Monday, September 13, 2010

Spiritual Integrity

The other day I overheard Jo Anne talking to one of her friends on the phone. Her friend had asked how I was doing and Jo Anne said, "Well, he can only see out of one eye and not very well; his hearing is going bad, and he can't breathe or move his body, but other than that he is doing really well."

As I heard her describe me I actually began to feel a little sorry for myself and also for Jo Anne who has worked so hard in trying to keep me alive these many years. That feeling of self-pity lasted for only a second however, and was immediately replaced by the feelings of happiness, hope, peace, and a great sense of well-being I constantly experience. I almost feel guilty feeling as good as I do, given the circumstances. Being around Jo Anne every day I get the feeling she feels much as I do.

My son Mike is the gospel doctrine teacher in his ward and frequently we teach the same lesson on the same Sunday. We often discuss what we have taught after-the-fact, and I invariably gain some important insights from my son. As a former district attorney and now a judge, he has an uncanny ability to cut to the heart of things.

We both had just recently taught the Book of Job in our Sunday school classes. In talking to him he said, "Dad, in spite of what many people think, I don't believe the Book of Job answers the question of why bad things happen to good people." I agreed with Mike having just read through the 42 chapters of Job. Job never does know why so much adversity came into his life so unexpectedly.

I have often heard over the years, people asking the question "Why do bad things happen to good people?" To really address that question we ought to be asking as well, "Why do good things happen to bad people or why do good things happen to good people, or why do bad things happen to bad people?"

Because we have mortal bodies and live in a world governed by natural Law we are all subject to having both good and bad things come into our lives. God has the power to protect us from every bad thing but in doing so would take away from us the priceless gift of agency. Often overlooked in the Savior's parable of the houses built on the rock or the sand is the fact that the full fury of the storm came to both houses. The point is that the house built on Christ weathered the storm. Our "goodness," won't necessarily protect us from the storms of life but will give us the strength to weather them.

Mike and I concluded that the Book of Job was all about a good man, whose life was solidly built upon the rock, who never lost his "spiritual integrity," through good times and bad.

He was described as follows: "Job... was an upright man and one that feared God, [and turned his back on evil]..." [Job 1:1] He was also so wealthy that the author of Job said of him, "... this man was the greatest of all the men of the east." [Job 1:3].

Job was prospering, he was good, and it appears from the text we have been given he was not letting his wealth be a stumbling block in his relationship with his God. He was maintaining his "spiritual integrity" during his prosperous times without being lifted up in his pride.

Then, talk about having a bad day, in one day Job lost all of his wealth, his worldly possessions, and his posterity to death. His wife thought it was such a bad day she told him he ought to curse God and die. You have to love Job for his response: "... naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." [Job 1:21]

In making that statement Job maintained his "spiritual integrity" and was unwavering in his love for, and trust in God.

Having lost his wealth and posterity, and subsequently his health and the love and support of his family and friends, he didn't give up or give in. Even though his "friends" tried to sow the seeds of doubt in his mind that it was because of his unrepentant wickedness that he was being punished by God, Job knew better than that.

Job will forever be my personal hero and role model with regard to enduring well the adversities of life because of the following two statements he made after losing everything except his life: "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him..." [Job 13:15] "For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God..." [Job 19:25-26]

I do believe the only way we can maintain our "spiritual integrity" like Job, is through coming to know the Savior and trusting in his love and goodness during both the good times and bad times that come into all of our lives.

There are at least two other important principles that manifest themselves in the life of Job. The Lord loves us as he loved Job and though difficult to comprehend in the midst of our individual and customized adversity, ultimately as we are faithful he has assured us that all things will ultimately be for our good. "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God..." [Romance 8:28-- emphasis added]

I believe the key phrase in the Scripture is that all things work together for our good as we truly love the Lord. The Lord told Joseph, "... all these things shall give thee experience and shall be for thy good." [D&C 122:7]

I have come to understand however, as many as you have, that bad things are only good for us as they humble us, drive us to our knees, and draw us closer to the Savior.

21 years ago when neurosurgeons told me I would never breathe on my own again, move my body, speak, eat normal food, and never live outside a care facility for as long as I would live, I could not understand how this could possibly be good for me. Years later I can see what a blessing it has been in my life and how it has helped me to more fully know the Savior and to know for myself, independent of any other person, that he loves me and that this "tragic" accident at the beach has been for my good.

Finally, as Job endured faithfully and well his many afflictions, never doubting the love God had for him, "... the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before him." [Job 42:10]

I believe the Lord will do the same thing for each one of us as we endure faithfully and well to the end. I believe the blessings we will receive won't necessarily be of a material nature, but far more significant than anything the world has to offer.

The Scriptures teach: "But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. [Job 23:10, emphasis added]

Enduring well and trusting in a loving and kind Heavenly Father, will not position us to necessarily receive great worldly wealth, but as we are tried in the refiner's fire we will eventually become what the Lord sent us here to become.

He will also give the faithful the greatest gift that only God can bestow upon his children: "Behold, I am the law, and the light. Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life." [3 Nephi 15:9, [emphasis added]



Mom and Sarah said...

Dear Brother Rushton...I'm not even sure if you remember the Bowermans that used to live in the Orange Stake...we were there until about 1999. You worked a bit with our son, Chris, on his Eagle Project. Anyways, I'm so glad that I have access to your blog. I have so much enjoyed reading your recent entries. Blessings and hugs and more blessings to both of you!
Love, Lisa Bowerman

ionamin-W8FW8 said...

I am glad you are writing more blog posts. I enjoy reading them and learning from your insights, experience and wisdom.
Diane J. in Missouri