Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Many years ago while serving as a young bishop, a family in the ward had a difficult struggle. I counseled with them, prayed with them, and prayed for them, but the problems persisted. I was agonizing over the eternal consequences of their behavior and didn't quite know what to do to help them. One evening just as I was going to bed and was pondering on how to best help this family the following words came powerfully into my mind: "Be still, and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10; Doctrine & Covenants 101:16) My interpretation of these words at that time was that nothing I was going to say or do was going to resolve the complex problems experienced by this family, but that in due time God would provide the solution and necessary healing. I still prayed for the family, and kept in contact with them, but no longer tried to influence them with my "wise counsel". I also quit worrying about the ultimate outcome and felt great peace regarding this situation. It took several years but the problems were eventually resolved and the family came back into full activity with all the promises of someday being an eternal family. As a bishop, I had learned a valuable lesson regarding trusting in the power and goodness of a loving and kind Heavenly Father while at the same time recognizing my own limitations as a human being.
A number of years later I was badly injured while body surfing at Laguna Beach, California. The accident happened in the afternoon. As soon as I was stabilized somewhat, I was transported to the ER room of the nearest trauma center, which was in Mission Viejo. I was surrounded by loving family and friends, who were a comfort to me; however, I was still in a dazed and shocked condition regarding what had happened.
At about 12 midnight the neurosurgeons sent everyone home so they could perform an MRI on me to fully diagnose the seriousness of my spinal cord injury. When all my loved ones left and the doctors began the MRI with me still in my swimming suit, strapped to a board, and unable to move or talk, I have never felt so alone. My mind was just churning with questions like: "Will I ever be able to move my body again?" "Will I ever be able to breathe on my own again?" "Will I ever be able to talk again?" "If I am seriously injured how will I ever financially be able to take care of my family?" "How will I ever be able to be a husband and father if I can't move my body?" "Will I ever be able to teach again or serve in the Church?" And the questions just kept coming and coming and there was no peace, but only a troubled heart and fear.
Then a wonderful thing happened as I began to silently pray. I heard no voice and really no words came to me, but there came the impression into my heart and mind that somehow, ultimately everything would be okay. I had no feeling that I would be healed in the sense that I would be able to walk, breathe, and lead a "normal" life. However, a great feeling of peace came into my heart and I knew that somehow my family and I would be able to get through this. Although the words didn't come as they did when I was serving as a bishop, the message nonetheless was the same, "Be still and know that I am God!"
Several days later the head neurosurgeon leaned over my bed and said "Jack, you will never move again. You will never breathe on your own again. You will never be able to eat solid food again. You will never be able to speak again. And you will never be able to live outside of some kind of care facility". I just knew that he was wrong and his words did not disturb me. I had it from a higher source that somehow a loving, kind and all powerful Heavenly Father would strengthen me to get through this. I didn't know how at the time except that I was to be "still" and know that "He was God!"
On the last night of his mortal experience the Savior counseled his beloved apostles by saying: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." [John 14:27] Elder Jeffrey R. Holland once said that the Savior's command to "not let our hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid" is probably the most frequently broken commandment the Lord has given to us. To be troubled and afraid of the present or the future is to not believe in the ultimate goodness and power of Heavenly Father. We are so prone to counsel the Lord as we question at times what life has brought to us. Jacob said it this way: "Wherefore, brethren, seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand. For behold, ye yourselves know that he counseleth in wisdom, and in justice, and in great mercy, over all his works." [Jacob 4:10]
I am still trying to learn this profound lesson about life. There simply is no other way to not be "troubled" or "afraid" than to absolutely trust in the ultimate goodness and power of God and to be "still" and not to "counsel" Him. We don't know why certain things happen to us or to our loved ones, and the worst question we could ever ask is "why"? A severely handicapped man with aching heart was pleading out loud, "Why me Lord?" And he then heard the words very loudly in his mind and heart, "Why not you?" We have to learn to be "still" and trust in God and in his great power and love for each one of us.
The essence of what I am trying to say, and what I have learned through personal experience, is to truly believe in the Lord's counsel to Joseph Smith and to all of us: "Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good..." [Doctrine & Covenants 90:25]