of our life – in our religious experience, in our gastronomic, erotic, aesthetic, and social experience – we are always harking back to some occasion which seemed to us to reach perfection, setting that up as a norm, and depreciating all other occasions by comparison. But these other occasions, I now suspect, are often full of their own new blessing, if only we would lay ourselves open to it. God shows us a new facet of the glory, and we refuse to look at it because we’re still looking for the old one.” (C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcom- Chiefly on Prayer).
What an interesting thought, that perhaps we find ourselves frustrated because God’s work in our life doesn’t rise to the level we think it should, or add up to previous wonderful blessings. With this sometimes being our state, no wonder we struggle with our faith.
Our faith grows when we draw upon previous occasions when God worked with us, answering prayers and hearing how He has also worked in the lives of others. Nothing is too small. As we consider the vast amount of blessings we have received, we have no reason to doubt we will continue to be blessed provided we make efforts to walk with Him.
- Lay hold on good things. Moroni 7:28 “…and they who have faith in him, will cleave unto every good thing; wherefore he advocateth the cause of the children of men;”
We read in Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. 9 Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.”
It appears to me that when we look for those good things of God around us, when we hope and pray for them, we become changed in how we approach Him and He also in how He hears and interacts with us. There are so many things in life which are clearly wrong or bad, but I find more and more there seems to be areas which in my own justification I would call gray, and find myself often thinking and enjoying those things which I would admit to be on the edge. And I fully admit this means they don’t measure up to the admonishment in this scripture.
And yet we read above in Moroni that as our faith brings us to cleave to good things, it brings about the Lord advocating our cause.
- Praying for peace. In a recent sermon one of our ministry spoke of peace, that he had found that when he had peace in his heart, peace from the Lord, he could walk any road and go anywhere without fear.
Perhaps we fail to recognize what true peace is. We consider peace to mean everything around to be free from stress, trouble, worry, danger. We have trouble considering anyone in a country that is torn by war to have peace. But the truth is that peace is something that is internal.
Isaiah 26:3 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. 4 Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:
There is a spiritual place or attitude which is able to be unphased by everything distracting or disturbing which surrounds it. Maybe this isn’t a permanent place, but one that must be constantly worked on.
We see this pattern over and over again throughout the Book of Mormon – the people humble themselves, wars cease, they find peace and prosperity, peace and prosperity bring about complacency and they tumble again into turmoil. The pursuit of peace cannot be stopped, forgotten about or downplayed. It means working to remove those things from within your heart that fail to invite peace: anger, lack of forgiveness etc.
Peace on this earth cannot be fully complete until Christ comes and vanquishes evil. As long as this world and humanity is broken, so will complete peace be broken. But peace within our soul is real and attainable. We need to be praying for this very thing.
I think that a part of this peace comes with the assurance of God with us. We find that Christ assured His followers that there would be a way to maintain that connection through the Holy Ghost. We find as we partake of Sacrament in truth and sincerity that this connection is revived and strengthened. The Holy Ghost is the comforter, the bringer of peace. With this ever-strengthened relationship, we find peace to walk any road, most especially the road of unknowns of life.
Perhaps this article has brought nothing new. Perhaps this isn’t where you are at in life. Right now, it is where I am at as I have struggled with the unknowns of life and struggled to fully embrace the scripture which says:
(For we walk by faith, not by sight) 2 Corinthians 5:7
It is appropriate to pray for God to show us things; this example is clear throughout God’s word and we should as a church expect it. But the real question is: Can we be ok with walking simply in the faith that God will lead us every day, through every situation, even if we have no foreknowledge?
I encourage you to pray for this in this new year. May our eyes be open to see the marvelous works of the Lord in our lives, our families and His Church.