God's Tender Mercies During Difficult Times
WHEN WE ASKED READERS to share how the gospel of Jesus Christ helps them during difficult times, many women responded. Three responses are printed below. It seems that sometimes we cling to a specific truth to help us through hard times, and sometimes we look back at hard times and realize that the gospel—with all its sustaining doctrines—supported us, changed us, made us better. No matter the process, reading how other women struggle and find a way to lean on Christ can help us recognize God's tender mercies in our own lives.
There's at least one low-life family in every neighborhood—they drink, they do drugs, they have loud parties and filthy yards full of old junky cars. The cops spend a lot of time at their house, and you feel sorry for their little son who has to listen to them screaming at each other in their front yard. You'd never invite them to church. You might even mention to the bishop that perhaps sisters shouldn't go into that house visiting teaching because of the danger and evil.
We were that family. We had no interest in religion, but there was a man, a former bishop, who hired my husband to work part-time at his gas station, and then became our home teacher. He visited faithfully. He was gentle and kind and witty, never looking down on us in our circumstances. He liked us, and we knew it. He kept asking us to go to church. We just laughed.
Finally, to humor him, we agreed to go to a prospective elder class. We went once, shaking and nervous and out of our element. A returned missionary taught a basic lesson about the plan of salvation and the three degrees of glory. The Spirit was so thick we couldn't deny it. My husband came home with lots of questions, and we called his cousin, a recently returned missionary, who agreed to come over the next day to answer our questions. But his cousin was a firefighter and got called out the next morning and never came.
The next Sunday, my husband angrily told me he wasn't going to spend every Sunday off in church. We went to the lake instead, with our cases of beer, some friends, and our two little sons, ages two and six weeks. We got drunk and careless. My husband and our little two-year-old drowned that day in the lake. I cannot describe the pain and shock I felt.
Through the next few days, I leaned on that strong, kind home teacher, who told me over and over that I would see my family again, that there was more than this life. I found myself clinging to gospel teachings.
I moved away and began to go to church. I was active, but I still drank to numb the pain. Finally, I made a promise to my bishop and stopped drinking. I went to the temple, expecting to literally see my loved ones. I was disappointed, but I knew there was something real there. I stayed faithful.
Now I have a deep testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel. I am active in the church and have a temple marriage to a wonderful man who honors his priesthood. I am a different person than I was thirty years ago. I'm sure those who knew me then would have never believed I could make such a change.
Don't give up on your “low-life” neighbors. Don't preach; just love them. Give them a place to turn when their Gethsemane hits. Miracles happen every day. Sometimes they look like tragedies, but God knows what He's doing. Don't turn your back on those who are less than you think they should be—they are God's children, too. God may be expecting you to touch them.
We all suffer from misfortune and heart-wrenching pain, but so often I—and others I see around me—seem to cloak ourselves in blankets of despair and depression. We turn our emotions inward, isolating ourselves, and wondering, “Why me?” We think no one understands, that we alone have experienced this depth of sorrow or breadth of suffering. Even Joseph Smith, in D&C 121, cried out in sheer agony and despair, “O God, where art thou?”
Rather than being upset with the question or rebuking the questioner, I am constantly amazed that Jesus replied with love, compassion and mercy. I believe the reason for Christ's kindly response comes in D&C 122. After a partial, yet profound, list of the adversities we may be called to endure, we learn that, “The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than He?”
Knowing that the Savior has experienced every kind of pain and suffering changes me. There is no frustration, trial or hardship that He does not know—personally. He was ridiculed, torn from family, falsely accused, starved, tempted, imprisoned, beaten, and crucified. Moreover, He had to endure the underlying, yet overwhelming, pain of knowing that His mother was witness to these atrocities and must have suffered incredibly herself. His great mercy comes because He has suffered all our pains, trials, hurts, disappointments, despairs, and tribulations himself. He knows us intimately, and He knows every possible thing we suffer just as intimately. I can question, “Why me?” but I know—in my mind, and more and more in my heart—that I have a Savior who knows exactly how I feel. Regardless of the ordeals or distress, I am never left alone.
“Guilty.” The voice of the jury foreman reverberated through the courtroom. I saw the color of my son's face drain to ashen white. Numb with shock, I watched as he was handcuffed and taken away. He would be in prison for a long, long time. A tragic car accident—two people dead—one son with a now-shattered life. How does a mother cope?
For years, I watched this child of promise choose a path that was far from “the right.” I had talked, prayed, lectured, threatened, and apologized. The last time he left home against my pleadings to remain, a dark spirit haunted me for days. Two months later, the accident occurred.
Many years ago as I struggled to understand his anguish, a calming impression came into my mind: “He is in my hands.” I clung to that whispering of the Spirit whenever I needed peace. It always returned, calming and reassuring me that my child was not forgotten by the Lord. After that shattering day in the courtroom, I was bewildered. Since he was in God's hands, why did this happen?
As I attempted to live a life of normalcy against a backdrop of emotional pain, I pondered this anomaly over and over: he's in God's hands, but he's in jail. One evening while serving my shift as a temple worker, the answer to “why?” came through the unmistakable whisper of the Spirit: “For his life to be spared.” In an instant, peace swept over me and I understood. My son had been removed from a path of self-destruction. He is “on hold” for a while, with time to think, ponder and repent. The Spirit has already told me that he can “return and reclaim his blessings.” Through the mercy and the Atonement of our Savior, I know he will.
Spring 2006 Focus Column Topic: What insight would you share with a young woman who is considering serving a mission?
Email your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your full name, street address, email address and phone number. Please type "focus" in the email subject line.