Monday, February 6, 2012

Faith vs Fear II

I seldom if ever, look at myself in the mirror. For one thing, my eyesight is so bad, that I can't see myself very well even if I gaze into the mirror. I also think I don't like to be reminded that I am paralyzed and that my life, each moment, is totally dependent upon my life support system. Most of the time, I am not really conscious of being paralyzed, which may be hard for you to believe, but it is the truth.
Very infrequently, however, something will happen to me, like what happened to Peter when he walked on the water. As long as he was focused on the Savior, he was able to do this miraculous thing, but for just an instant he realized that what he was doing was really impossible for any human being to do, fear replaced faith, and he began to sink like a rock – no pun intended.
I tend to lose my focus and have my faith replaced by fear when I have health issues incident to being paralyzed, or when my ventilator, without warning, quits working like it did the other day. I can't really describe the feeling of panic and fear that comes to me when I am unable to breathe. I haven't read any studies on the subjects, but I think most people die because of not being able to breathe. In those moments, I also begin to sink like a rock, and fear replaces faith momentarily.
An incident in the Old Testament that I sadly can identify with is the dismal report of 10 of the 12 men chosen to enter and assess the productivity of the Land of Canaan and the nature of its inhabitants prior to the Israelites crossing into and possessing this land promised them of the Lord. To Moses and their fellow Israelites they reported: "... We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel... saying... And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers..." [Numbers 13: 31-33] [emphasis added]
Because their Israelite brothers and sisters believed their pessimistic words regarding their being "... as grasshoppers..." compared to the giants in the land, they lost their faith and confidence in themselves and in Jehovah and were forced to stumble through the wilderness for 40 years until that unbelieving generation passed away. Only Joshua and Caleb understood the profound truth delivered by Joshua to Israel: "... rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us...and the LORD is with us: fear them not." [Numbers 14: 3] [emphasis added]
I suspect there have been times in most of our lives when we have felt like grasshoppers, and in feeling so have forfeited great blessings that could have been ours, even as that unbelieving generation of Israelites gave up their right to enter the Promised Land because of a lack of faith in Jehovah and in themselves.
Let me share with you a "grasshopper" story from my past from which I learned a valuable lesson. I hope you won't think badly of me because of it. My cheeks still burn with embarrassment when I recall it years later.
I finished my full-time mission to Central America in May of 1961. For the last six months of my mission I was working very closely with our mission president, Victor C. Hancock. He was a visionary man and to make a long story short he instituted in our mission what would be a precursor to the MTC centers that are now found all over the world. I was privileged to work very closely with him in developing a program to assist newly arrived missionaries from the United States to jump start their adjustment and effectiveness with regard to missionary work. The program consisted of intense language study, gospel study, and then working with outstanding Elders in Guatemala City. I know it sounds like a no-brainer now, but then, when there was not even an MTC in Provo, it was a very revolutionary idea.
We felt the program was extremely successful and when the new missionaries eventually left Guatemala City for other parts of Central America they were much more comfortable and successful than had ever been the case prior to that time.
The last month and a half of my mission President Hancock assigned me and a junior companion, Dennis Morril, who incidentally would become my son John's mission president in Guatemala many years later, to visit all of the countries in Central America, hold workshops with the missionaries in the major cities, and then work with each set of Elders as we traveled from Costa Rica, to Nicaragua, to Honduras, El Salvador, and finally back to Guatemala. The tour was very successful and President Hancock was thrilled with what we had done.
The day after finishing the tour I boarded a plane to fly home, having completed a little over a 2 1/2 year mission. I had in my possession a letter of introduction President Hancock had written to President Henry D. Moyle, second counselor in the First Presidency of the Church and responsible for missionary work in Latin America. I was to go to the church office building, present my letter of introduction, and explain to whoever would listen, the important program we had implemented in the Central American Mission.
Well, I stepped off the airplane in Salt Lake City in all my post missionary glory and into the arms of my loving family. My suit was a rag; my shoes were totally worn out; my white shirt was frayed at the collar, -- you get the picture. Not mentioning to my parents my assignment from President Hancock, on our way out of town we passed by Temple Square and the church office building; imposing structures. I thought to myself that no general authority or anyone in the church office building would pay any attention to the likes of me. Feeling very much like a "grasshopper" compared to those celestial beings occupying the church office building, I never fulfilled my last assignment from President Hancock. I still have his letter of introduction to President Moyle and each time I read it my face turns a cherry red.
What blessings did I lose because of feeling like a "grasshopper" and letting fear replace faith in myself and the Lord to perform a very important mission? I will never know, but I would like to report that over the years I think I have finally conquered the "grasshopper syndrome" for the most part, except when I can't breathe.
Fear can be a debilitating thing in all our lives. It is usually indicative of an absence of faith.
President Hinckley, insightfully and truthfully, said on one occasion: "Who among us can say that he or she has not felt fear? I know of no one who has been entirely spared. Some, of course, experience fear to a greater degree than do others. Some are able to rise above it quickly, but others are trapped and pulled down by it and even driven to defeat. We suffer from the fear of ridicule, the fear of failure, the fear of loneliness, the fear of ignorance. Some fear the present, some the future...Let us recognize that fear comes not of God, but rather that this gnawing, destructive element comes from the adversary of truth and righteousness. Fear is the antithesis of faith. It is corrosive in its effects, even deadly." [Faith: The Essence of True Religion,]
Thankfully, I have learned the truthfulness of Paul's statement to the Philippians, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." [Philippians 4:13]


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