Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"My Soul Hungered"

The last few days have been really interesting for me.  It was a little difficult for me to find motivation and to do the things I knew I should do.  I just felt tired and weary, and I wanted some respite from the troubles and worries of life.  I'm sure you've gone through times where you've felt the same way.  It's not a very fun feeling, and it can make it rather difficult to want to do anything worthwhile.

I did my best not to shrink into a puddle of self-pity and sorrow, and I tried to keep a positive attitude about the things that were going on.  But like I said, it wasn't easy.  I found as I kept focused on the things that matter most, and looked for good things around me, I was able to make it through alright.  I was still looking for something more, though.  I didn't want to just make it from day to day, barely hanging on to a little bit of happiness.  I wanted to find true joy again, to have the promise given in Isaiah 40:31 fulfilled, where it says, "they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."

I wasn't finding that kind of strength in the things I was doing, so I figured that I would need to try something more.  I had been praying, but I hadn't been making them as meaningful as they could have been.  Sometimes it's easy to slip into a habit of making prayers almost part of a checklist, of sorts, where you say them mostly just to say them.  I sincerely desired the answers to my prayers, but I wasn't making a sincere effort to listen or to let Heavenly Father know that I did need and want His divine help.

I made an effort that night, to truly pour out my soul to God, and simply let Him know that I was having a hard time.  I knew that I couldn't overcome my struggles on my own, but I trusted that He could guide me through them.  I felt peace in my heart as I climbed into bed, and a sense that everything would turn out alright.  Since then, I won't say that everything has magically fixed itself and life no longer throws a wrench or two in the cogs of my day, but I have noticed a significant change.  I have been able to find greater joy again, and to not be so worried about all of the little things that were bringing me down before.

Prayer is such an amazing gift, one that I often find myself not fully utilizing.  We have the opportunity to talk with Our Father in Heaven, to let Him know what we are thankful for, and the things that we stand in need of.  Truly "the Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him." However, He asks us to prove to him that we truly desire those things, and one of the ways that we can show that desire is through sincere, humble prayer.  Prayer is a form of work, and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.

As I have recognized God's answer to my prayer, and His love for me, I have felt somewhat like Enos, a man in the Book of Mormon.  Enos was the son of a prophet, who had often heard the things is father taught.  He, for whatever reason, had never really paid full attention to what those prophesies and teachings meant to his life.  One day, while Enos was hunting in the wilderness, he reflected upon the things his father had taught, and as he says, "the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart."
"And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens." (Enos 1:3-4)

As Enos prayed, he came to know that God truly was there, and that the things which his father had taught him were true.  Through my prayer, I have also come to know that God is there, and the He loves us, more than we can ever imagine.  I've felt His love in my life, and especially in these last few days, as I have turned to Him for my guidance and strength.  My soul hungered for assistance beyond what any mortal could give, and as I humbled myself before God and offered the desires of my heart to Him, He listened.  Because He lives and loves us, He listens to and answers our prayers.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

"All things denote there is a God..."

It's that time of year again, when the leaves begin to change color and fall from the trees.  I've always loved the autumn season.  It's the perfect weather, not too hot, but not freezing cold, and there's just something in the air.  Maybe it's the football season, or maybe it's that Thanksgiving is shortly around the corner.  Whatever it is, I really enjoy this season!

There's always something in every season that makes me stop and think, whether it's the intricacy of new leaves budding on tree branches, the crystallized architecture of a snow flake, or the vast array of painted leaves.  It just doesn't seem like those things could just be an accident to me.  To think that somehow, by mere coincidence, our planet ended up just the right distance away from the sun, and had just the right combination of gases and elements to sustain complex life forms, is unfathomable to me.  That trees and mountains and birds and animals just somehow appeared.... I don't get it.  Then you take into account the human race.  An organism so complex that not only can we survive on carnal instincts, but we can reason and create, feel and comprehend.

There was a man by the name of Korihor in the Book of Mormon who traveled among the people, trying to convince them that a belief in God was a foolish thing.  Alma, the prophet and the time, and Amulek, a great missionary, were spreading the word of God amongst the people, and ran into Korihor.  Korihor tells them that unless he is shown a sign, that he felt there was no reason he should believe in God.  Alma explains to him that "all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator."

I know that there is a God out there, and that He loves us.  I've seen evidences of His love in my life, and in the lives of those around me.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

General Conference Individually

General Conference!  Every six months, the prophet, apostles, and other leaders of  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints gather to speak.  Their words are broadcast by radio, internet, and satellite all around the world.  In preparation for these talks, the assigned speakers prayerfully consider the message that God would have them present to the masses.  And yet, somehow, in the midst of all of the grandeur, they reach out to the one.

I've noticed, especially over the last few years, that every time I listen to General Conference, something is said that is meant just for me.  Sometimes I don't even realize that I am in need of whatever is said until it leaves their mouths and hits me like a ton of bricks.  My questions are answered, and I have a renewed desire to follow the commandments of God and the counsel of His servants.

This last Saturday and Sunday were the General Conference broadcasts, and they couldn't have come at a better time for me.  I received a call from my mission president Saturday morning, letting me know that my grandpa had lost his battle with cancer early that morning.  It wasn't unexpected, he'd been suffering from it for a long time, but it still wasn't easy to hear.  I called home right before the broadcasts began, and I was able to talk to my mom.  She said that it definitely wasn't an easy thing for them either, but that they were doing alright.  One of the joys of the gospel is knowing that this life is not the end, that there is more after we pass on.  But I was still kinda having a hard time accepting the fact that my grandpa was gone, and I was in definite need of some peace and comfort in my life.  I wasn't really sure how to move on, what would be the best course of action.

Enter General Conference.  The very first broadcast, on Saturday morning, I think was specifically for me.  Elder Jeffery R. Holland, one of the apostles, talked about the worth of individuals, how everyone was so important to God.  That really helped me to realize again that even though I was struggling, I was not alone.  Then President Uchtdorf, a member of the First Presidency, spoke.  His talk was exactly what I needed to hear.  He spoke about struggles in life, how they will come, but how we can weather the storm.   As I listened to his message, I just felt this wonderful feeling of comfort come over me.  I knew that things would be alright.

When hardships come up in life, my natural tendency is to forge full-speed ahead and see if I can just cruise over whatever roadblock is in front of me.  That was my basic game plan for this situation as well.  If I could keep myself busy enough that I wouldn't have to think about my grandpa's death, then I wouldn't have to deal with it, right?  Well, not quite.  I realized that I needed to take time and come to grips with the loss, and then I would be able to more effective go about life.  I've seen since that had I not taken that time to fully comprehend the situation, that later on, it could have caused some pretty big problems.

It's so amazing to me that God knows exactly how to meet each one of our needs perfectly.  I'm not saying that it surprises me, but it never ceases to amaze me.  He knew that I would need to hear that message long before I did, and prepared a way for me to hear it. "[F]or your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him." (Matt. 6:8)  Even though the broadcast was watched by several million viewers, it spoke directly to little old me.  I was in dire need of those words of counsel and strength.

What lessons spoke directly to you?

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Ministering of Angels

This post is a long time in coming, so hopefully I can remember everything that I wanted to say.  It's been quite a hectic week, and I haven't had the time I wanted to be able to pull my thoughts together, but I will do my best.

On Sunday, one of the members of the congregation gave a talk on faith, but she focused her comments on the ministering of angels.  In the Bible and Book of Mormon, there are accounts of angels appearing and directly ministering to many different people, such as the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary to announce the upcoming birth of Christ.

As she was speaking, I started to think to myself.  "Wouldn't it be something, if an angel were to appear to me?  Then I could know that everything was true."  But, as is shown all throughout the scriptures, God asks us to "walk by faith, not by sight." (2 Corinthians 5:7)  We have to exercise our faith even though we may not have seen all things, and act according to the things we have come to understand.

So often in life, there are times when I've felt that I could really use an angel right by my side, wielding the sword of God and taking away all my troubles and woes.  As I was thinking about those times, the speaker brought up a wonderful account given in 2 Kings 6:15-17. 

"And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?

"And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.

"And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha."

As she read through and talked about this account, it really struck home deep within me.  How often do we find ourselves looking at a situation in life, wondering how we will ever make do or come out on top, and begin to despair?  I know that I have been there several times myself.  But all we need to do is remember that God is always on our side, and that "they that be with us" truly are "more than they that be with them."

An overwhelming feeling of peace and comfort filled me as I pondered the fact that maybe during all those times when I needed help, that I had received it.  Just because I hadn't opened my eyes to see the strength and support that was there doesn't mean that God hadn't given it to me.

Sometimes in life, the "angels" that God sends to us are not necessarily unseen messengers from heaven, but can often be those people around us.  A smile from a stranger, a conversation with a good friend, or a comment of praise from a mentor can be a saving grace from many a difficult day.

One of my favorite scriptures in the Book of Mormon is in Alma chapter 29.  Alma was a wonderful missionary, but felt, as I think everyone does, that sometimes his good deeds went unnoticed, or at very least unheeded.  He writes, "O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!"

I feel that there have been several times that I could have been a "ministering angel" to someone in their time of need.  I don't say that to vaunt myself, but merely to point out the fact that we do not always know the significance of our actions.  We never know how much we can bless someone's life with the small things that we do.

God is watching over us in all that we do, and He knows exactly what kind of help we stand in need of.  Knowing that we do have ministering angels, both seen and unseen, who are sent to watch over us and guide us is such a reassuring, comforting thing to me.  All I have to do is remember those times that there is absolutely no reason or way that I should have been able to come out of a situation the way I did, and I feel so much of God's love for me.

I hope that we all can open our eyes more fully, "that we may see."  As we do so, we will recognize the hand of God in our lives, and know of the ministering angels, mortal or otherwise, that He has and will send to us.