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Spiritual Resiliency

By Melissa McQuarrie

B2AB3CA6-AF22-46B7-A039-9EE1E35A994EEveryone in our ward adored Brother Brown.* His countenance radiated light and goodness; his testimony was firm, sincere, and powerful. He drew us in droves to his gospel doctrine class and then, as a loving priests quorum adviser, he shaped and molded hard-edged teenage boys into men. He was a skilled and busy physician, the father of eight children, a former bishop. A year ago last July, he was diagnosed with ALS and, despite ward fasts and priesthood blessings and seeking all possible treatment, Brother Brown died just before Thanksgiving. His wife, our former YW president, has not been back to our ward since the Sunday before he died, and some of our young women have struggled not only with Brother Brown’s death, but with watching their former beloved YW leader become less active. Just last Sunday in stake conference, a young woman from our ward spoke tearfully about her bruised faith in the wake of Brother Brown’s death. “I couldn’t understand why God would let it happen,” she said. “I was angry; I stopped reading my scriptures and praying.” My own daughter has struggled with similar doubts. “When Brother Brown died,” she recently told me, “I had to rethink all of those happily-ever-after, my-prayers-were-answered stories I heard in primary.”

Our ward was rocked similarly nine years ago when our neighbors’ three-year-old son was found floating face-down in their swimming pool during a Fourth of July barbecue, and despite our fasting and prayers, died two days later; and again, five years later, when another set of neighbors—a young couple—lost their eighteen-month-old son after a utilities worker backed over him in their driveway. In the days, weeks, and months that followed both deaths, as I heard the platitudes—“The Lord must have needed him on the other side,” “He must have been too pure for this world”—and watched two heart-shattered mothers bury their children, I questioned the Lord’s purposes. And as I saw both families suffer their grief’s fallout—sons who rebelled and didn’t go on missions, in the former family’s case; drug addiction, a nervous breakdown, and a bitter divorce in the young couple’s case—I wondered how a family weathers catastrophes with spiritual resiliency and whether we adequately teach this resiliency to our children.

When our children are small, we try to nourish their faith and help them trust in a loving God who answers prayers. Of course we want to keep it simple and focus on the positive. We tell faith-promoting stories about the little girl who miraculously recovered after receiving a priesthood blessing, the co-worker who gave up smoking overnight and got baptized, the lost car keys we found after praying, or the spiritual prompting we had to come inside just before the wind knocked over that tree. And yes, miracles do occur and faith is a real power and the Lord often answers our prayers in marvelous ways. But I wonder if, in our attempts to cultivate faith, we sometimes unwittingly also cultivate an attitude of spiritual entitlement—the idea that if we’re righteous and exercise enough faith and pray hard enough, our prayers will be answered in the way that we wish. A simple formula of goodness + prayer = no bad things will ever happen.

In my last blog post, “rk” (comment #72) said that a friend of hers spent $1200 on vet bills to save her sick cat so that her children’s belief in prayer wouldn’t be undermined. But what happens—and the day will come—when those children pray for something they want fiercely—a cure for their infertility, perhaps, or the recovery of a sick spouse—and the answer is no? I don’t think I’d spend $1200 on a dying cat (a dog, maybe, but not a cat), but I wonder if I manipulate my children’s faith in more subtle ways. In my attempt to protect them from tasting the bitter fruit and facing the harsh realities and complexities of a mortal existence, do I overemphasize the times when my prayers were miraculously answered and downplay those times when they weren’t—when I didn’t find the lost keys or ace the test or recover quickly from that illness?

Because the reality is pets die, people die, God’s ways are not our ways, and we might never understand in this life why some things happen the way they do. And somehow, while we help our children build a solid foundation of faith and confidence in God, we also need to find ways to help them become spiritually resilient—so they can endure those inexplicable, incomprehensible tests of faith inherent in mortality. And I think Brother Brown would cheer us on.

*Name has been changed.

What has helped you weather a crisis of faith? How can we better prepare our children (and ourselves) to endure hard things without losing their/our faith? At what ages is it appropriate to introduce some complexity in our gospel teachings? How can we teach our children that our prayers aren’t always answered in the way that we wish while still nurturing their faith?

About Melissa McQuarrie

(Advisory Board) grew up in Australia and California and now lives in Provo, Utah with her husband, four children, and their dog, Daisy. She served a mission in Peru and has a BA and MA in English from BYU. She loves reading, writing, and quiet afternoons. She does not love grocery shopping. Now that two of her children attend BYU and her youngest children are in high school and junior high, she is trying to adjust to this "emptying nest" stage and still wondering how it snuck up on her so fast.

70 thoughts on “Spiritual Resiliency”

  1. I, too, wonder about this. Right now my boys are praying for their Uncle in Afghanistan. They pray that he is protected. While I encourage that, I do worry about what to tell them if the worst does happen–which is hard to think about, much less type. My 8yo is right on the cusp of me thinking I should explain about how praying can't always fix everything, but still not wanting to at all. So I have no answers, just the same questions.

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  2. Wow, Melissa, that's a lot to think about!

    The biggest lesson I have been learning this past year is trusting the Lord to be the Lord, even – PARTICULARLY – when it makes no sense from where I am. I'm trying to teach my sons that we don't need to know the why's to everything. We WANT to know, but that so often isn't possible.

    The "be good = no bad" formula doesn't work – for anyone. I certainly don't believe it, and have no intention of telling my sons that it's valid.

    I tell my sons that it isn't Heavenly Father punishing me/us/them/people in various situations, more often it's the consequences of people using their agency, or just the way that the world was made, and the ways bodies get sick sometimes.

    Ultimately I just remind myself and my sons that I don't know – but God does. Heavenly Father and Jesus love us, and have promised that everything will work out, after the crud. Crud happens – we just have to try to survive the dumping, and not lie down and get buried by it. Sure we won't smell, look or feel that great during the barrage, but it will all wash off in the end.

    (Sorry for the imagery – having two sons who adore all butt related humour means adapting the similies accordingly to keep their attention!)

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  3. I truly believe that if I had enough faith, anything that I asked would be granted. But I don't believe I have that kind of faith, but I want to, so I continue reading the word of God and learning.

    I guess in order to teach our children the best we can and to avoid deep and harmful disappoint, we should stress that we have to give Heavenly Father our will and make His will ours.

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  4. This is exactly what sparked a crisis of faith for me several years ago when my uncle died. I wasn't even particularly close to him, but it was unexpected, and he died alone in a hotel room on a business trip. It has been troubling to me because I put so much stock in praying for my family's safety, but ultimately, it doesn't matter, if God's plan is different. Honestly, it often makes me feel like I'm being played.
    When I was in high school, my mom broke her back and was bed-ridden and on heavy pain meds for three years. I still wonder why such a critical thing happened to our family. It did a lot of emotional damage to me and my younger sister to not have a physically, mentally, or emotionally-present mother in our formative years. Sometimes I think it can add insult to injury to tell people who are suffering that they will be grateful for what they learn from their trials, or that God knew they could handle it. I think there are things in our lives that God causes to happen so we can learn, but I also think there are tragedies that God does not cause. I think, when a child dies, God understands what that means to us– Christ certainly understands our pain, since that is the point of the Atonement. I don't imagine God looking at us thinking how silly we are that we can't accept his will that our child died, or our dad has cancer, or whatever. I think he honestly feels pain for our pain. I don't understand why sometimes those things are allowed to happen and other times we are spared– and that really causes problems for me. But I am coming to learn and have faith in knowing God does care about our pain, and he is aware of us, even if I have know idea how it's all going to work out.
    So that was a long comment to say, clearly this is an issue for me. I'm very troubled about how I'm going to teach this to my children without crippling their faith, but while also teaching them to have realistic expectations.

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  5. Along the same lines, just like night I said to my husband "There is a huge inconsistency in the scriptures vs. real life. In the scriptures Jesus healed everyone that ever came to Him. I don't remember a story where He turned someone away. But in real life, I've known people to "Come unto Christ" and yet they're not healed." I've had a hard time with this idea of accessing the Atonement and some people being healed of trials, sins, etc, where other people seem to try, try and TRY to have that same faith, to call upon the Atonement to cleanse their sins with little result.

    Obviously we don't know their hearts or the efforts the way Heavenly Father does–but we know the hearts of those in the scriptures either and it seemed as if as long as you ask, you'll be healed.

    I feel like there must be an answer/explanation to this, but I don't know what it is.

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  6. I've been reading and commenting on Segulla for quite some time now and I feel like I need to share part of my story. It is pertinant to this discussion.

    I grew up in a very abusive home and yet we were raised with the gospel. Although the two did not easily co-habit in my family I still had a basic understanding of the gospel, the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, how to pray, etc. I have always had a testimony, strong and sure, of the Book of Mormon. I read it for the first time when I was 12 at the urging of my Beehive instructor and I've never lost that testimony. And yet, as I prayed almost daily that something would happen to stop the constant fighting, the hitting, the screaming and the torture nothing ever happened to ease my pain. My answer to my prayers as a youth was different. My Heavenly Father could not stop the actions of my parents but he could use me to stop the hurt from damaging my younger siblings – and so I took the brunt of the abuse, deflecting the anger and hostilities from my younger siblings and onto myself.

    As I write that, it is almost easy to think back on those times and not feel the hurt, but it has taken a long time to come to that point (and a lot of prayers, counseling, priesthood blessings, etc.) I no longer feel the pain, but the scars are there as a reminder of what I suffered at the hands of those who were supposed to love me.

    I struggled with depression throughout my life, attempted suicide many times, felt so unloved, unworthy of love. I cannot now remember ever hearing a time when my mother told me she loved me voluntarily. I remember vividly my father telling me he hated me and wished I had never been born. That I was a "stupid, worthless, good-for-nothing kid". As a result, I did not understand an essential gospel truth – the reality of a LOVING Heavenly Father. This lack of understanding would come to serve as my biggest trial in years to come.

    When I was in my late teens I started losing all sensation in my left leg. I started blacking out, experiencing heart palpitations, memory loss, complete exhaustion, the migraine headaches I had experienced as early as age 8 became a daily occurrence, and I started making decisions contrary to my better judgment, contrary to the testimony that I held deep within my heart.

    Doctors visits, tests, more doctors visits and years in pain and worry ensued. My depression deepened as my doctors could not determine what was causing this severe turn in my health.

    Due to some of my bad decisions I went from a young woman preparing to go on a mission to completely inactive in the church and living a life contrary to the will of my Father in Heaven. And yet, all this time, I never stopped praying that a doctor would find what was "wrong with me" and a way to fix it. That prayer was never answered.

    After nearly three years of inactivity my life was at rock bottom. The abyss, that I wrote about previously, had so completely engulfed me that I could feel no happiness, see no light, find no strength. I was very sick with pneumonia, no insurance, no money, had lost my job, my car, my fiancee,was soon to loose my apartment and was living 400 miles away from home, had not really spoken to my parents in years (they kicked me out of my home when I was 19), I was – to say the least – at a pivotal moment in my life. One more wrong decision was all it took to send me plunging over the edge, never to return.

    I was on my knees, pleading with my Father to take me home. I knew I no longer qualified to receive any of the degrees of glory, I knew I would never have a family of my own or live to see the happiness that I had so earnestly prayed for. I asked God to allow the sickness in my lungs to take it's course, to take me home, to end the suffering. I could not do it any more. After my weeping had subsided, the phone began to ring. It was my father. He told me to pack up my things, they were coming to take me home. The next day, the parents that I had so often prayed away as a child, drove the 400 miles to where I was, packed up what was left of my belongings, and brought me home.

    And so you see, my prayers were answered. God does not always answer prayers in the way you hoped for. Doctors never found what was wrong with me, I did. After ten years of searching, I found what was wrong with me, brought it to my doctor two years ago, and it was confirmed (I have Lupus). My parents hearts were softened, their marriage continues to this day, though not without struggles. My health continues to be a constant trial, but my fervent prayers for a happy family were answered when I married my husband.

    There is a primary song "Heavenly Father, are you really there? And do you hear and answer every child's prayer?" The question is answered: "Pray, He is there. Speak, he is listening. You are His child. His love now surrounds you. He hears your prayers. He loves the children…"

    If you are struggling to understand why it seems that your prayers are not answered, if you wonder why it feels as if the prayers of those around you are heard and yet yours are falling on deaf ears, I urge you, do not cease to pray. Our Father in Heaven does indeed hear and answer prayers. The answers may not always come in the time or manner that we hope for. He does not always cause a miracle to happen but this is because the ultimate miracle happened 2000 years ago when His Son suffered and paid the ultimate price so that we could be succored in our times of need.

    My story does not end here, but this is as far as I will write about for now. I hope it may have helped someone who was reading today. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share it.

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  7. In college, I somehow ended up in a small meeting with about 10 people in attendance and Elder Maxwell addressing us. At the end of his remarks, he opened the discussion up to questions. A young man in our group, who was paralyzed and in a wheelchair, asked Elder Maxwell the following:

    "If I have enough faith, could I ask to be healed?"

    Elder Maxwell's response was, "If you have enough faith, you will know whether you should ask or not."

    That really changed the way I view faith and prayers. The Lord's purposes are for me to grow and learn. I am usually growing and learning in the middle of a bunch of crises, not while I'm sailing happily through periods of my life. If I was smart or clever enough to grow and learn in the peaceful times, maybe I'd have a case.

    But I'm in the camp that says, "Bring it on". I want to figure this out, I want desperately to develop into the person I'm supposed to be. And since I'm not clever enough to do it while sailing calmly through my life, since I know it only comes in the struggle, it makes it easier for me to accept the struggle and the prayers answered in ways I don't like.

    Because everyone around me is struggling in some way, I feel like I'm supposed to figure out how to be happy now. I can't wait for a calm and perfect moment. It makes it a lot easier to trust the Lord and be happy even when it stinks. Because I know I'm learning. (hopefully!)

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  8. It's taken me a long time to realize that faith is not the same as wanting something really badly.

    I've seen too many people lose their testimonies when life gets hard and complicated. I want my children to know that that's how life is. There are happy endings, but many times not in this world.

    It's so easy to want to shield our children from any bad things (everything from making sure that they are safe from teasing at school to going to absurd length to make sure that they still believe in Santa Claus) but ultimately the best gift we can give our children is the knowledge that there is a lot of pain and unhappiness in life. Heavenly Father shouldn't be viewed as the source of their misery, but as the one who can heal our hearts.

    Aimee–thank you for that beautiful comment. it brought tears to my eyes.

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  9. I guess enough bad things and disappointment happened to me as a child that I never had an idealized view of life. This is both a good and a bad thing; it did help me develop a strong testimony of God's love for me, no matter what. It also caused me to develop a strong sense of futility, both spiritually and emotionally. While I don't want my children to feel as though their 'goodness' can always protect them and those they love from bad things, I don't want them to feel as if they have no control over their lives either.

    Anyways, when I think of spiritual resiliency I keep thinking of my sister-in-law who lost her husband after only a few years of marriage. The day the accident happened we went straight to her home to comfort her. After a few hours she went to her room, got dressed, and announced that she was going to the temple. I was honestly a little worried that she could even drive herself there, but I've always admired the fact that she knew where she needed to go for peace and strength (she didn't do a session-just asked to sit in the celestial room). I know she also turned to God in prayer (we all did) for answers, rather than looking to others.

    I think those are things I will teach my children. We read scriptures and pray to help us through the difficult times, not to prevent them. We ask God directly for answers instead of relying on cliches or semi-doctrinal platitudes. I also think we need to remember that we don't have to have the answers; faith isn't faith if we have everything figured out. It's OK to say to our children "I don't know", and even better "why don't we study the scriptures and pray to find out"–with a lot of love thrown in as well.

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  10. I appreciate this post. Somehow it allowed the Spirit to speak to me on a very personal level and understanding of my own life has sunk a little deeper. Thank you.

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  11. I love your reference to 'Spiritual Entitlement'!!!! It's so true. The first huge trial of my faith came via infertility. I was very poorly prepared to deal with a "no" answer. Good choices on my part coupled with blessings on His meant I'd had a pretty cushy life- I just didn't know it. I assumed that by doing "my part" he'd fill in the blanks. He didn't. At least, not for many years and way more trials than I'd have liked.

    I know God is not Santa Claus and yet my testimony has never fully recovered. I don't take my problems to him much anymore because I figure he wants me to figure it all out on my own anyway and it's easier to be disappointed in myself than it is to be disappointed in Him. I still attend church regularly and I HAVE been blessed with many great gifts and have grown enough to recognize them as gifts rather than my due. But in those dark times when I'm REALLY struggling- I turn away from him. It hurts less that way.

    I'm not sure how I will teach my kids so that they don't grow up with that same naive' approach to life and problems that I had. I just know that if I want them to be strong and faithful, I'll have to find a way to teach them their faith WILL let them down at times but it is still valueable. A difficult quandry and one that it's politically incorrect to even admit exists.

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  12. I think that what we have to remember and teach our children is not that if we are righteous bad things won't happen but that when we are righteous its easier to find the lords strength inside us when things go wrong. Making the trials we go through easier to endure.

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  13. Aimee, Wow. Thank you for sharing your life here. Such power in hearing the full story. Sometimes we forget that we are in the middle of something and want to see the end.

    I have so many thoughts, it's a sure thing I won't articulate well.

    We all agreed to come to earth to be tried and tested. Our trials are all different, but they are all hard, there is no comparing. It rains on the just and the unjust.

    Miggy, When you say that Christ healed everyone that came to him in the scriptures, I do remember at least one story- The rich man who asked about getting into heaven. He was told to give away all he had. And he went away grieving. (as far as I remember, I didn't double check) God is always willing to bless me and heal me in spirit, if not always in body. In my personal experience the only times that I have not felt the spirit in prayer it is because of my own bad attitude. To me that is a prayer answered. I didn't say that I get what I want, but that I feel the spirit. It is a confirmation of God's love for me, of his listening ear. God is not a heavenly vending machine, or as someone else pointed out, Santa Claus.

    I'd also like to point out the ultimate need for eternal perspective when seeking answers to these BIG questions. I see why FoxyJ's SIL went to the temple after her husband died, to remember eternity. Death is not the end. If we remember that then the sting of death is not as severe and we don't have to let it strangle us throughout life.

    And lastly I am amazed at the spiritual level we are being pushed to – we really have to put aside childish things. Our children are being forced to understand the gospel at a higher level. It is so difficult, God expects so much of us, but he knows us best and he can teach us if we will go to him and humbly listen.

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  14. Such thoughtful, deep comments! I'm glad we're exploring this difficult topic together. Aimee, thank you so much for sharing your story—I don't know how I could add anything to that. Suffice it to say that I was deeply touched and I know others will be touched as well.

    Selwyn—love the crud analogy—sometimes life just stinks. Your boys are lucky to have you as a mother.

    Miggy, perhaps Justine's comment will help you with your question—such wise thoughts, Justine. I also think we need to remember that Christ will always heal us from our sins, if we truly repent, but that isn't always the same thing as taking our trials away. But He can also heal us from the pain of those trials (and it is a process) as we learn to access the Atonement.

    Courtney, don't apologize for making a long comment—I appreciate your thoughts and your sharing your experiences with us.

    Jennie—I appreciate that distinction between faith and wanting things really badly. That's something I can teach my children.

    FoxyJ—I love the thoughts you've shared, especially in your last paragraph—such good advice.

    JLS—I 'm so glad this post helped you in some way today. 🙂

    Cynthia, I can relate to your feelings—I think we've all felt some of that spiritual disillusionment. I'm going to walk my dog and try to think of some advice I can share on how to deal with that disillusionment, and I'll be back later. 🙂

    Jendoop, thanks for the reminder that an eternal perspective helps.

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  15. Years ago the Church did a study to try and discover what the differences are between those who have experienced the programs including seminary and stayed faithful and their peers who had similar backgrounds but did not. What they found is that individual (personal) spiritual experiences matter. That is the difference. So all we can do is provide an environment that allows our children to enjoy personal spiritual experiences. These experiences are more resilience building than healings or other kinds of miraculous occurrences.

    It is always difficult to accept the death of a loved one and all the statements about being in a better place or being needed on the other side have done little to make me feel better about the loss of my parents. Telling me everything happens for a reason does not make me feel better about random things that nearly destroy my faith. The personal spiritual experiences I have had transcends all of those things and in my darkest most despairing hours I remember them and they mean more than any explanation or so called faith promoting story anyone can come up with.

    It is remarkable how many of those experiences have come as a result of reading the scriptures. So I think our children need to learn to sincerely pray to accept things as they are and to ask for understanding and peace. I think they need to understand that anger is a part of grief and it is all right to feel betrayed.I think they need to learn to turn to the Lord in prayer and seek his spirit in the scriptures when they most feel like turning away.

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  16. "Faith is not the same as wanting something really badly." Well said, Jennie.

    I completely agree it's important to teach our kids to expect suffering in life. As for why some prayers are answered and others are not? I wouldn't know what to say since I'm still working on that myself.

    Melissa M – I think you're right that resiliency is the key to surviving spiritually. Part of developing resiliency is having the right expectations about life. You post reminds me of a post I wrote about my experience with misplaced expectations:

    http://www.nourishment-blog.com/nourishment/Blog/Entries/2009/9/3_giving_up_magical_thinking.html

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  17. Like Aimee and FoxyJ, I had a tough childhood and never had any illusion of spiritual entitlement. When my children complain about their tough childhoods, I say, "Oh you had it easy. At least you had a mother who absolutely adored you and you always knew you were loved. The people you envy with the easy childhoods will eventually face adversity and some of them won't be able to handle it because they're under the illusion that life is intended to be a picnic."
    Carlfred Broderick gave an amazing talk in women's conference. As a stake president, he was disturbed by some stake program for the girls that gave the message that "if you marry in the temple, you will live happily ever after…" He wondered how those girls were going to feel if their husbands were unfaithful or one of their children died. He also taught most beautifully the concept that some valiant spirits chose to be born into abusive families in order to stop the generations of abuse. He shared things that he learned while giving priesthood blessings to members of his stake. Here's a link to his "The Uses of Adversity" talk:
    http://rusch.files.wordpress.com/2006/09/the-uses-of-adversity.pdf

    His talk was also recently published as a book by Deseret Book. Thanks Melissa for such a powerful post… (and thanks Aimee for such a powerful testimony)

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  18. Excellent post, Melissa. And Aimee, your story brought tears to my eyes.

    When I was in the midst of a difficult problem a few years ago, I really struggled to figure out what I was supposed to pray for. Was I supposed to pray for what I wanted? Because, after all, we're told that if we have unwavering faith and a righteous desire, we can move mountains. Or was I supposed to pray that God's will be done? A part of me felt like the "Thy will be done" prayer was the more spiritually "mature" prayer: Neal A. Maxwell's injunction, "the submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar" rang in my ears . . . and part of me wondered that if the truly faithful ever ask for anything at all. If they're able to serenely pray for strength and endurance and nothing more.

    But then I wondered if I was using that injunction as a cop out, too. Was I simply too afraid to ask for what I wanted and risk not getting it? Was I hiding behind my "thy will be done" prayers when really I was just lacking in faith? Did my "thy will be done" prayers actually undermine the efficacy of my faith because deep down, I didn't believe that God's will could ever be influenced by my own will?

    I still don't have good answers to these questions, frankly. But I ended up deciding that praying fervently for what I wanted–while trying to understand that things are ultimately in God's hands–felt right to me. It made me feel more powerful, it made me feel like God and I were in it together, it gave me a sense of spiritual purpose.

    I still pray for patience, understanding, and strength. I agree with Elder Maxwell that my personal will is the only unique thing I can offer God. But I'm not as unwilling as I used to be to let God know I have an opinion. The trick, for me, is not holding it against him when his opinion differs from mine.

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  19. This is something I think is so important to teach to my children– Heavenly Father knows best. And what we want isn't necessarily what is best for us. But Heavenly Father knows what's best for us, and will give us opportunities to grow in ways we wouldn't even think of (whether as a result of our agency or others, or as a trial packaged up just for us is irrelevant).

    When I pray and ask for something, I can get one of several answers: yes, no, nothing (in other words- you decide!), feelings of love or emptiness, specific promptings, etc. And just because we get the answer we think we want doesn't mean that things will work out the way we thought they would.

    For example, when I was looking for a job as a college graduate, I felt very strongly to look in a specific place, pursue a specific job, and I did, and got the job. The job was miserable. The same week I got engaged to my husband, I was pink slipped. Obviously, the prayer was answered (you need to move here), but with much different results than I had imagined. Once we were married I was offered another teaching job that held some promise. As we prayed about it, the answer, much to our surprise, was a resounding "NO!" A huge let-down. I found a job in a completely different field, and it was right. Things did not work out the way I/we had foreseen them, but they worked out better for us. Had I made the choices on my own, I would have taken a much different path, and my life would have a much different story.

    More recently, we prayed about increasing our family size. It was time. It was right. 14 1/2 weeks into the pregnancy, at the end of a family vacation, I miscarried. Devastating! But then we gained insights through blessings of some of the reasons why that happened- one of which was so that we would be better prepared to comfort those who went through the same horrible experience as we did. There were other touching, sacred insights as to why it happened, but that was one of them. Here, suffer, so you will be more understanding.

    Most recently, we prayed about the job that my husband currently has– and has had for a lengthy 3 1/2 months so far. It required a move 90 miles north to an itty-bitty town, and has been a fabulous job. My husband loves it, the salary and benefits are wonderful, and we are spending more time together as a family. We felt fabulous about it as we prayed about accepting the job. It was where we needed to be. And yet, we'll probably find out next week that he'll be unemployed come October 31st. With another baby on the way. The thought of moving back to where we came from and into his parent's basement is daunting (yet we realize the blessing of at least having that option…) The thought of trying to figure out how to pay for COBRA, and all the other expenses we have, without a job, and trying to FIND a new job, has been frightening, especially as we have worked hard to try to get out of debt. But this job felt SO right! Once again, our prayers were answered, but the results have not been at all what we were expecting. And we are left wondering why in the world he felt like he needed to take this job in the first place…

    The Lord does work in mysterious ways, and we're learning that we can choose how to take what is happening to us: either with bitterness and resentment towards Heavenly Father, or with faith that Heavenly Father sees the bigger picture and is leading us in the right direction. We're trying to stick with the faith path, although sometimes we want to pull our hair out and scream "WHY!!!". All I know is that when that trust is there that Heavenly Father takes care of us, despite trials, disappointments, frustrations, etc., it makes the difficulties so much more bearable. And while it seems cliche to say it, it helps us have a more eternal perspective. And so far, we've not been led astray. The scriptures, prayer, temple worship, all have helped us be a little more positive about our situation, despite the frustrations we have.

    These have all been lessons in faith for us. And things have not turned out how we expected them to turn out, at all, despite following the promptings we felt as we prayed. But we're learning faith. Not that our will will be done, but HIS. And I for one am grateful that things haven't turned out exactly as we expected, because I think of the blessings we would have missed had things gone our way. And so, we'll try to teach our kids those same lessons. Things work out the way they're supposed to. We just need to trust our Bus Driver.

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  20. In the past year, I have given a talk and several RS lessons related to this topic. There are 3 sources that I turn to regularly when facing questions like these. The definition of Prayer in the Bible dictionary; a talk by Elder Lance B. Wickman (entitled "But if Not") from the October, 2002 General conference; and Elder Scott's talk on prayer from the April, 2007 General Conference. If I had more time I'd write up more of my thoughts, but they are largely based on these sources. What I do know is that God loves us, He mourns with us when we mourn (and of course He does – this is one of the basic covenants we make at baptism, so shouldn't it be true of Him as well?). Faith doesn't mean getting what we want (as someone else has already said), it helps us through the rough patches. I love what Elder Maxwell said (posted by Justine): great faith helps us know what to ask for. That talk "But if Not" has a great example of that. Anyway, none of this is easy or simple. But there is a lot of love and compassion available to us as we try to muddle our way through.

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  21. A couple of years ago I read an article that talked about this topic. The article asked why we obey God. Then the author pointed out that if we teach our children that we obey God because he will bless us, at some point there will be trials and our children will feel like God is not loving or good and be disappointed and possibly angry. The author suggested that instead we teach our children that we obey God because we love Him.

    I think that now, more than ever, it is important that we understand what faith really is (trusting God's plan for us, not expending enough effort to make our plan happen) and know that while we are blessed when we follow God's plan, it does not exempt us from the trials of life.

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  22. Aimee-Thanks for sharing your powerful story.

    Justine-I loved this from your comment:

    “If I have enough faith, could I ask to be healed?”

    Elder Maxwell’s response was, “If you have enough faith, you will know whether you should ask or not.”

    There was a post here some time ago about prayer. The purpose of prayer (as in the Bible Dictionary) is to bring the will of the Father and our will into harmony (paraphrase).

    Spiritual resiliency comes as we practice meaningful prayer and do whatever it is we need to do as individuals to keep the spirit with us (Sunday school answers are important here, as well as following individual spiritual promptings-exercise is a big one for me).

    Trials are a part of this life. God does answer our prayers, but often not in the way that we would have chosen.

    A family member, young father, has been struggling with cancer. After one particular round of treatments, things were looking good and many of the comments on this family's blog said things such as:

    "With all of those prayers and family fasts God had no choice but to do this."

    This bothered me immensely! While I am grateful that the Lord's will has been to preserve this young father's life so far, the spiritual entitlement reflected here frustrates me.

    My aunt died of cancer this week, even after a family fast and many prayers. My cousin acknowledged about a week before her death that even though it was clear she would be taken soon, that they felt peace and knew that the Lord was mindful of them. I so admired how in tune she was.

    "If your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light and there shall be no darkness in you. And that body which is filled with light, comprehendeth all things" (Doctrine and Covenants 88:67)

    Does our understanding always come easily? No. Does it always come quickly? No. Sometimes the road is hard and feels very long, but our comprehension always comes when we continue to live our lives in such a way as to invite the spirit. The scriptures give us so many examples of great spiritual giants who were sorely tried and tested.

    I have had multiple conversations with my older girls (7 and 8) about the fact that the Lord doesn't always answer our prayers how we expect him to. I have had some personal experiences where in 20/20 hindsight I can see why the Lord's answers were so much better than mine, and have started with those types of experiences in teaching them. I also focus on the eternal perspective, because I think that helps us weather the storms of life. As they, and my younger children, get older we will continue to explore this topic.

    I could go on and on as this is an important topic to me. Thanks for sharing the original post. I look forward to reading the comments I have missed and those to come when I have more time.

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  23. Kathryn P. Thanks for your comment. My childhood was hard. It prepared me for life. I'm glad my children don't have that painful past, but I do wonder how they will have the strength for the future. Thanks for the link, I'm going there now.

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  24. After thinking about some of the other comments, I wanted to add one more thing. This is one of my favorite quotes from the Carlfred Broderick talk:

    "The gospel of Jesus Christ is not insurance against pain. It is resource in event of pain, and when that
    pain comes (and it will come because we came here on earth to have pain among other things), when it comes, rejoice that you have resources to deal with your pain."

    I am so grateful for the resources of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those resources have provided comfort, guidance, and miracles as our family has faced adversity. My success at utilizing those resources has improved dramatically with lots of practice. I was basically in the wilderness, with lots of predators and fears, for forty years. I finally am in the promised land because I no longer am afraid; I now have absolute faith in a loving Heavenly Father who provides all the resources I need to deal with adversity. I was actually told in a priesthood blessing that if I'd give up fear, Satan would lose his power over me, and I'd be choosing the easier road.

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  25. Wow, I'm having a hard time tearing myself away—haven't walked the dog yet. I wish I could respond to every one of your comments, but I just want to say how much I appreciate the thoughtful sharing all of you are doing—and thank you so much for mentioning scriptures, talks (Kathryn P., love that Carlfred Broderick talk), and other blog posts (Emily U., that was an amazing post) that have helped you. And I so appreciate your stories and experiences. Angela, I especially loved the last two lines of your comment—"But I’m not as unwilling as I used to be to let God know I have an opinion. The trick, for me, is not holding it against him when his opinion differs from mine." Thanks for so articulately expressing what I've been thinking.

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  26. Thank you so much for this post. It has given me a lot to think about.

    One thing we need to teach each other (especially children, but since I have none…I say each other), is that not all of our prayers will be answered in the way we want. But, we will always receive peace and the love of our Heavenly Father and Savior if we ask for it. I'm in the middle of the darkest period of my life (Oh, I pray it never gets worse), but I feel my Savior's love everyday as I pray and read my scriptures. I don't know how this trial will end, but I have faith that everything will work out…not necessarily the way I want, but it will be okay.

    And, I agree with "mom in the mountains," we can use our experiences to comfort others. That is a blessing of trials.

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  27. Aimee, I'd like to know more about your story, which sounds similar to mine. Will you email me? gardnera@netutah.com

    I think it's important to teach kids that without pain we cannot learn the things we are sent here to learn. Much pain is simply a natural part of life. People die. Evil exists and hurts us and the ones we love. Pain is a part of life—there is not one person every born who avoids disappointment and anguish, not one. I don't think God creates most of our pain, I think He allows life to happen in a way that, if we use it right, will help us to grow in the ways that are best for us.

    Not that it helps me to believe that. I know it. I expect it, now. But I still don't like it. I still would go back in a New York minute, were God to ask me, and just be a ministering angel. I would totally give up this body for eternity. And just play my harp and think sweet undeveloped thoughts and bring God his slippers.

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  28. I can't tear myself away from thinking about this post & the comments either. I realized that part if the issue is our perception of God, and what it means to say that God is good, wants what is best for us, etc. CS Lewis says that what we really want is not really a Father in Heaven, but more of a Grandfather in Heaven–someone who just wants us to be happy and have a good time.

    Instead we have a Father in Heaven who is much more concerned with our eternal & spiritual well-being than our temporary mortal comfort. Lewis says:

    But suppose that what you are up against is a surgeon who's intentions are wholly good. The kinder and more conscientious he is, the more inexorably he will go on cutting. If he yielded to your entreaties, if he stopped before the operation was complete, all pain up to that point would have been useless…If there is a good God, then these tortures are necessary. For no even moderately good Being could possibly inflict or permit them if they weren't.

    and then later in the same book:

    What do people mean when they say, "I am not afraid of God because I know he is good?" Have they never been to the dentist?

    Thanks for such a great discussion!

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  29. I grew up with a very sheltered life and had a wonderful childhood. I do remember being taught in Young Women's the general idea that if I was married in the temple, I would pretty much live happily ever after. Yeah I thought I would have some trials, but I never expected life to be really hard. It has been quite a rude awakening to find out what life is really like. It hasn't just been a rude awakening, it's been faith shaking (violently), earth shattering, and shocking. I know my parents and Young Women leaders had good intentions, but I really do wish I had been better prepared to face difficult things. I am in the thick of things still I sometimes have a hard time when I think of all the stories I heard as a youth of prayers being answered in miraculous ways. I wonder why in my darkest hours when I am begging Heavenly Father for some relief or comfort, I feel nothing. I am trying to stay hopeful and faithful though, because in the end, I cannot deny that God is there and he loves me. Thank you for this post Melissa and thank you Aimee for your story, I will keep praying.

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  30. Often I feel that we are victims of a faith that is filled with entitilement, ego, selfish self-centered ideas – which of course is not faith at all.

    We all get sick, we all die. And to teach each other anything else – number one – would not give credence to the atonement. Hello! Jesus suffered, died, buried – and we don't expect that to happen?
    I believe there are 3 answers to prayer: Yes, No, Wait – often it is the 3rd one, that we receive. I do not believe that this will make me a better person, that that is why it is given to me, that it was hand picked just for me or that I have the strength to bear it. I do believe that the Lord can take any situation and make it our benefit and that we choose whether to learn or not, to become closer to Heavenly Father or not. Our choice. And I obviously do not have the ability to handle it – or I would not need God or a community of believers.

    This is why after we always pour our hearts out to the Heavenly Father we say – Not my will, but Thine, be done.

    I never understood praying about which house, or believing God found your special carpet, keys or a parking space. We have minds those are our jobs. To say that God gave me a new beautiful house – is slapping the face of 3rd world countries and the poor here. Yes, we are God's blessed people – and what we recieve is Christ in our lives and the ability to fall on our faith no matter what happens.

    Fall on our faith, – not on our noses!
    We keeep trying and growing!

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  31. It used to be the norm to tell children cautionary tales (the boy who cries wolf, the gingerbread man who gets eaten when he rides across the river on a crocodile's nose, etc.) but over the last few decades parenting styles have changed. We shower our kids with toys, video games, and whatever else they want. We give trophies to losing soccer teams. And we tell happily-ever-after testimony-building stories.

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  32. This is something I have been thinking about for a long time now. Every time someone gets up in sacrament meeting and tells a story of miraculous healing, a part of me cringes a little bit. I was born with a genetic disease (cystic fibrosis) and since then have only developed more chronic health problems. Over the years, I have developed a strong testimony of several things – first, that this is the work of God in my life. This is the tool that He is using to make me the person He wants me to be. Second, that the miracle of healing does exist – but that sometimes, God chooses not to heal. And that, too, is an answer to prayer… if not necessarily the one we thought we were going to get.

    Also – I do pray for my lost car keys (or book, or wedding ring, or cell phone!). I also prayed about what college to attend and who to marry. I also used my best judgment when the answer to some of those prayers was, "Your choice." I know that everyone has a different approach, but for me, it is important to turn to God in everything – even the "little things." D&C 59:21– "and in nothing doth man offend God… save those who confess not his hand in all things."

    I do agree that we are meant to act for ourselves, to make our own decisions and find our own solutions. I also believe, however, that it is best to make the Lord a part of every piece of our lives – even the small things.

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  33. When parents send their children away from home and subject them unto the braindirtying they receive at both the secular and religious educational processes of this world, it is then that children morph into "kids" ;-(

    And sadly "kids" abound ;-(

    Where have all the children gone?

    Sacrificed unto the 'god' that is the educational processes of this wicked, evil world, for "the WHOLE world is under the control of the evil one" indeed and Truth…….

    Yet there is hope!

    For Miracles do happen…….

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  34. Cindy, I love C.S. Lewis.

    JK, Christy, annegb and others who are going through hard times, I hope you feel our sisterly love and support here at Segullah. It helps to know that you aren't alone, and I know others will be helped by the things that you've shared.

    cindy baldwin, I have often cringed myself when people speak about miraculous healings when others who are chronically or terminally ill are in the congregation. I think life is much more complex than we often acknowledge. Thanks for your insights.

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  35. Francis, I disagree. We need to be in the world but not of it. All humans must be exposed to the evils of the world. It is part of Heavenly Father's plan of happiness. I'd rather have my child be exposed to temptation, bullies, and heartaches of life now so they learn and grow while the "stakes" are low. In kindergarten the fights are about the playground ball, the swingset, or a pencil someone broke. If we hold on to our children until they are adults, their first temptations are from adult peers and include premarital sex, illicit drug use, and other high-stakes evils. I want my child's character and testimony to be tried and formed while he/she lives under my roof so I can be there to guide and help teach like a parent should.

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  36. Yes, Francis, I think your comment was off-topic. In another post we could discuss how much we should shelter our children from the world and whether we should send them to public schools……but thankfully, that isn't the topic of this post.

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  37. #5 Miggy, I wanted to share my thoughts about your comment that Jesus Christ healed everyone when he lived on earth but doesn't heal everyone now. When Jesus Christ began his ministry, he was a carpenter's son. They didn't have e-mail forwards, snopes, or 24-hour news channels to spread the word. Our Savior went from place to place performing miracles not to benefit those who needed to be healed (yes, those who were healed DID gain health), but to prove himself. To show that he was the Son of God whom the prophets testified should come into this world.

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  38. I need to comment this time. I am disturbed by those who think that faith and prayer will determine the will of our Heavenly Father. Faith and prayer are to bring us into accord with His will, not to bring His will into accord with our desires. We need to understand that and teach it to our children.

    My wonderful son was on a mission to Singapore in 1997 when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He had to come home and died 17 months later. He had tremendous faith and received many blessings. His parents and family and other people had considerable faith, but the will of the Father was that he not be healed. He never displayed any anger with his Father in Heaven, even though he wanted to get better and was sometimes angry about the illness and the pain.

    As his mother, I never felt anger either. I was distressed, worried, and often in tears, but I felt closer to the spirit than I have at any time in my life. I came to understand that things happen in life – they just happen. Our Heavenly Father can step in and alter things if it is necessary for His plan, but He usually does not. Instead, He is there with comfort, peace, strength, or whatever it is we need, if we will reach out to Him.

    I have had people hint that we didn't have enough faith, or that Jason was somehow not worthy enough to be healed, or any number of other ridiculous suggestions. The truth is, he had enough faith to accept the will of the Father without losing his own faith.

    I still miss him terribly. I still shed tears when something touches me just right. But, I have never felt abandoned or betrayed by Heavenly Father. When I most needed Him, I literally felt arms around me.

    Prayer is to bring us closer to Him. Teach your children that principle and they will understand that prayer is not about getting the answers we want, but about accepting the will of the Father.

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  39. Yes, yes, the people I know are more like Rosemary. In my current ward and the previous one we saw every sort of tragedy– early death, cancer, infertility, SIDS, car accidents etc.– and each person met it with grace and increased faith. In fact, the people I know who are really struggling with their faith right now are the ones whose lives are going relatively well.

    I wish my mother were still alive. She had so many prayers offered on her behalf. I sat by her side as she said, "You know you are part of a miracle!" and even though she is gone, I know I am.

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  40. This is a very good point, and something with which I have been struggling.

    I have seen powerful blessings of healing only to see someone pass on. I have seen extremely sick people with no faith get healed. I have seen blessings work. To be honest, it all seems somewhat arbitrary to me.

    We all fall back on "it's God's will" and we just need to learn to accept it and move on. At the end of the day, how is this much different from the Buddhist belief, for example, that suffering is caused in this world by attachment to things, and that we all just need to accept what happens to us as a result of karma. We need to let the bad things go.

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  41. I think the basic difference is that we don't "earn" getting healed, do we? Karma is more that we reap what we sow, or at least that's what Earl Hickey says. I don't see accepting God's will as a simple process. I liked the quote in comments earlier that explains that the Gospel doesn't shield us, but gives us the tools to cope and grow closer to our ultimate goal of exaltation.

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  42. When my daughter was four years old, she suffered the loss of her greatly anticipated baby sister, who only lived a couple of hours, who we knew we were going to lose, despite our fervent prayers. But because of the answers we received to those prayers, we were strengthened and comforted. But our daughter, to this day (she is 17) still struggles with the idea that she was somehow shorted. She has two younger brothers and a sister she prayed desperately for, but I know she has a hole where her sister was supposed to be. She is an amazing young woman, responsible, strong in her testimony, a great cook, straight A's. but her frustration and hurt still show… in her impatience with her younger brother, the one born after we lost the baby, in her declaration that she wishes she was an only child, in her wondering how she could be a mother… it hurts too much. Motherhood does hurt, but I have dwelt on its tremendous joys,and the hope the Savior gives us in enduring and the blessings of eternity. She knows this, but she also knows that happiness may need to be fought for, after the unhappy ending. It is a lesson I would not take from her, and we discuss it as a family… generally at Christmas time (her sister's birthday) and at Easter (the subject of ressurection. The younger kids feel it, know the story.
    Our point of view is the tip of an iceberg… God's view is the mass beneath the surface. Choices are made everyday, by us and those around us.I recently read, "God doesn't give us what we can handle; He helps us handle what we are given." This is exactly how I felt through this and other trials. They are hard. Excruciating, baffling. But I think of the Savior, feeling all those things, when he hadn't done anything to deserve them. And I know… his arms are around me.

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  43. Rosemary – How beautifully, and I believe accurately put – that faith and prayer put us in ACCORD WITH THE FATHER'S WILL! YEAH!!!

    Our need to control, our arrogance, our fear, our doubt, our self centerdness, our humanity – still likes to put us in control – and submission to the Father in spite of not knowing, not understanding – will heal us, eventually.

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  44. Just as a second witness to the blessings of the Gospel as a resource in hard times:

    Mid-August, 2005: For some unknown reason, the September Ensign came early — really early. The First Presidency message was by President Monson, and at first glance was on gratitude.

    But half-way through the article, his message changed:
    "One hot August day some years ago, there occurred a tragedy in Salt Lake County….

    He shared the story of the tragic death of five children. He counseled “There is one phrase which should be erased from your thinking and from the words you speak aloud. It is the phrase ‘If only.’ It is counterproductive and is not conducive to the spirit of healing and of peace. Rather, recall the words of Proverbs: ‘Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.’ 16”
    http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?hideNav=1&locale=0&sourceId=b9ce2ee01e31c010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD

    He shared the words of the Savior, full of comfort and strength. I read the article, puzzled at the change, but set it aside.

    It was only days later that the little boy was run over down the street. Only days until I understood why the message had come early, had come to our ward especially. It was a tragic time, but I know that Heavenly Father sent that much-needed message through His servant who I know prayed to do His will — that was the key.

    Faith is learning to seek, and to do, and to have strength to submit to God's will. As we are doing that, we will be blessed as God sees fit, and if we are seeking to understand by faith, we can come to peace, even if pain and difficulty aren't taken away.

    Heavenly Father loves each of us — each of our children. He will help us as we seek His guidance in teaching them about faith and prayer! Remember Alma’s counsel to his three sons (Alma 36-42)? Each message was specific to that child’s needs. Alma prayed for help in knowing what to say, and the Lord provided answers. We can be guided and inspired, too!

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  45. Rosemary, thank you so much for sharing your difficult story. You have a lot of wisdom to impart.

    I want to clarify my earlier comment, as I've been a little worried that it came across like I thought that those with enough faith could change the will of God–and I don't believe that at all. My personal belief is very much in line with what Rosemary has expressed: that prayer helps us draw closer to God and come in line with his will.

    What I was trying to express was my own personal reluctance for a few years to ask for *anything* in my prayers. I had come to the (what I believe to be mistaken) conclusion that if everything was God's will, then what was the point of prayer beyond praying for comfort? I knew for a fact that so many righteous, wonderful people had prayed with extraordinary faith for healing or assistance that they did not receive, so why should I express the desires of my heart to my Heavenly Father? I even worried that expressing the desires of my heart–righteous desires–meant that my relationship with God was underdeveloped. That if I was truly in line with God's will, then I wouldn't need to ask him for anything because everything in my life was the way it should be, since it was all under God's control. But that approach ended up leaving me feeling disconnected from God instead of close to him.

    I have learned since then that there are certain blessings in our lives that are contingent upon us asking for them, and that my ability to reach out to my Heavenly Father for help and exercise real faith (meaning: asking without knowing whether or not I would receive my desire, but asking anyway) was a skill that I needed to strengthen. I didn't feel that I was trying to *change* God's will, per se, but that the scriptural injunction "Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name it shall be given unto you, that is expedient for you" has real power–just as long as I'm willing to realize the clause "that is expedient for you" might mean a different answer to my prayer than I'd hoped to receive.

    I have a testimony that prayer is powerful. But I also realize that my understanding of how prayer really works is at best a faint understanding, and I'm working toward learning more.

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  46. Rosemary – Thank you so much for sharing your story. I was so worried by # 3's comment and where that logic leads "I truly believe that if I had enough faith, anything that I asked would be granted." – I just think that way of thinking is so dangerous because if we don't get something we pray for we question our own worthiness and I just think that is so sad.

    I think we have all been there, though, feeling like if I had just had more faith, if I just been a better person then xyz would have or not have happened. I know that I have struggled with feelings of unworthiness as we have faced multiple miscarriages and a very hard year of unemployment. I would feel really annoyed sometimes at people proclaiming what has been dubbed "spiritual entitlement."Sometimes I didn't even know what to pray for and know I am starting to realize that I should have been praying to know Heavenly Father's will for me more.

    Do I have faith we CAN have another baby? You bet. Do I have faith we WILL? No. I have hope we will. But what I have faith in is that no matter what happens Heavenly Father knows me and loves me and in the end everything will be okay.

    And what I also know is that my ways are not His ways and my thoughts are not HIs thoughts. I think Heavenly Father must shake his head and say "If they only knew…" when we, with our limited understandings, try to fiure out the "whys" to all of the things that happen to us. I think, for the most part, in this life we will never know the whys. That's where the faith comes in. Heaven;y Father knows all. We just have to trust in his love for us.

    In "Faith Preceeds the Miracle" Spencer W. Kimball has some great thoughts on this (Chapter 8).

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  47. I love this quote by President Hunter: "If our lives and our faith are centered on Jesus Christ and his restored gospel, nothing can ever go permanently wrong. On the other hand, if our lives are not centered on the Savior and his teachings, no other success can ever be permanently right."

    I also loved what Rosemary in comment #41 said about her son and his experience with cancer. "The truth is; he had enough faith to accept the will of the Father without losing his own faith."

    Friends, I think it's safe to say that we can all "one up" each other on horrific, trying experiences. If we really and truly knew and felt what one another was going through we would be awed, humbled, and shocked. We all have our own microcosm version of Gethsemane. I think what has helped me walk mine has been-in the very moment of fear, terror, anguish, abandonment and despair-to cling to the memory, hope, and faint glimmer of faith in the Savior. At my lowest lows when I don't waste time with the "why me"s, but re-commit myself to Him even before I feel peace again, that has helped me the most.

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  48. Rosemary thank you for sharing your touching experience.

    Michelle, I love that quote by President Hunter.

    What a wonderfully edifying discussion this has been. I realize how much Heavenly Father has to teach us and all that we must go through. Comfort is available but I know that sometimes I refuse to be comforted. Humbly I need to put my hand in his even when I am tempted to blame him for the hurt I feel. Then I realize there is no blame.

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  49. Rosemary, I so appreciate your sharing your experience. And I'm grateful you were able to feel the comfort of the Spirit through your very difficult trial. And I loved this: "The truth is, he had enough faith to accept the will of the Father without losing his own faith." I need to be more like that.

    Angela, I didn't think you came across in your first comment as seeming to say that those with enough faith can change God's will. But I appreciate your sharing your spiritual journey—I think a lot of us go through something similar. I'm still learning so much about prayer.

    Michelle L., even though your mother died, I continue to be amazed at the miracles that unfolded before her death, and I'm so glad to know your story.

    Merry Michelle, I love that quote by Pres. Hunter as well.

    Krista, heathermommy, and all of you who have shared a little of your experiences, thank you.

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  50. Wow.
    I read this post this morning and have been thinking about it all day. I read a few comments but my mind has been a swirling mess of stress and anxiety I wasn't able to make sense of anything.

    Then,
    I read more this evening. I was so touched by Aimee's story, and then kept reading more and more and agreeing with all (Jennie- I too have come to that realization somehow..Amen sista) It's honestly one of the deeper more spiritual times I've had reading on Segullah. I am soaking all of this up because of my own struggle with trying to find the role of prayer and faith in my own life. I love having answers, but end up frustrated when I dont. (which is ALL THE TIME.) How can I teach my own children when I just dont know myself?

    Somehow the anxiety that I've been experiencing is starting to lift. The fears I have about life, and it's unending battle seem a little less intense when I feel that I have the Lord on my side. The reasoning I use sometimes is that of the world – within time constraints. I often forget about the whole Eternal spectrum of things, and the actual purpose of this life. It's not as scary when I think about it from that perspective.

    Anyways, thanks for all the comments- and producing such a thought provoking post, Melissa.

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  51. Thank you for this very thought provoking post. I have definitely thought about this a lot lately as I see various members of our ward losing their jobs and having great trials associated with that.
    Our family just finished reading in the B of M about Abinadi, and I realized this was the perfect opportunity to discuss how sometimes bad things happen to righteous people. I'm looking forward to reading all the comments to gain more perspective. Thanks.

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  52. My mother died unexpectedly nearly four years ago now. We were best friends as well as mother / daughter. Our relationship grew stronger as I also became a mother thus, in a sense, her peer as well as her pupil.

    Making the decision to remove life supporting measures rocked me to my core. All of a sudden I had to let her go to a place I can't remember to a Father I realized I didn't really know. Intellectually I could prattle off how perfectly and completely He loved her, yet emotionally I struggled to have faith in that.

    During her two week hospital stay, the wake, funeral and sorting out her estate, I was fine. I cried and prayed, feeling an outpouring of the Spirit like I had never before known. It was as if I could reach behind me and the Savior would take my hand.

    Then, all of a sudden there was no one and nothing else to tend to…but me. Then I mourned, for my loss and hers, and endured the many stages of grief.

    That experience and the subsequent three years of very serious trials (in every possible way) brought me to my knees.

    I believe now that I didn't really have what I thought I did. In so many ways I needed to experience a breaking of myself, the me I cultured and groomed, for the Lord to build me back up again. What I built for myself, of my own efforts in all of the seemingly faithful ways was not effective nor was I what the Lord desired me to be.

    It's still so hard and so painful to let go and surrender as I need to but I feel it making something of me. I feel the fire that burns at times and soothes in others. I am learning to trust in God by going and doing, praying and waiting.

    I don't know that I can teach my children of this. I think they'll experience similar trials of their own and, in some strange sort of way, I really hope they do. What I can do is document it by journalling and loving them and identifying with them in an honest way.

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  53. I have been carrying this post around in my thoughts all day. (Also, I'm related distantly by marriage to the young family you refer to.) Mostly I just want to say thanks for sharing your experiences and deepening my thinking about this.

    I love what Jennie said about faith being different from really wanting something. At times I have treated prayer like Peter Pan's "clap if you believe in fairies" promise, as if I clapped/prayed hard enough, everything would work out okay. But that leads to its inverse, thinking that if it didn't work out, it was because I didn't pray hard enough. I've come to think of prayer and faith as a softening+strengthening process that helps us simultaneously become both flexible and strong enough to accept what comes, especially if it's different from what I thought I wanted.

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  54. Thanks Melissa for your kind words. Talking with women and sharing my love of the Gospel is such a help. I don't get enough "girl" time.

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  55. When I was 17 I suffered an extended bout of what I realize now was pretty serious depression. I finally broke down completely at work one day and had to have my mom come pick me up. I was confused, cold in my soul, and very scared. The only thing I could think to do was pray. What followed was a deeply spiritual experience that flooded my soul with light and love. Ever since then–through being single, through infertility, through miscarriages, through additional bouts of depression, and earlier this year, my mom's sudden death–the feeling of that day nearly 25 years ago has remained with me and carried me through.

    We haven't forced our trials on our children, but we haven't sheltered them either. It has given us opportunities to share our testimonies of God's love and of the blessings of the Spirit. And it has let them see how we respond to trials–tears, anger, frustration, but also prayer, fasting, searching the scriptures. I hope that they are learning what I learned that day so long ago: God is real, He loves each of individually and knows our trials and joys, and He will support us. Nothing is impossible or undoable when we remember Him.

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  56. Here's something else that popped into my head today: Here in central Texas we've been having one of the worst droughts on record. At the adult session of Stake Conference a few weeks ago the Stake Pres. stood up and said, "I've been praying for months to know whether we should approach the Lord in fasting and prayer for rain."

    That really bowled me over. If it were me I'd just think, "we need rain, therefore we should fast and pray for it."

    To me, my Stake Pres. was showing that he truly understands faith; that it's all about aligning our desires with what the Lord desires. Not usually the same thing, is it?

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  57. Excellent topic, well-expressed, and such a thoughtful discussion.

    I've been spiritually brittle for much of my life, and definitely had the attitude of spiritual entitlement. After a lot of experiences, I finally learned that when God says to acknowledge his hand in all things, he means it. Not just acknowleding his hand in the good things, but in all things. And when he says to praise him in all things, he means that too.

    When I finally acknowledged that God's hand was in the stuff I've been through (not the sorts of things you discuss in polite company, or ever acknowledge God would touch with a 10-foot pole), and then praised him for it, I started to see his will. I believe God has put me through such difficult situations to prove that if I'll just turn everything over to him, he will kick Satan's butt. Not make my life easy, but heal the hurt and give me the strength to deal with it if I ask for that strength every single day.

    Once I realized I could sing the song of redeeming love because God forgave me for my sins, I lost all sense of spiritual entitlement. I'm just overjoyed he redeemed me from the mess I've been in.

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  58. I was re-reading my earlier commenting and thinking that I sounded kind of curt and calloused. What I meant to express is that I am humbled and awed by the experiences all of you have shared. You are women of light, faith and hope even in the darkest of times. Thank you for your examples. You have faced your fears better than I have.

    I don't pretend to have all the answers. All I know is that Christ lives, He loves us and His atonement is accessible. And like Rosemary said, sometimes it is in our darkest moments that we see Him with more clarity. The best way I've found so far to teach my children faith and truest in Heavenly Father when hard things happen is to believe in Him myself.

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  59. I just can't keep up with you ladies. I want to respond thoughtfully to each of your comments, but I would be here all night. So here are just a few quick thoughts before I go to bed:

    Jennie, loved that story about your stake president. Interesting that he prayed to know whether he should pray for rain…..

    Sinclair, you expressed profound ideas with poetic language; I especially loved "In so many ways I needed to experience a breaking of myself, the me I cultured and groomed, for the Lord to build me back up again" (reminds me of the C.S. Lewis analogy about allowing the Lord to remake us into a palace instead of a cottage); and this: "I feel the fire that burns at times and soothes in others. I am learning to trust in God by going and doing, praying and waiting."

    Annie, watching the young couple I wrote about suffer through the death of their son and its aftermath was one of the most heart-wrenching things I've ever witnessed. I still can't comprehend how this sweet young woman could come week after week to church, brimming with sorrow and faith and exhibiting so much trust and humility—she has been such an example to me of faithful endurance through the deepest of trials. I love her. And I loved this statement of yours: "I’ve come to think of prayer and faith as a softening+strengthening process that helps us simultaneously become both flexible and strong enough to accept what comes, especially if it’s different from what I thought I wanted."

    Plain Jame, I'm glad your anxiety is starting to lessen and that you are feeling more peace.

    Laura, thank you for sharing that formative spiritual experience. I'm glad it's been an anchor to you over the years.

    Really, I could gush all night. But I'm grateful to all of you for contributing to such a meaningful discussion. I know that I, for one, have learned so much today.

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  60. Thank you for this insightful, timely post. I will be digesting your answers (and questions) for many days (years?) to come. Meanwhile, this morning, I came across where Paul (Hebrews 11-12) talks about two kinds of faith: 1)precipitating miracles and 2)enduring torments. I don't feel equal to comment on these verses at present, but since they immediately reminded me of this discussion, I hope you won't mind if I include them below, verbatim. Perhaps they'll be useful to somebody.

    32 And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of ….the prophets:
    33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
    34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
    35 Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain ba better resurrection:
    36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:
    37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;
    38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
    39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
    40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.

    (Chapter 12)
    1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
    2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
    3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

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  61. Melissa,

    This was a wonderful post. So beautifully expressed. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I have been touched by many of the comments and am so thankful for those that were willing to share their struggles as well as those who shared their faith.
    All of this has left me with two thoughts:

    First, Matthew 14. I was thinking about the disciples in the ship on the wind-tossed sea. A few things stand out to me. Though the storm was raging, the Savior did not come to them until the fourth watch of the night. He allowed them to experience the terribleness, the fear, the sickness, the physical pain that came with the stormy sea. C.S. Lewis said, "Pain is God's megaphone to rouse a deaf world". These were men of faith, yet, like all of us, there were parts of their souls that lacked faith and suffering brought those to the forefront.

    When Peter walked out on the water he showed faith, but how quickly doubt set in again. It was in that moment, when he feared most, that he cried out, "Lord, save me." And Jesus caught him.

    It is interesting to note that while Peter walked on the water and when Jesus caught him, the storm was still raging. Christ did not still the wind and waters in order for Peter to come to Him. Is it any wonder that Peter doubted further? Did he not suppose that in acting in faith the Lord would remove the trial of the storm to make it easier to come to Him? But He did not. And Peter began to sink. And in his desperation he cried out, realizing his dependence on the Savior. And the Savior caught him. And the storm still raged.

    "And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased". The Savior walked with Peter through the storm to return to the ship. He offered safety in the storm, not from it.

    Also of note, when the Savior first approached the ship his disciples did not recognize him. Is it possible that they had been experiencing the same thoughts expressed here, that having seen so many healings, so many miracles, they had an expectation of what the hand of God looked like in the midst of a storm? If the Savior truly were coming to them, wouldn't He have calmed the waters for them? Maybe they, like us, had been walking with their idea of God and were confused when that idea came up against the real God. Just a thought.

    Second, John 11 comes to mind. Verses 14 and 15, "Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe…"

    I think this goes back to Matthew 14 and allowing the storm to rage. While the Savior did raise Lazarus, there was much pain and grief experienced. Martha and Mary each proclaimed, "If thou hadst been here my brother would not have died." This was, I believe, both an expression of faith in the Savior's power and confusion and hurt that He had not saved their brother from death, and themselves from pain.

    I think it is also important to note that the Savior did not chastise them in their grief. He wept. He mourned with them, even for their grief. And yet, I think there was a part of Him that wept in gratitude. He thanked the Father for what He was about to do, knowing it was only through His power and in keeping with His will that it could be accomplished. I believe He wept for joy in anticipation of the similitude of resurrection that this miracle was to be. I believe He can teach us to experience pain in a way that feels more like gratitude for all of the possibilities before us.

    I know the scriptures are full of examples of "immediate results", but I think those stories are there more to offer us a spiritual template in understanding the Savior's desire, willingness, and abilitly to heal us when we suffer. Those people had suffered before being healed. There suffering brought them to the feet of the Savior. There loads were lightened, but their lives were not suffering-free. I would think being healed of one infirmity made it easier to bear others. Being healed of the infirmity of faithlessness, even in one area, makes it easier to bear additional struggles. I think that is what is offered. Suffering comes and we can come to the Savior "to the intent that we may believe".

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  62. Melissa,

    I am flattered and honored you took my brief anecdote of mine and created a such wonderful post that has generated some some thought-provoking and uplifting commentary. I've enjoyed hearing about everyone's journeys.

    A number of people have expressed concern and some dismay when people relate faith promoting stories in testimony meetings and elsewhere. I had a close family member die despite much fasting and prayer. I can honestly say that I don't begrudge these people's experience. I am happy for them. I do however think that we need to also regularly present the other side of the coin as well–that the Lord doesn't always grant our wishes, but we can be blessed in other ways if we allow it. That way it isn't such a shock when things don't go the way we want. This post is a great example of that.

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  63. Sunny, echoing what jendoop said. Loved, loved, loved those scriptural references and the insights you shared. And joylensky, thanks for sharing those scriptures as well.

    rk, thanks for providing the germ for this post! I agree that we need to "present the other side of the coin" so that we don't lose our faith when things don't go as planned. These have been such great comments!

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  64. jendoop and Melissa,

    Thanks. I made the mistake of not editing before I posted, so all I see is "there" instead of "their" and "bear" instead of "bare". Man, I that stuff bugs me so much!

    I think in my own life I have been much like I see Peter in this story. I want to be rescued from a particular situation so badly that I can't see the Lord extending His hand to rescue me spiritually. Or sometimes I make ultimatums like, "First you have to calm the waves, then I'll trust you". As if the God of Heaven and Earth cannot preserve me in my trials.

    And I have, at times, been bitter and lamented through tears as Mary and Martha, "You have all power! What has prevented you from performing a miracle here?" Again, it is the wrong question. I should be asking, "What is the miracle here?" There is never a lack of the Lord's mercy and miracles, I am simply looking- selfishly- for the wrong one.

    Thanks again for the post.

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  65. Sunny, I think we are all like Peter and Mary and Martha. It's hard to see anything else when the waves are swirling around you. I love your suggestion to look for the miracles that the Lord is extending to us—because they are there, even when we don't see them.

    I'm looking forward to your post on Sunday! 🙂

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