In 2009 April General Conference, President Monson gave a talk titled "Be of Good Cheer" and was speaking of discouraging things like the lagging economy, natural disasters, deteriorating morality and personal trials we are experiencing, then made this statement: “My beloved brothers and sisters, fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith.”
Can our faith really determine our future?
After Brother P. gave me the topic, I mentioned it in a letter to Alex (my missionary son) and he sent me this thought. "In psychology, there is a phenomena that occurs (I can't remember what it's called) where, for example, if you are going to shoot a basketball and you think, "don't miss," then you're more likely to miss; on the contrary, if you think, "go in," you're more likely to make it. The same thing applies to other thoughts as well; if you keep a positive attitude as in through faith-things are more likely to turn out brighter.
This is true and is an important concept that we could talk about for quite a while. When we go through trials, we can become stronger if we choose to be positive and learn from them, or we can become angry and turn away from God. Trials themselves do not make us stronger. Our faith, or lack of it, determines how we will think and act and those decisions, as President Monson has said, determine our future. That faith that Pres. Monson is talking about though is not just happy thoughts and correct self-talk. Our faith must be in Jesus Christ, the atonement, Heavenly Father and His promises, timing and will.
Sometimes we think that if we have believe what we want to come true will come true, that is faith. My freshman year at BYU I had a roommate who was in a wheelchair, paralyzed when she was very young. One day some men came to give her a blessing to be healed. After the blessing, they kept telling her to get up and walk. She tried and tried, but could not walk. They chastised her, saying that she must not have enough faith. Unfortunately, they did not understand that, while Heavenly Father has the power to heal any infirmity, it may not always be His will to do so. Aligning our will with His, even when, or especially when, it isn’t what we would want, is having faith.
Elder Richard G. Scott, “Trust in the Lord,” Ensign, Nov 1995 "To exercise faith is to trust that the Lord knows what He is doing with you and that He can accomplish it for your eternal good even though you cannot understand how He can possibly do it. We are like infants in our understanding of eternal matters and their impact on us here in mortality. Yet at times we act as if we know it all. When you pass through trials for His purposes, as you trust Him, exercise faith in Him, He will help you. That support will generally come step by step, a portion at a time. While you are passing through each phase, the pain and difficulty that comes from being enlarged will continue. If all matters were immediately resolved at your first petition, you could not grow. **Your Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son love you perfectly. They would not require you to experience a moment more of difficulty than is absolutely needed for your personal benefit or for that of those you love."
Faith is not only believing that Heavenly Father exists and that Jesus really did suffer and die for each of us. It is knowing that our loving Heavenly Father knows us and sees us always. He is always aware of our heartaches and our joys, our weaknesses and our efforts to progress. The more I learn and grow in the gospel, the more I can see His hand in my life, especially during the most difficult times. Yet sometimes fear instead of faith is my first response.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “‘Come unto Me’,” Ensign, Apr 1998, “The Lord has probably spoken enough such comforting words to supply the whole universe, it would seem, and yet we see all around us unhappy Latter-day Saints, worried Latter-day Saints, and gloomy Latter-day Saints into whose troubled hearts not one of these innumerable consoling words seems to be allowed to enter.”
(Me) There is so much we have to learn! We have the fullness of the gospel, but we don’t all always seem to let that fullness seep into our souls completely. We believe parts of it, but misunderstand or only have partial faith in other important aspects. Otherwise, why would there be so many of us who are unhappy and discouraged? Trials are part of this life and we all have them, but Heavenly Father never leaves us alone in those trials. It is up to us if we are to come unto Christ and allow his love and peace to fill us even in difficult times.
Elder Holland went on to say: “I submit to you that may be one of the Savior's commandments that is, even in the hearts of otherwise faithful Latter-day Saints, almost universally disobeyed; and yet I wonder whether our resistance to this invitation could be any more grievous to the Lord's merciful heart. I can tell you this as a parent: As concerned as I would be if somewhere in their lives one of my children were seriously troubled or unhappy or disobedient, nevertheless I would be infinitely more devastated if I felt that at such a time that child could not trust me to help, or should feel his or her interest were unimportant to me or unsafe in my care. In that same spirit, I am convinced that none of us can appreciate how deeply it wounds the loving heart of the Savior of the world when he finds that his people do not feel confident in his care or secure in his hands or trust in his commandments.”
Many times when I start to feel hopeless, I ask myself a simple question. “Do you believe or don’t you?” Since I’m talking to myself, I know what I mean. Do you believe that the atonement is enough? Do you believe that Heavenly Father keeps His promises? Do you believe that you are not alone? Do you believe that you can live in the Celestial Kingdom with your Heavenly Father someday? Just asking myself that question, “Do you believe or don’t you?” has jump started my hope again each time because I do believe.
My former stake president, President B. said in a stake conference, “If God allows a trial to continue despite faith, prayers and blessings, then maybe God, who know you and what you need, may just be trying to use that trial to save you."
How can we expect to develop the Christ-like attributes of patience and long-suffering if we do not have to wait for resolutions to problems or suffer long?
Dallin H. Oaks, "Spirituality," Ensign, Nov 1985 "Seen with the perspective of eternity, a temporal setback can be an opportunity to develop soul power of eternal significance. Strength is forged in adversity. Faith is developed in a setting where we cannot see what lies ahead."
Although we know that we can live again with our Father in Heaven and with our families, we cannot see what lies ahead in this life and sometimes that is scary for us.
In "Be of Good Cheer," Pres. Monson read a part of a poem called “The Gate of the Year”
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown!”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than [a] light and safer than a known way.”
Sometimes I have that mixed up and think that if I could just see the way ahead, I would feel safe and secure, but as the poem says, walking hand in hand with our Heavenly Father is even better because He is the perfect guide. We are blessed to have the knowledge of the plan of salvation. When we focus on an eternal perspective instead of our current pain or trial, we can be lifted up and see a glorious future. The atonement makes all things that are wrong, right.
To have faith means that we believe that the atonement is enough. There are several parts to the atonement. One part is that Jesus Christ suffered for our sins that we may repent, be made clean, and live again with the Father.
President M. said in our last stake conference, "Repentance is a call to be happy. We can only receive blessings that our Heavenly Father has for us if we've repented."
When we repent we exercise our faith in the atonement, can be happy, and will be worthy of blessings waiting for us.
Another part of the atonement is that Jesus felt our sorrows, sicknesses, pains and heartaches so that he may know how to succor us. Alma 7:12 ...and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
My favorite meaning of succor is “to run to”. Even though I can’t see him, I can just imagine at times when I feel especially burdened that Jesus is immediately aware of my heart and he comes running to be with me and to lift me. *The enabling power of the atonement can strengthen me to be stronger than I am alone and has helped me do things that I know I would not have been able to do. That power is real.
We are sent here to experience joy and happiness, but also trials and heartaches, but we are not sent to do it alone. Besides the Savior, one thing that has helped me is my patriarchal blessing and the promises that are there for me if I remain faithful.
Pres. Thomas S. Monson, Oct. 1986, "Your Patriarchal Blessing: A Liahona of Light" "Your blessing is not to be folded neatly and tucked away. It is not to be framed or published. Rather, it is to be read. It is to be loved. It is to be followed. Your patriarchal blessing will see you through the darkest night. It will guide you through life’s dangers... Your patriarchal blessing is to you a personal Liahona to chart your course and guide your way."
Another thing that has helped me through difficult times is the covenants that I have made and keep. It takes faith to keep those covenants and it increases our faith when we do. I know that Heavenly Father is bound when I keep those covenants. I love that word bound in this sense. Being bound to Him is very reassuring and helps me see a better future. I’m grateful for the strength that comes from keeping my covenants.
Recently, I had the opportunity to help at BYU Women’s Conference and hear a little of the opening session.
Sis. Wendy Watson Nelson “There is nothing more important than making covenants with God and then keeping them with increasing precision because making covenants with God calls forth the divine within us and keeping our covenants with God allows him to pour his divine power into us.”
In Oct. 2014 conference, Elder Klebingat said, “Selective obedience brings selective blessings.” I want all the blessings that my Heavenly Father has for me so I know that I need to keep all my covenants.
There was a Family Circus comic where one of the children asks the mother, “Do caterpillars know they are going to become butterflies, or does God want to surprise them?”
How blessed we are to know our eternal potential and to know that we will become butterflies someday. Just as the butterfly has to be patient inside the chrysalis, enduring the slow, possibly painful changes,, we can’t desire to have our wings with no trials and no perseverance. Maybe if the next time I’m tested by my circumstances, I can think that the pain is just my wings growing a bit more and I can have the patience to endure it and the faith to know Heavenly Father is in charge and He can see what I cannot.