Viewpoint: Enjoy and Endure Seasons of Life
Contributed By the Church News
“Because Jesus Christ suffered greatly, He understands our suffering. He understands our grief. We experience hard things so that we too may have increased compassion and understanding for others.” —Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin
It’s a scene that’s witnessed in season-ending high school football games across the United States this time of year. In the minutes that follow that final play of the game the graduating seniors on the field experience a moment of immediate insight: they will never play another down of organized football.
Yes, a few star athletes may find themselves on future college rosters. But for the vast majority of players, their time on the gridiron is over. It's hard to accept. For years football has defined some of these young men’s lives. Now they are 17- and 18-year-old has-beens. This all-too-early “retirement” brings tears to the eyes of the burliest linemen and orneriest linebackers.
There’s good reason for calling the annual schedule of football contests a season. The games begin and, a few months later, the games come to an end. A final whistle blows, signaling the season’s end. In a few days, a new sports season begins.
Athletics often offer apt metaphors for life. We too experience mortality in seasons. The Old Testament Solomon never watched an American high school football game, but he surely understood the passages of life, writing, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
For those blessed to live a long life, mortality can be defined by its chronological seasons. That initial season of birth and infancy is followed by childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and, finally, that December season of life—old age—that ushers in death.
Again, from Solomon: “One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh” (Ecclesiastes 1:4).
But perhaps the most meaningful seasons of our lives cannot be simply traced on a calendar. They are those seasons of joy and those seasons of sorrow. Seasons of obedience and seasons of sin. Seasons of plenty and seasons of want. Seasons of hope and seasons of despair.
If we are close to the Lord and His teachings, we can experience seasons of happiness with increased measures of joy and gratitude. Consider the birth of a new son or daughter into a loving family. That glad season is enriched exponentially when one has an understanding and testimony of temples and eternal families.
And it is the Lord who can help us “endure well” certain seasons of darkness. Even the bleakest of seasons—those periods in our lives when we transgress and distance ourselves from loved ones and the Lord—can realize a quick ending through Christ’s atoning love.
In his October 2008 general conference address, Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that it’s impossible to predict life’s seasons of struggles and storm. “But as persons of faith and hope, we know beyond a shadow of any doubt that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true and the best is yet to come.”
Elder Perry spoke of a “season of complexity” in his life that was laden with unusual stress and hardship.
“There were troubles with my employment, and at the same time, my wife was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. This was one of those times when it felt like the adversary had mounted a frontal assault against me and my family.
“On days when the stresses and anxieties of our tumultuous life were about to get the best of us, my wife and I found a way to relieve them.
“We drove to a place just a few miles from our home to get away for a few moments of relief from our troubles, talk, and give emotional comfort to each other. Our place was Walden Pond. It was a beautiful little pond surrounded by forests of trees. When my wife was feeling strong enough, we’d go for a walk around the pond. Other days, when she did not feel up to the exertion of walking, we’d just sit in the car and talk. Walden Pond was our special place to pause, reflect, and heal. Perhaps it was partly due to its history—its connection to the efforts of Henry David Thoreau to separate himself from worldliness for a period of years—that Walden Pond offered us so much hope for simplicity and provided such a renewing escape from our overly complex lives.”
Elder Perry found respite amidst a troubled season by enjoying the beauty of God’s creations, along with the eternal love of his wife, who was facing a difficult season of her own. The Lord was ever-present, and Elder Perry found good reason to look for better seasons “yet to come.”
In that same session of general conference, Elder Perry’s fellow Apostle, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, delivered his speech while seated in a chair. He was experiencing a season of health challenges, and his legs lacked the strength and balance to stand at the Conference Center pulpit.
Elder Wirthlin testified that the happiest people seem to have a way of learning and growing during difficult seasons.
“There may be some who think that General Authorities rarely experience pain, suffering, or distress. If only that were true,“ he said. ”While every man and woman on this stand today has experienced an abundant measure of joy, each also has drunk deeply from the cup of disappointment, sorrow, and loss. The Lord in His wisdom does not shield anyone from grief or sadness.”
Elder Wirthlin also spoke of an earlier season in his life when he himself was a football star—a running back with fast and powerful legs. But he would come to know hard times defined by grief, sadness, and loss.
“These experiences, while often difficult to bear at the time, are precisely the kinds of experiences that stretch our understanding, build our character, and increase our compassion for others.
“Because Jesus Christ suffered greatly, He understands our suffering. He understands our grief. We experience hard things so that we too may have increased compassion and understanding for others.”