Harry Ward Beecher (1813 – 1887) said, “Difficulties are God’s errands and when we are sent upon them, we should esteem it as proof of God’s confidence…as a compliment from Him.”
Difficulties are part of life. My mother told me that our trials make us better people and we grow from each experience. She would say that God must really love me to give me trials to bear. I remember telling her, “Mom, I wish He didn’t love me so much.”
When you really think about it, life was not easy for those who were prominent in history. Thomas Edison was sixty-seven years old when he had one of the greatest trials of his life. One evening his film plant caught fire. Spontaneous combustion had ignited some of the chemicals and exploded. Within seconds, anything flammable went up in flames. Fire trucks from eight towns arrived as fast as they could, but the intense heat was so powerful that the water from the fire hose had no effect whatsoever.
When Edison’s daughter arrived, she was frantic with worry. She was ready to comfort him when she saw her father running toward her. Before she could say a word, he called to her, “Where’s your mother? Go get her and tell her to bring her friends. They’ll never see another fire like this as long as they live.”
The following morning, when the building was only rubble and ashes, he called his employees together and announced, “We’re building again. By the way, does anybody know where we can get some money?”
Practically everything we recognize as an Edison invention came after that devastating disaster. Many times difficulties make us stronger people. If we don’t let it get us down, we will end up successful.
Monte J. Brough said, “The most important principles of intelligence cannot be taught at universities, from books, or through other temporal learning processes. Often these great principles are learned from afflictions, tribulations, and other mortal experiences.” (Monte J. Brough, “Lessons from the Old Testament: Adversity, the Great Teacher”, Ensign, Aug. 2006, 9–11)
When a blacksmith takes a piece of raw iron ore and plunges it into hot coals, he burns off impurities and infuses carbon to make it stronger. He then hammers it on an anvil to forge and shape and strengthen it into something useable, something of value. This can be compared to the trials we go through in life. We’re gradually being strengthened and will eventually end up victorious.
There is an old saying: “Storms make oaks take deeper roots.” There is a poem written by Douglas Malloch (1877 – 1938) that describes how tribulations affect our life.
The tree that never had to fight
For sun and sky and air and light,
But stood out on the open plain
And always got it’s share of rain,
Never became a forest king
But lived and died a scrubby thing.
The man who never had to toil
To gain and farm his patch of soil,
Who never had to win his share
Of sun and sky and light and air,
Never became a manly man
But lived and died as he began.
Good Timber does not grow with ease,
The stronger the wind, the stronger the trees.
The further sky, the greater length,
The more the storm, the more the strength.
By sun and cold, by rain and snow,
In trees and men good timbers grow.
It’s important to rise above our problems and continue on. Every time we fall, we must get back on our feet and start again. We must realize that when we are faced with trials, the Lord is there to help us through them. He does not want us to face our trials alone.
George MacDonald (1824 – 1905), a Scottish author and poet, said, “How often we look upon God as our last and feeblest resource! We go to Him because we have nowhere else to go. And then we learn that the storms of life have driven us, not upon the rocks but into the desired haven.”
If we haven’t experienced trials in our lives and haven’t shed any tears, is it possible to fully understand another person’s grief? When we go through similar trials, then we are more sympathetic toward others.
At thirteen years of age, the doctors found out that I had scoliosis of the spine. I was operated on, fusing eleven vertebrae from my neck to my hips, and then put into a body cast. I would not be able to have a normal life for the next three years. I wouldn’t be able to climb another tree, ride a bike, or do any active sports. I was a tomboy so this was hard on me. In the summer, I would sprinkle baby powder down my back because of the many itches that a cast seems to create. After many months passed, I was put into a rigid brace, which I had to wear at all times. There was only one good thing about this brace. At least I was able to take a “real bath” and not just a sponge bath.
With great joy, we went back to the children’s hospital to take off my brace. I felt this was the happiest day of my life. Little did I know this day of joy would not last long! As the doctors checked me, they found that I had a crack in my spine. Dr. Hess told me this was unusual and that I had to have another operation. My heart sank. I could not believe this was happening to me. Why couldn’t I live a normal life of a teenager? I quickly blinked away the tears welling up in my eyes and tried to be brave. Why did I have to go through these trials?
My parents and I went home and agreed to pray every day for the next four months so I could gain enough strength, both mentally and emotionally, before having another operation. Each night as I prayed, I begged for a miracle. I did not want another operation and more casts. But it was not meant to be. I soon realized this was a trial I had to bear. But I could not do this alone. I needed to lean on God.
I was sixteen years of age when my ordeal came to an end. I had become quite close to my Heavenly Father during this time of trial.
The Lord said, “Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many; but endure them, for, lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days.” (D & C 24:8)
I learned that my trials were for my own good and spiritual growth. I grew from this experience. I look back at this conflict and wouldn’t change a thing. I’m a different person. I overcame my weaknesses and turned to God as a young teenager.
I would like to share one of my favorite poems with you, written by Leona B. Gates.
IN HIS STEPS
“The road is rough,” I said.
“Dear Lord, there are stones that hurt me so.”
And he said, “Dear child, I understand.
I walked it long ago.”
“But there is a cool green path,” I said.
“Let me walk there for a time.”
“No child,” he gently answered me.
“The green road does not climb.”
“My burden,” I said, “is far too great.
How can I bear it so?”
“My child,” said he, “I remember its weight.
I carried my cross, you know.”
“But,” I said, “I wish there were friends with me
Who would make my way their own.”
“Ah, yes,” he said, “Gethsemane
Was hard to face alone.”
And so I climbed the stony path,
Content at last to know
That where my Master had not gone,
I would not need to go.
And strangely then I found new friends,
The burden grew less sore,
As I remembered long ago,
He went that way before.
(Best-Loved Poems of the LDS People, 1996 Deseret Book Company)
Marion G. Romney said, “If we bear our afflictions with understanding, faith and courage…we shall be strengthened and comforted in many ways.” (Conference Report, Oct. 1969, p. 59.)