We live in a time of great technological wonder. There are numerous gadgets and gizmos that make our lives easier . . . and yet in one aspect, more difficult. We are becoming a generation of skeptics, hardened by the belief that we are always entitled to a smooth road, one free of briars and brambles are that are actually part of this life's test.
I will admit, when trials come (something everyone experiences), it is possible to become angry, resentful, and bitter--to believe that heaven has turned its back toward us. When this happens, we sometimes begin to think that miracles no longer exist, especially when life doesn't work out the way we desired. I have learned that prayers are indeed answered (not always in the the way we envision, but answered, nonetheless), and that faith always precedes the miracle. (See Ether 12:12).
Faith is the first principle of the gospel for a very good reason. The belief in things hoped for and not seen (see Ether 12:6) is a fragile gift that can help us cope with the difficult things in life--if we will allow it to grow within our hearts. (See Alma 32: 21; 27-43). Since this life is a test, and most trials are soul-stretching adventures, they become a vehicle that can inspire faith to flourish . . . if we choose. With the gift of agency, it is up to each one of us to decide how we will react to the challenges in our lives.
In my own life, I have faced a myriad of tests and trials, too many to ever think I've been left on my own to flounder. With each experience, my faith and testimony have grown--I know miracles have transpired and my life has been repeatedly spared as a result. People who know me well, know that I have survived nearly burning off my face, a motorcycle incident that could've left me mangled or dead, a blood clot adventure that should've taken my life in an instant . . . but didn't, my father's suicide death, the numerous perils that often go along with Type 1 diabetes, the joy of a crippling form of rheumatoid arthritis, a semi-truck jack-knifing in front of me on a narrow canyon road--and somehow righting itself at the last possible minute before taking us both down a steep canyon drop-off, and most recently: a heart glitch. (There have been many other trials, but if I listed them all, we'd be here for hours.)
As my children have often stated, I am a walking miracle, proof that marvelous intervention from heaven does exist--if we simply believe. "For I am God, and mine arm is not shortened; and I will show miracles, signs, and wonders, unto all those who believe on my name." (D. & C. 35:8) Here's the key: "But without faith shall not anything be shown forth . . ." (D. & C. 35:11 . . . also, check out D. & C. 63:8-11).
And yet, bad things are allowed to happen, despite tremendous faith and prayer. I believe this is again, part of life's test. What will we do if we don't get the miracle we had hoped for? How will we respond if our loved one is taken away despite everything we did? Or how will we handle it if a wandering family member or friend continues to make poor choices even though we have fasted and prayed that they will find their way?
I don't pretend to understand everything that happens in this life. I've come to realize there are many items I won't comprehend until after this mortal existence is finished. I do know there are many trials that simply test our faith. Will we remain steadfast, even if we're brought to our knees in grief and pain? Will we continue to believe in God, despite the challenges we face? Those are the moments that test our mettle--and if we'll allow it, they can refine us in the way our Father desires. (See 1 Nephi 20:10).
How do I cope when bad things happen? Sometimes I throw myself, and weep and wail and slip into self-pity mode for a bit. ;) None of us are perfect, and we're all very human. We possess the tendency to resent it a lot when challenges arrive in our lives. I believe the true test lies in whether we will choose to rise above these very human emotions to put our trust in the Lord, and bend our will to His, or remain in self pity mode. It's not easy, and let's face it, bending often hurts . . . especially when one is dealing with arthritis. ;) But it's this process that refines our faith, renews hope within, and helps us to gain an eternal perspective of what is truly important.
After I've finished pouting over whatever it is I've been called upon to endure, I tend to fall back on tried and true methods to survive trials. For instance, I have a deep love of the scriptures. There are several that have brought me peace of heart and mind through the years, despite overwhelming inner pain. I have found that same peace inside the walls of the temple. There are days when I wish I could live inside of that sacred edifice--but when I finally emerge, I usually notice that my "armor" (See D. & C. 27:15-18) is in better shape. Each Sunday, as I partake of the sacrament, I feel lightened by the Spirit, another witness that we are never as alone as we sometimes believe we are when facing challenges. I also spend time in beautiful areas that renew my belief that this world was indeed created for us by a loving Father in heaven who wants us to find joy in life, despite difficult struggles. These experiences fill me with a sense of renewal.
The best way to push heartache aside will always be acts of service. Doing something for someone else, even when we're hurting, is a surefire way to feel a heavenly balm. Another key is to express gratitude for the blessings we do enjoy. Each day when I say my personal prayers, I begin by listing the blessings I'm thankful for at that time. This helps me keep in mind that good things are happening, despite the difficulties also taking place.
Push aside the gizmos, the gadgets, the social networking, etc. and get back to the basics. There is a time and season to all things, but we do need moments of peace and quiet to feel the comfort available to us from the Spirit. Also, avoid the tendency to become negative and judgmental. Realize that most people are doing the best that they can during trying circumstances--and reach out to help those who are struggling to keep their heads above water.
Again, we live in a remarkable world of technology. But it's like anything else--we need to establish a balance. Use these gizmos and gadgets to lift people up, to share positive beliefs, and don't allow them to block the quiet whisperings of the Spirit that help us to know that miracles are still very much a part of our lives, if we so choose.