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Jennie, the Not-so-Powerful

By Hildie Westenhaver

I kind of don’t like the start of a New Year. It seems so open, so white, so overwhelming. I’m more of a baby step person. I like the idea of taking things a bit at a time. Which is why I dislike New Year’s resolutions. Most years I don’t even bother because I flop somewhere between January 2nd and the 15th.  This last year, though, I discovered something incredible; something that probably everyone except me has already learned: The Lord will help us keep our goals.  I mean, I’ve heard people say that with God, nothing is impossible. I’ve heard that a million times. And it’s not like I didn’t believe it. I just never really noticed how it worked in my life.

There was that one time I prayed when I was ten years old with every ounce of belief in my body that Heavenly Father would make me magic like Samantha on Bewitched. Surprisingly that prayer wasn’t answered.  Since then I just got the idea that Heavenly Father wants us to muddle through the best we can and pray for help when we need a little extra boost.

Earlier this year I need some help overcoming some emotional issues. Issues that there would be no way to resolve except through sheer willpower. I am not the best when it comes to willpower. Like, I have none.  It got bad enough that I knew I needed major help. My own strength was getting me nowhere. I needed something more: power, might, determination.

We Mormons sometimes have an almost strident need to differentiate ourselves from out Protestant brothers and sisters. I grew up hearing “the Lord helps those who helps themselves”. Our church is very “work, work, work”.  But Grace—the gift and acceptance of the Lord’s power—is not discussed as much. Maybe it’s just supposed to be understood. But I kind of missed the boat on that one.

I needed power. More power than I could ever hope to have.  I prayed. And begged. And pleaded. And hoped.

It worked! The Lord helped!  I know this seems really “duh” to a lot of people. But as a super self-sufficient person, this was new to me.

In the past my pleas for help have been more like footnotes at the end of weak and lame prayers. The humility—the knowledge that I simply could not do it alone—was completely missing.  But isn’t it so great that eventually our problems will be too overwhelming for us to handle alone? Isn’t it so wonderful that the Lord makes sure we have an opportunity to finally get smacked down enough to really, really, really need Him?

Okay, so I’m being a little sarcastic. But I’ve always resisted the need to ask the Lord for help. I thought I should always try to be strong enough on my own. And now that I have actually, truly asked, I am amazed and humbled even more. He has been there all along and, stupid me, I just didn’t get it.

Four days ago I set some goals. Not impossible ones. But hard ones. This year I am not afraid of failing. Maybe I will. The year is still wide-open and slightly overwhelming. But I know that I have someone mighty who will be helping.  If I cling to the Lord and stay close to Him, I will have His power behind me.

About Hildie Westenhaver

(Blog Team) was born and raised in Detroit, but is happy to call Austin, TX home now. She majored in Art History and Geography at BYU and graduated a week before having her first baby. There have been five more babies since then. Hildie is an avid baker and tries to fatten up the people she loves.

17 thoughts on “Jennie, the Not-so-Powerful”

  1. Wow. Last night I knelt in prayer and asked the Lord to teach me how to make my prayers more meaningful; more real. Thank you for this.

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  2. Perfect.
    "footnotes at the end of a lame prayer" Totally get that. We have been trying to teach our kids to offer sincere, meaningful prayers, only to realize they've probably had a poor example as we often rush through our family prayers.

    Thanks!

    (And who DIDN'T pray to be like Samantha?!)

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  3. I want to apologize in advance for this comment – I'm in a picky mood. Protestants are know for working hard – that does not make us different from them. That's where the expression "Protestant work ethic" comes from.

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  4. We all need help from the Lord and others. I have a problem asking for help and accepting it from others. I also have trouble expecting the Lord to help me these days. The last few years have been so hard in every way, emotionally, spiritually, financially, with family problems to name a few. I think I pray now without much faith some times. Then, He listens to others so He may do to me tonight. Maybe I don't hear Him, or recognise Him anymore.

    Aside from that, I no longer make New Year goals but have New Year wishes instead. This year I wish to learn to use a sewing machine, to crochet, and to lose half a stone.

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  5. Hallelujah, Jennie! As a convert to Mormonism from a strong Protestant upbringing, I have always been puzzled at the lack of understanding amongst the saints about the grace of God. We think that "you are saved by grace after all you can do" means "do everything you can on your own, then come to Me and I will make up the difference." This is False Doctrine. (with capital letters)God is not the "god of the gap" as Robert Millet says. That grace permeates all our efforts, bouys us up, saves us even when we delude ourselves into believing that "at least today I didn't sin." It is there all the time, as you noted, as essential as air.

    I like the connection you make between deep prayer and your new and improved understanding of grace. When we know in our bones that we live and breathe and act and love all by the grace of God, prayer becomes a continual re-connecting with that divine power.

    Sorry to ramble on. Grace (i.e., the love of God) is my favorite topic and one I think we ought to discuss in much more depth. I suggest reading Robert Millet's books on grace if you want to learn more about how it really works.

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  6. I think this is a common struggle for those of us who consider ourselves strong and capable. Giving up and allowing yourself to be guided by the Lord, sincerely asking for his help, and relenting the space to let it happen, is a lesson I, too, have had to learn.

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  7. Nancy R–I'm not saying Protestants are lazy. Just that there has been a big movement in Evangelical circles to get carried away with Grace. There needs to be both. Mormons tend to err on the side of "doing" whereas Christians, especially Evangelicals, tend to err on the side being "saved".

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  8. The sarcastic was my favorite part of your post – because I really have felt that way. At the end of the day, if it brings me to my knees, that's where I want to be. I recognize that the smackdown is often my forgetfulness/laziness in humbling myself before a smackdown is necessary.

    I agree with you on all points about grace. I remember an author who I'll misquote but the gist of it was, "why are you trying to save yourself with Christ as your adviser?"

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  9. I love this post, Jennie.

    And even as I'm not a fan of New Year's goals myself (I'm a baby steps and an ongoing goals kind of gal), this one thing — learning to trust God more, to let go and let Him help me — is my #1 goal right now.

    Thank you again for this great post.

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  10. And Lisa, you hit the nail on the head for me. I've so often approached 2 Ne 25:23 in the way you describe…somehow thinking that I had to figure it all out first, somehow 'deserve' God's grace, and then I could ask for it.

    Oh, how wrong I have been. I've been amazed to see how His grace really does permeate my life. The most remarkable truth about this is that He takes me exactly where I am and is willing to work with me from that point.

    In fact, for me, He feels like a champion of baby steps. He provides the ideals to strive for, but then He works with me, with all my weaknesses, all my shortcomings, all my fears, all my mistakes and sins, all my everything, and just says, "It's ok. I know you are trying. And I am here. Just let me be there for you. Let me in."

    I need to write it because I so often forget it.

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  11. I loved this. Thank you.

    I just saw this quote: “Sometimes as Latter-day Saints we talk and act as though recognizing the influence of the Holy Ghost in our lives is the rare or exceptional event. We should remember, however, that the covenant promise is that we may always have His Spirit to be with us.” -Elder David A. Bednar

    I need to be better at remembering that I can ALWAYS have His Spirit with me. Especially when I'm just trying to slog through life on my own.

    This is my goal this year…to be more open and receptive to what I know and feel. And then to act.

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  12. What a great topic, Jennie. I feel like you, that I often think of asking the Lord for help as a last resort instead of my first line of defense. When I was on the verge of making a huge decision in my life a few years back, and sought a blessing from my uncle. He asked me beforehand in the "interview" part, about previous big decisions I'd made. "Did you ask God? What did he say?" and it occured to me that I had never consulted God on any of the big decisions I'd made before. I guess I figuerd He didn't care much or if He did, He'd let me know. It was a real eye-opener as to how much I had kept God at a distance and I made a goal to try to consult him more often. And since then, on several important occasions, He has answered me and given me guidance. But your post is a good reminder to do it more often, to seek God's grace all the time, not just in times of trial.

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  13. I'm glad you know where to turn to in 2012 from our recent powerful experience! I know that I always need God because of my shortcomings that are there to constantly remind me.

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