As a Mormon who has sat through many a Sacrament Meeting and Sunday School lesson I’ve heard over and over, “Trials make us stronger.” “Suffering refines your character.” I’ve always believed these words and took on challenges the way you’d approach a weight-lifting routine. Maybe I even got a bit cocky about my own spiritual muscles,

until life slammed me to the ground and revealed how weak I really am.

I never knew I could hurt so much. I never knew I could hate so much. I never knew I could swear and yell and cry and feel absolutely sure my aching heart would simply break.

And then I learned the true strength of my Savior and His Atonement.

Jesus Christ is my lifeline, my anchor, my iron rod. Only through Christ can I laugh with my children, chit-chat at church, stir soup for dinner. Without the strength of Christ, I would crumple to the ground, fractured, angry, stuck in a broken record of self-pity, unable to navigate daily life. And maybe I’d feel like a weakly specimen, but my sister– a.k.a. one of the finest women who ever lived– who went through much of this trial with me has also felt weak. We thought we were such strong, capable, nice women, until we were truly hurt.

I don’t mind feeling less strong, because I hope I’ve gained more empathy. If someone is hurting; I hurt with them. In the past, I was a little more judgmental, “Why is she whining about her husband traveling/grumpy child/difficult mother-in-law? That’s no big deal.” I now realize I only see the tip of the iceberg, without knowing all that lies below. Problems that appear simple on the surface are often more complicated and painful than we might imagine.

But I’m certainly not going to ask the Lord for any more trials. Although I love 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” I’m not quite ready for verse 10, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

Ah, I’m really struggling to write this– it all seemed so much simpler when I was running this morning. How can I explain?

I treasure my vulnerability, my dependence upon Christ and I know through His strength I can do all things. But I won’t be leaping off any literal or figurative cliffs to test my faith and I would be just fine with run-of-the-mill normal life trials from now on.

Oh Lord, I know though art mighty, but I am weak.


Have you been through an experience that made you feel weak rather than strong?

Are you familiar with problems that appear small on the surface but are an iceberg beneath?

Would you willingly ask for more trials? Do you think putting ourselves in difficult situations shows faith?



  1. robin marie

    January 17, 2013

    I have been thinking about some of these sentiments. Especially when after a huge trial friends look back and can say, “that worked out to be exactly the right timing!” Sometimes I feel in my struggles and trials (several which I’ve been dealing with for decades) that maybe I’m being punished because I have reache the point where I’m grateful. Or maybe because I haven’t quite stretched or grown as He expected, that is why I still do not have answers or a way out. I don’t really believe god is punishing me, but sometimes, in my weakness I do think that.

  2. Melanie

    January 17, 2013

    I don’t know that I realized it at the time, but last year was a hard year for me. But I grew – am growing – a lot. I’ve realized (again), that faith isn’t something you just have, check off the box. In a way, finding and building my faith has been a lot more complicated, but I feel like it’s so much deeper now than it was when I was younger and it was so easy for me to believe.

    Robin Marie – a have a love/hate relationship with those “things were hard but then everything worked out perfectly” stories (i.e. Elder Eyring’s story about his daughter in law from the last General Conference). I love them because they’re true and I know that in the end, whenever the end may be, things do work out. But I also dislike these stories because they make it sound too easy. Not all of us get the answer that we want. Some of us have to wait a lifetime. I love something that Sister Oaks said (paraphrased): the object of life is not to receive blessings, it’s to grow closer to God. As hard as this can be to swallow, when I remember this, it makes the waiting, the enduring more bearable.

  3. AmySo

    January 17, 2013

    Some of my challenges have made me more brittle instead of stronger…ice is strong, but it also shatters if you hit it just right, and that is what I am trying to work on. Being soft in my strength, if that makes sense.

    Melanie, thanks for sharing that idea from Sister Oaks. I have never thought if things in just that way but it is true!

  4. Blue

    January 17, 2013

    I just re-read the past decade of my journal entries last week and in doing so, a common theme emerged: one of me, struggling with three very specific things; and I was quite discouraged to realize that really, it seems the only thing that has changed in the intervening years is a greater awareness of my struggles and shortcomings. I haven’t superseded any of them. Made me wonder if I ever will.

    I know that before you can undergo treatment, you must gain diagnosis. You can’t get chemo til you know you have cancer, so to speak. So perhaps all these struggles coming to light is just part of a protracted process. But it’s so frustrating to feel like I haven’t made any progress. It feels like failure. Like my life is being wasted by all these things that are wrong that need fixing/healing.

    But–it’s not over yet. I still have road to travel today. There may yet be unforeseen growth and burst of speed in good directions. Perhaps I’ll finally rise up, phoenix-like, and leave the ashes from these perpetual hurts and struggles behind, and emerge a new, glorious creature.

    Iceburg? Yeah.

  5. Braids

    January 17, 2013

    I’ve been reading some writings from a Christian (non LDS) writer, and something that had stuck out to me recently was her thought that we aren’t designed to be independent creatures. God designed us to work perfectly when we are dependent on Him. I realized that I had the idea that the atonement was there to help me until I could do things perfectly on my own, but after pondering and praying about this idea I’ve felt that I need to learn to live in dependence on my Savior. So this writer says that our weaknesses, vulnerability, and trials are a constant reminder of our dependence and need for a savior.

  6. Blue

    January 17, 2013

    (okay, yes. i’m a little down right now. will pass eventually. sorry!)

  7. Anon

    January 17, 2013

    I know someone who felt that his family needed a trial to help them grow stronger together, so he prayed for one. And then his son died. He believes the experience certainly brought them closer together, but that story haunts me. I feel like it has crippled my prayers because I am desperately careful how I phrase everything and I am too afraid to ask for anything to change because I don’t want to feel like I brought harm upon anyone that I love or unnecessarily negatively impacted our life, which is so beautiful and happy to me right now. I feel like I should just let life happen how God wants it to and not interfere… But then I feel like I am not taking an active role in my growth. Wasting my mortal time. It’s a constant source of conflict in my mind.

  8. Michelle L.

    January 17, 2013

    It’s January, Blue. A little down is perfectly normal.

    Thank you, RobinMarie, Melanie, Amyso, Blue, Braids, anon for your comments. I’m still a bit tempted to just take it down because I’m unable to express myself well today.

    I think what you said, Braids is what I’m trying to convey. I’m not grateful for my trials, but I’m grateful for my dependence on my Savior, for my knowledge He is sustaining me day-by-day, for my fragility before God and hopefully, drawing closer to him.

  9. Tay

    January 17, 2013

    I’m grateful for the lessons learned, the new, though tender, softness in my heart, the ability to have felt the Atonement and recognize its power in my life. But I learned my lesson in college when I asked for patience and got a really thorough lesson in it. And when I prayed for growth in my husband through perhaps a demanding calling (and got put in the RS Presidency as my humbling answer. Serves me right). But I am glad for what I learned and am learning.

    The past two years have been very hard. Added on to this I felt as though my prayers were unheard because surely on top of everything else He wouldn’t refuse to make my baby sleep for more than two hours at a time as well? Sometimes less. A nightmare in my two years of everything falling apart, most of it being spent in perpetual lack of sleep. I felt so weakened by it. I’m only just finding the answers of what it did to help me.

    Also I figure The Lord is going to allow enough trials without us asking for an extra, right?

  10. Ana of the Nine+ Kids

    January 17, 2013

    Interesting post–especially since I have to give a talk on trials on Sunday! Would I pray for more trials? NOOOO!!! (And, lest I was misunderstood, let me restate that–NOOOOOO!!!! )But I am starting to learn to not dread future trials. Don’t get me wrong, I’m SURE there are trials that could flatten me. What I mean is that I am trying not to spend too much time contemplating what they might be and when they might happen to me. If they happen and I get squashed, I’ll deal with it then. But this is the thing I am learning–to trust Heavenly Father. To trust that He really does love me and that with every trial that comes my way–whether he deliberately puts it in my path or I stupidly choose it or someone else’s actions put it there, He can and will help me. Do I believe it will all be easy to cope with? No– my life to this point hasn’t been all smooth sailing so why should the future be any different? But keeping in mind the point of it all–to refine me and bring me closer to Him, I am trying to appreciate and be grateful for what blessings I have right now, in conjunction with what trials I have. If this earth life is really just a speck of our existence and we can’t see the beginning and the end, but HE can, it makes sense that we might lose our perspective from time to time, get caught up in what is going on here, right now, but HE never does. He is always working to make us better, happier, healthier and to bring us home to Him. Trusting Him is the key to making sense in all of it. Yeah. Easier said than done, but true.

  11. Ana of the Nine+ Kids

    January 17, 2013

    For the record, whenever I pray for something like more faith or patience, I generally follow it up with “BUT don’t HURT ME! Or my family. Or my friends . . .” (In my mind I can practially see the Lord rolling his eyes at me.)

  12. Janae

    January 18, 2013

    Oh yes, you are right on the money. I’m glad you wrote this Michelle! I too have a lot of inner conflict regarding one really big trial in my life. I tend to vacillate between hope, despair, feeling abandoned by the Lord, being remembered by the Lord, coping, falling apart, believing, and needing help with my unbelief. Top that all off with guilt for the occasional (or on some days, not so occasional) negative thoughts towards heaven and you have a good idea of the ruckus that I carry around in my heart. That is when I feel the weakest. But I take comfort in these sound words: “…And He knows that both the trials we face and our human powers to deal with them ebb and flow” (Elder Eyring).

    If I look back on this whole experience I do believe I am getting a little stronger. Words that used to leave me in tears now roll right off my back–most of the time. Rather than swelling with envy when I hear of someone receiving “their” answer, I feel grateful for each manifestation that God does hear and answer prayers. I still don’t like that I have to deal with this every day, and sometimes I feel pretty mad about the whole thing, but I do believe in God and his goodness. I believe there are answers to be found. And I’m grateful I don’t have to be strong to qualify for God’s help.

  13. Michelle

    January 18, 2013

    Michelle, I wish I could communicate how much strength and light I feel from your spirit. I was just thinking last night about sending you an email to communicate just that. So I’ll do it here instead.

    Love you.

    As to your questions, I’m astounded both at the depth of pain that can come from our trials, and also, after some miraculous experiences of the past couple of months, simply amazed at the depth of love and light that emanates from our God.

    That said, I feel like I’m dancing between two worlds of still being terrified of what God might ask of me, and yet realizing that facing the seemingly impossible with God is an amazing experience. And turning my fears over to Him, one by one, is changing my life.

    But funny you should ask, last night I started to feel a little like, “Hm. Maybe I could ask for trials because finding and feeling God’s closeness has been amazing.” And then today presented me with a socked-in-the-gut kind of experience. And I decided I’ll just let God give me what He knows I need. 😉

    But what I am trying to be more willing to do is ask Him what icebergs are in my heart and thinking that keep Him and His power at bay. And what I’m finding is that He does respond to those questions, and that it doesn’t always have to be pain that teaches us. So in that sense, I’m less afraid of asking for eyes to see myself — both divine and fallen — with more truth, so He can help me find more of His love and healing.

  14. Michelle

    January 18, 2013

    “I’m grateful I don’t have to be strong to qualify for God’s help.”

    I LOVE this. If anything, I’m finding that when I go to Him with all of who I am — anger, weakness, confusion, everything — I find Him more quickly than when I’m pretending to be strong or hiding my real self from Him.

  15. Teresa

    January 18, 2013

    I too recently had a heart wrenching experience. I could have written “I’m Pretty Weak”. I have finally figured out that I depend on the love of my adult children to, in a sence, validate my existence. I never realized that before.

    I have two adult children. My oldest always felt that I loved her brother more. (This is not true). My daughter is going through a very tough time right now, and in her pain she attacked me. Mainly because, I have always forgiven her when she has done this in the past. But this time she went even farther in her shenanigans. She told lies about me that were so horrible and far fetched that people are actually beieving the lies. My Son is no longer talking to me. He never even gave me a chance to defend myself.

    I have to say, because of everything that was I discovered was being said and done. I did the unthinkable. I told her that she was dead to me. I now need to forgive myself.

  16. Anne Marie

    January 18, 2013

    Michelle, your writings are dripping with compassion. You have such a tender heart. Thank you so much for sharing what you do on Segullah and your blog. Your perspective means so much to me. Thank you for sharing true, authentic pieces of your heart.

  17. Anne Marie

    January 18, 2013

    Teresa, I am so sorry for your pain. Hoping that you can have pieces of your life healed and made right again.

  18. Kerri

    January 18, 2013

    Whenever I think I’m learning how to trust God through trials, I find myself knocked head over heels and seemingly back where I started. Apparently I need to learn the same lessons for my entire life, just taught differently. My weaknesses and the way I see them are my biggest weakness. I find myself flat out paralyzed at times by anxiety at the bad choices I make or will make or have made. This is not trusting God. This is not accepting the Atonement. I know that. And yet it’s very hard to find a way to accept the Atonement and see myself make bad choices again and again and again: time wasted, unkind words spoken, thoughts uncontrolled. It’s exhausting.

    Blue, I hear you. My journal reading leaves me feeling the same way: Surely over 21 years of pleading for help with my weaknesses would yield SOMETHING. Something Braids said did strike a chord with me…maybe those years of pleading have led me to an utter dependence on the Atonement. But it hurts. And I’m tired. And yes, Michelle, it’s January. And I think I hate January.

    Icebergs are all around us in everybody’s life. I just thought that I would learn to navigate around mine more quickly instead of crashing against them again. And again. And again.

    And I have asked in the past to be more humble. That’s a bad prayer, too. I will not ask for trials. I have enough. (I did love Elder Eyring (was it his talk?) in conference talking about how he asked to be stronger and then had his hardest trial to date come to him. It reminded me that I do not ever plan to ask for trials.)

  19. Melody

    January 19, 2013

    Beautifully stated, Michelle. And, no, I would never ask for more trials -for any reason.

    We are all weak. And some people don’t survive their trials. They die, become drug addicts, lose faith in everything. . . I no longer buy the idea that “we are not tested beyond that which we can bear.” People are tested beyond what they can bear. Every. Day. That’s part of the risk of mortality. It took me a long time to accept this. But I feel it is true.

    And I echo your sacred gratitude for the Grace of God, for a loving, attentive Savior who weeps with us and because of us. And who never leaves us. Either in our weakness or in our strength.

  20. Giggles

    January 21, 2013

    I have never prayed specifically for trials, but I did notice for a time that when I prayed for humility I ended up injured. And on my mission when I prayed for patience I would get a, how shall I say it, rather interesting companion. So now I pray for strength and peace and take them in whatever form they happen to come.

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