Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Seeking Light in the Darkness

I apologize once again for missing my usual day to blog. We were in attendance yesterday at a funeral for a loved one. These events are never easy things—hearts are tender, and grief descends. Even so, there is always hope. I will strive to explain why in today’s attempt at a blog post:

Years ago during my high school days, I was part of an advanced English class. We all thought the world of our teacher, a rather tall man who taught us the importance of imagery in compositions. For several weeks, we studied poetry, and how to interpret the meaning behind complicated words. One day, our teacher shared a dark poem about death. Since most of his classes were upbeat and filled with humor, this was a very different experience. After he recited this very dark poem that spoke volumes about hopelessness, he told us how it felt to stare down into the small grave for his young daughter, knowing there was nothing more—in his opinion, it all ended with the last breath of life.

Our hearts felt shredded on his behalf as he tearfully shared the greatest heartache of his mortal journey. I remember sitting there, feeling so torn. I had only recently gained a testimony about the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is filled with light and hope. Having lost a handful of loved ones myself by this point in time, my heart yearned to share the knowledge I had fought hard to gain about the reality of eternal life. I knew this life wasn’t the end. That witness burned within, and yet I felt so inadequate to share what I was beginning to understand. I left class that day feeling sad and conflicted. 

In time, death would strike our family again with my father's tragic suicide. I was 22 years old when this event occurred and the heartache was so intense, it nearly consumed me. I found myself bombarded with dark messages of doubt and fear. One person told me how sad it was that I would never see my father again since he would be residing in hell for his actions. Though I tried to consider the source of this negative information, it still plagued my tender heart. All of the “What ifs” descended and I fought daily to work through a pain I still can’t put into words.

Eventually, with God’s help, I sorted through the mixed messages, and I came to realize that hope is a very real thing. To find it, I discovered it was crucial to cling to prayer, scripture study, and doing acts of service for others to survive. Each time I did something for someone else, it chipped away at the pain I carried in my heart. Studying the scriptures helped me comprehend the purpose of mortal life and it strengthened my testimony. Daily prayer filled my heart with peace, something I desperately needed. 

I learned, again, that true peace comes from the knowledge that this life is not the end, nor was it the beginning. It is all explained in the plan of happiness known also as the plan of salvation—doctrine given to us by a loving Father in heaven, who knew we would need this information to survive the trials of mortal life.(See 2 Nephi 9:13) In a nutshell: we lived before this life as the spirit sons and daughters of God. We desired to be more like Him and a plan was formed that would provide this opportunity. It was explained that we would be sent to a mortal world where we would receive a body to house our spirit. It would be up to us to decide how we would live, and tests would surface that would challenge and strengthen us. Through these trials, we would grow and prove our willingness to obey our Father in heaven. 
(See: Abraham 3:24-25. Also: D. & C. 121:7-9; &; D. & C. 122:5, 7-9).

Since none of us are perfect, mistakes would occur, and an atonement would be provided by our Elder Brother, Jesus Christ. If we sincerely repented, His sacrifice would atone for our sins. (See: Alma 11:40) And because Jesus broke the bands of death ( See Alma 7:11-12, also: Mosiah 15:7-9) we would all live again. Eternal life is indeed the greatest of all gifts bestowed upon us by our Savior, and our Father in heaven. To quote a favorite passage of scripture: “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39) 

This life is not the end, and because of that fact, there is always hope. “And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal . . .” (Moroni 7:41)

The choices we make in this world matter—but all things will be taken into consideration and thank heavens, we are not the ones to judge each other concerning our state in the eternal realm. “ . . . for the Lord seeth not as a man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”
 (1 Sam. 16:7)

So we live each day as best we can, doing as much good as we possibly can, knowing that in the end, we all possess the potential to become as our Heavenly Father, and that we can see our loved ones again who have passed on before us. It hinges on what we do with this mortal life we’ve been given. There are difficult trials, but we’re never as alone as we sometimes think we are. Clinging to hope when all seems lost is one of the most difficult things we will do—and also one of the most important.

I read a passage of scripture earlier this morning that pretty well sums things up: “Wherefore, fear not even unto death; for in this world your joy is not full, but in me, your joy is full. Therefore, care not for the body, neither the life of the body; but care for the soul, and for the life of the soul. And seek the face of the Lord always, that in patience ye may possess your souls, and ye shall have eternal life . . . And all they who have mourned shall be comforted 
. . . Therefore, let your hearts be comforted . . . for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God.” (D. & C. 101:36-38; 14, 16)

And that, I suppose is the message I'm trying to share--on difficult days we must hope for better times, knowing we are always watched over by a loving Father in heaven who understands the entire picture, even if we do not. We must place our hand inside of His and trust that eventually, all will be well, whether it's on this side, or the other side of the veil that separates mortal life from eternity.

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