Friday, June 8, 2007

Enduring it Well

Last week Jo Anne hosted a bridal shower at our home.  One of the ladies who attended brought her son to visit with me while the shower was going on.  This was such a great blessing to me to be cloistered away in my bedroom with some male companionship and protected from the girlish fun, festivities, and chatter that 40 women inevitably bring with them to a bridal shower.  I was not reluctant however, to partake of the good food and dessert I must admit.

The young man I was privileged to visit with was badly injured in the mission field while riding his bicycle.  His pancreas was severely damaged and his life was in jeopardy for some time.  For months he was unable to eat and consequently lost about 50 or 60 pounds.  After many priesthood blessings, fasting and prayer on behalf of many, and skilled doctors performing a delicate surgery, he once again is beginning to be able to eat and is regaining his health and strength.  Hopefully if everything keeps going well he will be able to return to his field of labor in another six months. 

He is a wonderful and special person.  He was attending USC on an academic scholarship before entering the mission field, and is a young man of great potential and promise.  Having been very successful in life before his mission he was also being very productive and effective as a missionary, and then came this unfortunate accident which could easily have cost him his life.  What has happened to him, I am sure has caused him much serious reflection. 

He had many questions he wanted to ask me about a variety of things and I truly had a delightful time visiting with him.  Toward the end of our conversation he asked what I thought was a question for the ages.  He said, "Brother Rushton, what do you think I should learn from this experience?"  It seems like such a simple question and yet at the same time it is so very profound.  In asking the question I knew he had been doing a lot of soul-searching regarding why he would ever have had to experience this kind of problem while serving the Lord with all his heart in the mission field.

What follows is, in essence, what I tried to share with him that evening, but in more detail, as I have had time to reflect on it for a few days.  The first thing that came into my mind was that hopefully he would learn patience.  However, in saying patience I really mean much more than just patience.  The Scriptures would call it learning to "endure."  But it is more than just learning to "endure."  When my own accident occurred I was 50 years old, had served a mission, married in the temple, had served as a bishop and stake president, and with all that experience behind me felt that I was strong enough to endure what had happened to me.  In my mind I would say to myself "Jack, you can get through this.  It won't be easy but you can do it.  Just gird up your loins and gut it out."  And so, like a man in a cold wind and rain storm, in a sense I turned up the collar of my coat, turned my back to the storm, gritted my teeth and endured.  Guess what?  It didn't work!  I was miserable, my family was miserable, and I began to learn that apparently just enduring was not enough.  It was then I stumbled upon a great truth I had read for years but had not registered with me.  In Doctrine & Covenants 121 as Joseph pled with the Lord to find some meaning to his own brand of adversity the Lord said to him: "And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes."  [Doctrine & Covenants 121:8] [emphasis added] Of all the Scriptures that admonish us to endure to the end, this is the only verse I can find that tells us how to endure -- "endure it well."  For someone in my situation this was an important revelation.  I came to learn that it is not enough just to endure but we must endure it well.  If we endure it well we won't just be gritting our teeth and turning up our collar against the storm, but we will be experiencing peace and joy that will enable us to be productive, to serve others, and to especially be a blessing to our loved ones.

You are probably saying, "Well, Jack, that is all well and good but how do you get to that point in your life where in the midst of adversity you are able to rise to a level beyond just enduring, but enduring it well?"  Again, the answer came to me personally from the Scriptures.  It comes from that same context of Joseph learning great lessons about the purpose of adversity while incarcerated in Liberty Jail.  The Lord went on to tell him, after listing many of the trials Joseph had already suffered, the following: "... and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good."  [Doctrine & Covenants 122:7] [emphasis added]

For some time, but especially after my accident, I pondered upon that verse a great deal.  I would often ask myself, "Why are terrible things that happen to us supposed to be for our good?"  I just didn't get it!  Yes, I know they give us experience but is that all?  Was being paralyzed from the neck down and living on life support the rest of my life for my good?  Was it for the good of this young missionary to almost lose his life in a bicycle accident while serving a mission for the Lord?  Finally after really many years of pondering I think I finally got it.  You all probably are not as dense as I am and undoubtedly already have it. 

All of the horrible things that can happen to us in mortality will only be for our good if they humble us, drive us to our knees, and make us more dependent upon the Savior and less dependent upon the arm of flesh.  Adversity can either drive people away from faith in Christ or to an increased faith in Him.  When one comes to understand that he is not strong enough, smart enough, talented enough, etc. to make it on his own through this mortal experience and comes to Christ with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, then the Savior can strengthen the individual through the healing power of the atonement to "endure it well".  Then the adversity truly will be for our good.  I think I also have a deeper feeling for what King Benjamin said about mankind since coming to the realization I can't do it on my own.  "... I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come... And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God..." [Mosiah 4:11-12]
And so my young friend, hopefully you will learn to "endure it well" and turn to the Lord with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, casting your burden upon him with complete trust and faith in his goodness. If you do so, I believe I can promise you, because of my own experience, you will always be able to rejoice and be filled with the love of God regardless of what life may bring your way.



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