Yesterday was Fast Sunday. As I sat in the back of the chapel, okay, as I sat near the front of the cultural hall (an improvement for us), I had a strong desire to share my testimony concerning some elements of the atonement and power of Christ. As I am wont to do, I sat there, waiting for a lull in the stream of willing testifiers. In our ward there is no such thing as a lull in testimony meeting. Children, teens, and adults take seats on the stand awaiting their turn to share experiences, faith, and gratitude. By the time the closing hymn should have begun there were still four people seated on the stand. I had missed it. This is the same story nearly every month. I feel to share, I wait, I regret. Testimony time in Relief Society used to offer a second chance, but now I serve in Young Women and there is no such opportunity. So, today I would like to share my testimony with you. I will try to write it as I would have spoken it, so forgive the lack of eloquence. Of course, you are free to tune out, take a child to the restroom, or whisper with your neighbor instead.
This weekend a friend and I were discussing various life experiences we’ve had and how they shaped us. As I was growing up my family faced a steady stream of sickness and death, among other hardships. It was a constant theme in our story. As a teenager I often found myself asking why. Why would God do these things? What was it I was supposed to learn that I wasn’t getting? Over the years my view of God has changed from one who causes these events to one who allows mortality to take it’s course. Sometimes He intervenes, other times He doesn’t (Though I’m not convinced that lack of desired outcome = evidence of His absence). I don’t know why things happen as they do, and as life has progressed I’ve realized I don’t need to.
What took me many, many years to understand was that knowing why (if there was a why) doesn’t change the answer to my sorrow. I believe a loving God allows mortality to take it’s course because He believes fully in the possibility of our ultimate rescue. The hardships that befall us are evidence of His perfect faith in the infinite power of the atonement of His Son. He knows that our greatest joy is made possible as we experience the healing influence of the Savior in our broken lives. There must be opposition in all things. In this contrast is the magnificence of our redemption made stunningly clear. Whatever and why-ever our life circumstances, the answer remains the same. We must turn to the Savior if we hope to find real and lasting peace. The purpose of our tragedies is, I believe, not laid out and chosen beforehand, but is decided by us, by our willingness to create purpose through faith, to allow the Lord to create beauty for ashes. In this way, all tragedy, sickness, sorrow, and heartache serve one purpose. To invite us to Christ. It doesn’t matter that I walk through one fire and you through another. The invitation is the same, the soul-changing outcome equally available and continually offered.
We all know the story of Peter walking to Jesus on the water in midst of a tempest. He wanted to believe that this was Jesus and that He had all power. However, “when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand caught him.” (Matthew 14:30-31)
I’ve wondered if Peter, believing in the power of Jesus to calm the storm, lost faith when that expected outcome didn’t happen. I know I have done that countless times in my life. I believe the Lord can do a certain thing, therefore I believe he should do that thing. When it doesn’t happen, my faith waivers. Still, the Lord is there, unwaivering in His desire and ability to catch me.
Something I particularly love about this story of Peter is found in verse 32:
“And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.”
Peter not only came to Lord in the midst of a storm, but they returned to the ship together with the storm still raging around them. No doubt Peter would have preferred the wind and waves to stop and be still. In the midst of the storms of my life that is what I so often desire. Instead, the Savior stood on those storm tossed waves and bid Peter come. He was in it with him. He walked with Peter through that storm back to the ship. While the Lord has the power to shield us from storms, and sometimes He does, I believe the power that changes us is His willingness to be with us and catch us in those storms. My personal belief is that the Lord didn’t cause the storm as a teaching tool for His disciples, though obviously I don’t know for sure. Ultimately it doesn’t matter. The source of peace and safety in the midst of our storms remains the same.
I am so thankful for a knowledge of the Savior and His love that has become written in my heart. I trust Him. I know He is there, ever watching over me, grieving with me, rejoicing with me, and inviting me always. He is the source of peace of light. He is my source and my testimony is that He is continually waiting for each of us to come unto Him that He might heal us. He has purchased your peace and mine and stands ever offering His gift to any that will receive it. In the deepest corners of my heart that were once buried in pain and are now filled with light, I believe it. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.