In all of my nineteen years I have learned so many different things. I have learned how to read. I have learned the quadratic formula. I’ve learned how to memorize. I have even learned what physics is and how the world around us works. But something that I have learned and will probably keep learning throughout the rest of my life is that life is hard. This life isn’t a walk in the park and it never will be. We were not put on this earth to breeze through life without any struggles or hardships and return back to our Father in Heaven thinking “well that was easy.” Nevertheless we were placed on this earth to grow and become like our Heavenly Father and we can’t do that without facing difficulty and adversity. There are going to be times when we feel like we can’t take one more step. Times when we feel that “the very fabric of our world tears at the seams” (Uchtdorf) and we want to yell out “I can’t do this anymore!” I know I personally have felt that way before. More times than I can even count.
Even though hard days are a guarantee in this life there is one thing we can do to have peace and even be joyful throughout our lives. Especially during those hard times. The one thing we can do is to be grateful. Now some of you might be thinking of your circumstances and thinking to yourself “my world is falling apart and the best thing you can tell me is to be grateful? You’ve got to be kidding me. What do I have to be grateful for?”
President Uchtdorf says it best when he says
“perhaps focusing on what we are grateful for is the wrong approach. It is difficult to develop a spirit of gratitude if our thankfulness is only proportional to the number of blessings we can count. True, it is important to frequently ‘count our blessings’ - and anyone who has tried this knows there are many—but I don’t believe the Lord expects us to be less thankful in times of trial than in times of abundance and ease. In fact, most of the scriptural references do not speak of gratitude for things but rather suggest an overall spirit or attitude of gratitude.”
end quote. In 1 Thessalonians 5 verse 18 it reads “In every thing give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” The world today might be telling us that to be grateful we first must have something to be grateful for. It’s easy to be grateful for the things when all seems to be going our way, but if you listen to that scripture it says in EVERY THING give thanks. It doesn’t say when life is easy or life is going just the way you want it to give thanks and when life gets a little rocky don’t worry bout it you gave enough thanks when life was going your way. No, in EVERY THING give thanks. Yes, it is important to give thanks during times of ease but how much happier and better off we will be if we can develop the attitude of gratitude that President Uchtdorf talked about and give thanks to God during the hard times as well.
Brothers and Sisters you remember the story of Nephi right? Well there is a part in Nephi’s story that gives such a great example of giving thanks in everything. Let me set the scene a little bit. This is after Nephi has built the ship and they have already been sailing for awhile. Laman and Lemuel are not happy by this point. In fact they are angry. Really angry. So angry that they tied up Nephi and left him there for days. His wrists and ankles “had swollen exceedingly,” (1 Nephi 18:15) The Liahona stopped working, the winds and the waves become traitorous, Lehi and Sariah have become immensely sick, Nephi’s wife and children have begged Laman and Lemuel to let Nephi go, and still they refused to release him. Those must have been such excruciating days for Nephi. But even through those exceedingly hard days Nephi gave thanks unto God. “Nevertheless, I did look unto my God, and I did praise him all the day long; and I did not murmur against the Lord because of mine afflictions.”(1 Nephi 18:16)
Developing an attitude of gratitude as Nephi did isn’t always such an easy thing. Some people may even be wondering what that means and how to develop it. Because I sure know I was wondering some of those exact same things. Just as the story of Nephi shows being grateful isn’t only thanking God once our problems are solved but thanking him along the way as well, but thanking him along the way doesn’t mean we have to like our current situation. I would guarantee Nephi wasn’t pleased to be tied up and watch his family struggle because of the pain he was going through. Thanking Heavenly Father along the way means that even though we may not understand why we are asked to go through such trials we have faith and trust enough in Him to say “Not my will but thine be done” (Luke 22:42) and that someday we might understand why we needed to overcome that trial in order to become the person our Heavenly Father needs us to be.
A little over a year and a half ago I had an experience that helped me to learn a little bit more about being able to say “Not my will but thine be done.”
As many of you know I play volleyball and I have been playing since I was in about eighth grade. It quickly became a huge part of my life. I played for Riverton High School on a little league team and then on the high school team as I went into high school then during the off season I played club. So as you can see my schedule began to revolve around volleyball and did so very quickly. I loved it though! There were lots of ups and downs as anything has but I loved it and I loved my team. It that was pretty much my life.
During my junior year of high school in about February my whole life was pretty much flipped upside down. I had been having troubles with my shoulder for the past couple of years. I had gone to different doctors about it and each doctor would say something different was wrong so I stopped going and continued to play. Well I had been complaining more frequently about my shoulder and the last doctor I had been to suggested that I get an MRI and my mom decided that was best. The results came back and sure enough I needed surgery. When I heard that I just laughed and said oh it’ll be fine. I’ve been playing on it for 3 years I’m sure if I wait until the end of November or the end of my senior year of high school ball I would be fine. The doctors agreed and said if that was the route I wanted to take then fine as long as I was careful.
I continued to play for my club team and I had it set in my mind that I was going to play through my senior year. No questions asked that was the plan and that was what I was going to do. When one day in February I thought to myself maybe you should ask if that is the Father’s will. and I thought oh yea easy peasy. I knelt in prayer that night and told Heavenly Father that I had made a decision to continue to play and have surgery in November after my senior year of volleyball and I asked if that was the right choice. Normally when you are asking Heavenly Father for guidance your answers don’t come while you’re on your knees but the second I finished my sentence I knew I was not to play high school. I didn’t even finish the prayer before I knew I had to stop and get surgery. I can’t even begin to describe how devastated I was. For weeks I would ask Heavenly Father the same question and for weeks I continued to get the same answer. I was not to play volleyball my senior year.
I remember thinking “Heavenly Father every year before tryouts I would ask if what I was doing was thy will for me, why would you let me continue to play up until my senior year and then just tell me to stop?” This was my life, it was all I had done for years. I had even switched schools to continue to play and just like that within seconds it was over. This was something I really really struggled with.
After I accepted the fact that this was the road I needed to go down I started to pray for strength. I prayed that I would know I was making the right decision. And that answer came. As I said before I had been playing on my shoulder for quite some time so obviously it wasn’t a huge annoyance on the court. After I prayed for strength and a conformation my shoulder started to weaken and I could physically feel it. It was a pain I had never felt before stream down my shoulder. I can’t even describe it. Some days I would have to sit out from practice because my shoulder was hurting so bad. When this NEVER happened before. It’s kind of weird to say that it was cool that my shoulder was hurting more and more but it was awesome!! Not the pain of course, but knowing that this was the next step in Heavenly Father’s plan for me and KNOWING it not just thinking it was.
A couple of months later I was called into the stake president’s office and they asked me to be on Riverton High School’s seminary council. When this happened I didn’t really think anything of it I was excited but I didn’t think being on seminary council would make it so I couldn’t play volleyball. I kept with the answer I had received to not play but now the only difference was I had a new calling. I still had no idea why the Lord would ask me to do such a hard thing. And I really struggled not knowing. I’m the kind of person that is like a 5 year old that wants to know the reason behind EVERYTHING. But the only thing I knew was I wasn’t supposed to play. For some reason because I didn’t know the why’s I assumed that that meant there was hope that right before tryouts Heavenly Father would tell me “This was just a test of faith good job you passed. You can play.”
Oh was I wrong. By the time mid July came around I decided I really needed to tell my coach I wasn’t playing anymore. Heavenly Father was serious and His answer was seriously NOT changing. The day that I told my coach that I wasn’t going to continue to play I had a meeting with one of the seminary teachers. Which was normal I had been spending a lot of time over at the seminary building being the middle man between the teachers and the other seminary council members. Passing along messages and so forth. This time it was a little different. He called me into his office and said that he wanted to extend a call to me. He told me that he wanted me to be the seminary president for this year. But, before I was allowed to accept he needed to know if I was heavily involved in sports because if I was it wasn’t going to work. They needed someone who could commit fully to the seminary council. In that moment I knew that was my answer I had been praying for. This was what my Heavenly Father had as the next thing in my life. There was something far better I could learn from being on seminary council then I could from being on the volleyball team. My heart pretty much jumped out of my chest in that moment. This is what the plan was for me all along. Heavenly Father had been preparing me for this and it felt amazing to know that I had made the right choice.
Brothers and sisters I testify that Heavenly Father has a plan for YOU. He knows what is best for you and what experiences you need to have in order to receive exaltation and become perfect like he is. Even in those hard times that you feel “your world is tearing at the seams” He is mindful of you and He knows what you need. Yes, it is very hard in those moments to say to the Father “Not my will but thine be done” I know it is. I have experienced it and I know I am going to experience it again and again. But, oh how worth it it is to say it no matter how hard it may be.
Look at the Savior. Look at the time he said “Not my will but thine be done” He was struggling. He was in the garden suffering and bleeding from every pore. No, it’s not easy to say “not my will but thine be done” especially when that means we must walk through our own “valley of the shadow of death,” (Psalms 23) but I know that when we have enough faith and gratitude to our own Father in Heaven to say “I know it’s not easy but I trust that you know what’s best” we will be so much happier. Why do you think that great plan He has for us is called “The Plan of Happiness”?
Being grateful in our circumstances means that we are able to glory in Christ’s infinite atonement. It means that we have enough faith to look beyond our circumstances and understand that there is a big picture. It means that even though we do not understand life’s trials we know that Heavenly Father does and that He can see the big picture and we trust that he does. There is going to be times that we are asked to do something that is hard. Like serving a mission, or getting a new group of friends, or going to a different school, and we may not understand why Heavenly Father would ask us to do that. But it is only after we are living what is asked that we receive your answer. In Ether 12:6 it reads “wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.”
After Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden of Eden they built an alter and on that alter they were commanded to “sacrifice the firstling of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord.” (Moses 5:5) And so they did. An angel then appeared unto them and asks “Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? and Adam [replied] I know not save the Lord commanded me.” And then and only then does the Angel tell Adam why he was commanded to offer the sacrifice. “For ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” Even though Adam and Eve had no clue why the Lord asked them to do something hard they learned to look past their circumstances and trust that the Lord knew what was best for them.
One of my favorite songs is “Be still my Soul” and there is a line in there that I absolutely love. It is in the second verse and it says
“Be still, my soul; Thy God doth undertake to guide the future as he as the past. They hope, thy confidence let nothing shake.”
Letting the Savior be the guide in our life’s can still our soul and bring peace to our minds. Knowing that He has guided us along in our journey so far He can and will continue to do so if we are but willing to say “Not my will but thine be done.” In doing so let nothing shake. Let us trust that by saying “Thy will be done” we know that Heavenly Father is looking out for us and even during those hard times we can know that they are helping shape us into the perfect celestial beings we can become.
I testify that Heavenly Father knows you. He knows you better than you know yourself. He loves you more than you can even comprehend. He wants you to return back to Him, live forever with your families and to be exalted on high. But in order for that to happen we must learn to say “Not my will but thine.” The best part of all of this is that Heavenly Father loves you enough to send you a Savior. So when you are in your own “valley of the shadow of death” there is someone there with you, in fact carrying you through the valley, so that you don’t have to walk it alone. He knows exactly what you are going through and exactly how to help you overcome your adversities. You just need to turn to him. And in doing so you will become a happier and joyful person, because you will have learned how to be grateful in your circumstances instead of for your circumstances.