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Strength through adversity

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No matter how carefully we chart our life's course, we cannot evade all the storms that come our way. Winds of adversity blow around us and bring with them challenges that can strengthen us and, perhaps, even refresh our souls.

The strongest timber grows where the storm beats the hardest. In heavy winds, some trees are broken down, others uprooted, still others bend but do not break. Those trees that do survive such a pounding often are scarred, but their fiber is hardened and their branches strengthened.So it is with people. To strong individuals, adversity is a challenge. There is something in each of us that helps us rise to meet life's emergencies. Often, the meek perform gallantly under the storm's fury. The scriptures are filled with stories of individual triumph over challenges placed before them.

We need not seek out adversity, but when it arises, we need to avoid self-doubt and discouragement and look at our trials as an opportunity to strengthen ourselves. Much later, after the trials have passed, we may even look back and be grateful we underwent such trials.

President Ezra Taft Benson, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, said at the 1975 area conference in Manila, Philippines: "We can meet every reversal that can possibly come with the help of the Lord. Every reversal can be turned to our benefit and blessing and can make us stronger, more courageous, more godlike."

The Lord told Joshua: "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest." (Joshua 1:9.) What comfort that scripture gives to troubled souls.

The story is told of a train in Scotland that stopped at the entrance to a long bridge during a heavy storm. A passenger stepped outside on the platform and a terrific wind swept away his hat.

As he ran after his hat, the train moved away from the platform and the man, with rising anger, watched its lights grow faint in the distance. Finding shelter from the storm proved difficult and the man bitterly complained about his circumstances throughout the night. In the morning, he learned that the bridge had collapsed during the storm and the train had plunged into the river. He was the lone survivor. All his frustration and anger changed immediately to thanksgiving and gratitude. Through the loss of his hat, his life was saved. (As related by Bryant S. Hinckley in That Ye Might Have Joy, p. 57.)

Cultivating an appreciation for trials is not easy. President Gordon B. Hinckley reminds us:

"All of us can become discouraged. . . . It is important to know, when you feel down, that many others do also and that their circumstances are generally much worse than yours. And it's important to know that when one of us is down, it becomes the obligation of his friends to give him a lift." (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p. 156.)

Having friends or loved ones nearby to support us during our trials is essential. We can draw upon their encouragement, or kind words and helpful hands. Many times help arrives before we even ask.

Just as we receive help from others, we, too, should be willing to lend comfort and support to others.

In times of trials, the gospel of Jesus Christ affords great comfort. We may not be able to see the end of our afflictions, but we know who stands with us. He invites us to come unto Him.

"Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life." (2 Ne. 31:20)

He does not ask us to walk toward Him, or go toward Him; He tells us to press forward. He knows the way can be difficult at times, but He reminds us that the reward is worth it.

"Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matt. 11:29-30).

Only the Master knows the depths of our trials, our pain and our suffering. He alone offers us eternal peace in times of adversity. He alone touches our tortured souls with His comforting words. He alone blesses us and welcomes us to His presence. We alone must be willing to open the door when He knocks.