Life is not always easy to live, but the opportunity to do so is a blessing beyond comprehension. In the process of living we will face struggles, many of which will cause us to suffer and to experience pain. Many people will suffer in personal struggles, while others will suffer as they watch their loved ones in pain.
To gain strength in our struggles, we must have a positive perspective of the principles in the plan of salvation. We must realize that we have a personal Savior whom we can trust and turn to in our times of need. We must also learn and live the principles that the Lord has given to receive the strength needed during our struggles.
In the Grand Council in Heaven, the decision was made to “make an earth whereon these may dwell” (Abr. 3:24). This earth is the place to prove ourselves worthy and to prepare to return to the presence of the Lord. He explained, “And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them” (Abr. 3:25).
The Lord explained the purpose for which we must be tested during this earthly experience: “My people must be tried in all things, that they may be prepared to receive the glory that I have for them” (D&C 136:31).
Part of the plan is “that there is an opposition in all things” (2 Ne. 2:11). We are given the agency to choose between these opposites in the proving process (see 2 Ne. 2:27; D&C 29:35). In our pre-earth life, we understood and sustained the plan of salvation with the principles of opposition and agency. We knew we would have experiences in this life that would cause us to struggle and sometimes to suffer.
Some of our struggles involve making decisions, while others are a result of the decisions we have made. Some of our struggles result from choices others make that affect our lives. We cannot always control everything that happens to us in this life, but we can control how we respond. Many struggles come as problems and pressures that sometimes cause pain. Others come as temptations, trials, and tribulations.
Yet struggles are a part of the sacred sanctification process. There are no soft or slothful ways to become sanctified to the point that we are prepared to live in the presence of the Savior. And there can be blessings in the burdens we bear. As a result of these struggles, our souls are stretched and our spirits are strengthened. Our character becomes more Christlike as we are tried and tested.
Even though these experiences may cause pain, suffering, and sorrow, we have this absolute assurance: “No pain suffered by man or woman upon the earth will be without its compensating effects if it be suffered in resignation and if it be met with patience” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball , 168).
The Savior gave comfort and counsel to the Prophet Joseph Smith while he was suffering in Liberty Jail, explaining the beneficial effects and blessings that come if we bear our burdens well: “All these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good” (D&C 122:7). He continued:
“My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
“And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes” (D&C 121:7–8).
People respond to struggles in different ways. Some feel defeated and beaten down by the burdens they are called to bear. Many begin to blame others for their difficulties and defeats, and they fail to follow the counsel of the Lord. It is a natural tendency to seek the easy road on life’s journey and to become discouraged, filled with doubt, and even depressed when facing life’s struggles.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell, then an Assistant to the Twelve, distinguished the difference in responses to difficulties: “The winds of tribulation, which blow out some men’s candles of commitment, only fan the fires of faith of [others]” (“Why Not Now?” Ensign, Nov. 1974, 12).
If we follow the revealed eternal principles, we will gain strength during our struggles and will be blessed as we bear our burdens and deal with difficulties and overcome obstacles in our lives. If we are to gain the strength that we need, we must come to know the Savior and follow His counsel.
The Savior knows each of us in a personal way. He has assured us of His personal acquaintance, His awareness of our needs, and His presence in our times of need. He counseled, “I say unto you that mine eyes are upon you. I am in your midst and ye cannot see me” (D&C 38:7). Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained, “The Savior is in our midst, sometimes personally, frequently through his servants, and always by his Spirit” (The Lord’s Way , 14).
The Savior knows all things past, present, and future. Jacob taught, “For he knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it” (2 Ne. 9:20). He knows the things that we stand in need of even before we ask (see 3 Ne. 13:8).
He also knows our thoughts and the intents of our hearts and sees into the innermost parts of our eternal spirits. He taught, “I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them” (Ezek. 11:5). Ammon stated, “He knows all the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Alma 18:32).
He knows the temptations we face. The Savior was tempted beyond any temptation we could ever face. The scriptures say, “He suffered temptations but gave no heed unto them” (D&C 20:22). He stands ready to deliver us in our times of temptation. Paul wrote, “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour [help] them that are tempted” (Heb. 2:18). Peter proclaimed, “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations” (2 Pet. 2:9).
The Savior “knoweth the weakness of man” (D&C 62:1). In spite of our weakness, He loves us in an incomprehensible manner and offers us great hope: “I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27).
In addition to knowing our thoughts and intents, temptations and weaknesses, He knows all that we do in this life. He said, “Behold, mine eyes see and know all their works” (D&C 121:24; see also 2 Ne. 27:27). “I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works” (Rev. 2:19).
The Lord stands ready to help us through our struggles. We have His assurance and His promise that He will be there to assist us in the days of our difficulty:
“Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
“Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name it shall be given unto you, that is expedient for you” (D&C 88:63–64).
He stands ready to comfort and counsel us in our season of struggles and suffering. Jacob taught, “Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith, and he will console you in your afflictions” (Jacob 3:1).
The Lord gives us a spirit of hope and a feeling of comfort and confidence that we can overcome the obstacles we face. He has shown the way to gain strength during our struggles. With His assistance, we have the ability to succeed. Listen to His words of counsel and comfort: “Fear not, little children, for you are mine, and I have overcome the world … ; and none of them that my Father hath given me shall be lost” (D&C 50:41–42).
Again, with a feeling of love, He reassures us that He is near and that He will lead us through the darkest days of our lives. His strength will sustain us during our struggles even when we feel weak: “Wherefore, I am in your midst, and I am the good shepherd, and the stone of Israel. He that buildeth upon this rock shall never fall” (D&C 50:44).
Because of His infinite love for us, He is our advocate with Heavenly Father. He pleads our cause with Him. He pleads to the Father for forgiveness of our sins and gives us this counsel of cheer: “Lift up your hearts and be glad, for I am in your midst, and am your advocate with the Father” (D&C 29:5; see also D&C 45:3; D&C 62:1; D&C 110:4).
If our struggle is with sin, we must remember that He stands ready to forgive us if we truly repent. Too often we forget that He is a loving, caring, and merciful God. Some may feel that there is no hope because they have failed too many times. The Lord has counseled that there is great hope for sinners if they truly repent:
“If he confess his sins before thee and me, and repenteth in the sincerity of his heart, him shall ye forgive, and I will forgive him also.
“Yea, as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me” (Mosiah 26:29–30).
We must approach the Lord as Enos of old did. He said: “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 1:4).
It may take this intensity of prayer to receive a remission of some sins. Serious sins must be confessed to a bishop, who is a common judge in Israel.
The Lord heard Enos and his sincere, soul-searching supplication.
“And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.
“And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away” (Enos 1:5–6).
The results of true repentance and remission of sins are feelings of peace, hope, joy, and a clearness of conscience (see Mosiah 4:3). Alma described the feeling with these words:
“I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.
“And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!” (Alma 36:19–20).
Mormon taught the process that occurs when we receive a remission of our sins: “And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come” (Moro. 8:26).
If the Lord is to help us gain strength during our struggles, we must do the things He has counseled us to do. This involves turning to Him and applying certain principles of the gospel.
Trust in Him. Trust involves humility, a willing and submissive spirit to rely on Him and His revealed counsel. The Lord counsels, “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not” (D&C 6:36). We must submit our will to His will. Strength comes when we seek His will, not our will. He tenderly tells us to “be … humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers” (D&C 112:10). He is the way, and only through Him will we succeed.
Follow His counsel. Great strength comes from following the counsel of the Lord. Jacob said, “Seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand” (Jacob 4:10). Alma taught, “Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good” (Alma 37:37).
The Lord gives counsel in the answers to our prayers. He counsels us as we search the scriptures for answers to our concerns. Nephi wrote, “Feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do” (2 Ne. 32:3).
The Lord gives counsel through His chosen servants. He said, “Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38). Inspired counsel may also come from loved ones. When we are struggling, we do not always see and think clearly. This is the reason we should listen to counsel.
It takes courage to respond to the counsel that we receive. The Lord has warned us that when we think that we are above His counsel and that of His servants and those who care, we will “fall and incur the vengeance of a just God” (D&C 3:4).
Ponder His promises. The scriptures are replete with powerful promises to those who follow His counsel. We should ponder these powerful promises and develop faith and trust in the Lord. His promises are sure.
Through King Limhi we receive a great promise of strength: “If ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, he will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage” (Mosiah 7:33).
The Savior gives us other marvelous promises that should strengthen us during our struggles:
“Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you” (D&C 68:6).
“And inasmuch as ye are humble and faithful and call upon my name, behold, I will give you the victory.
“I give unto you a promise, that you shall be delivered this once out of your bondage” (D&C 104:82–83).
The Lord has revealed other powerful principles to gain inner strength. If we apply these principles, we will be blessed with power and peace of mind.
Take responsibility for our choices. To admit and accept responsibility for our choices and their consequences is a critical, initial step in the process of change. The Lord explained that “because thou hast seen thy weakness thou shalt be made strong” (Ether 12:37; see also D&C 135:5). In the grand plan the Lord ordained “that every man may act … according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment” (D&C 101:78).
When we place blame for our actions on others or circumstances that we find ourselves in, we can never gain the strength to change. Some have a tendency to rationalize their behavior or to make excuses. These approaches are deceptive devices that are used to relieve guilt and gain temporary escape from the feelings of failure to make proper choices in life. They weaken our character and prolong our suffering and stress.
Cultivate faith. Faith gives us power to make necessary changes in our lives (see 2 Ne. 1:10). If we do not have sufficient faith, we cannot change or be healed of our infirmities (see 3 Ne. 17:8). Our weaknesses can never become strong without full faith. It takes faith to get answers to our prayers (see D&C 10:47). Moroni taught, “Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him” (Morm. 9:21).
We must never underestimate the power of the Lord even when we feel powerless. Nephi reminds us of the infinite power of the Lord with these words: “Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things according to his will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith in him? Wherefore, let us be faithful to him” (1 Ne. 7:12).
He is indeed a God of miracles. He testifies, “I am God; and I am a God of miracles” (2 Ne. 27:23). Moroni cautions, “For if there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracle among them” (Ether 12:12). The Lord cautions us concerning faith, “Remember that without faith you can do nothing” (D&C 8:10).
Develop righteous desires. Our motivation to change comes from the desires of our hearts. Without a deep, divine desire to repent, there will be no change. Our spirit must crave the need to change. Alma taught this powerful principle when he said, “I know that he granteth unto men according to their desire” (Alma 29:4).
Deepen our commitment. Without commitment, our desires tend to diminish and die. Commitment gives us strength and power to make the appropriate changes we desire. This commitment should be like that of Nephi of old. When given a difficult assignment, he responded with a Christlike commitment to succeed: “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them [to] accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Ne. 3:7; see also 1 Ne. 3:15).
Fast and pray. The Lord has commanded us “that [we] shall continue in prayer and fasting from this time forth” (D&C 88:76). Great power is received as we fast and pray concerning our struggles and our spiritual welfare.
When we fast we should do so with a purpose, with prayer, and with “an eye single to the glory of God” (D&C 4:5). We should strive for mastery of self, have pure thoughts, and ponder spiritual things. We can gain strength through scripture study during the fast. We should listen to the promptings of the Spirit as we seek for solutions.
We should petition the Lord in prayer for strength and deliverance from the bondage of our behaviors (see Alma 58:10; Jacob 3:1). We should pray for strength to resist temptations. The Lord warns and counsels us to “pray always, lest you enter into temptation and lose your reward” (D&C 31:12; see also D&C 61:39; D&C 10:5). We should pray to seek forgiveness and to express our love and gratitude to Heavenly Father.
As a result of our sincere repentance, prayers, and fasting, we will receive forgiveness. We can feel the fruits of the Spirit as joy (see D&C 59:13). We can become sanctified (see Hel. 3:35) and inherit eternal life (see Omni 1:26).
Fasting and prayer will help us control our thoughts, feelings, passions, and appetites. We can bring these and our bodies under subjection of our spirits. We will experience added spirituality, strength, power, humility, and testimony. We will be able to get answers to our prayers and enjoy feelings of peace and comfort. Our guilt will be swept away as we truly repent. We will enjoy the companion-ship of the Spirit. We will experience an increase of love. Ill feelings will be removed from our souls. We will have added power to resist temptations and to overcome weaknesses. We will become free from undue worry. Our faith and hope will be increased. Feelings of doubt and discouragement will be dispelled.
Remember priesthood blessings. When we are struggling, we may seek a priesthood blessing. For the blessing to be effective, we must be humble and teachable. We must be willing to submit our will to the will of the Lord as spoken to us in the blessing. This blessing can be a great source of counsel from the Lord. Our minds can be enlightened and our knowledge and understanding quickened. Our vision can be expanded. He has given a powerful promise concerning that which will be spoken by the priesthood holder who is giving the blessing: “And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost … shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God” (D&C 68:4).
We must have full faith and complete confidence in the counsel we receive. We must have the courage to follow it. If we do so, we will receive added power to succeed in our struggles.
A priesthood blessing should be a great source of comfort to us and can bring feelings of peace, hope, and love. Our confidence can be restored as a result of the blessing. Our mind and body can become invigorated. Our spirit can be renewed, and we can feel a divine determination to deal with our difficulties. We can feel the presence of the Lord and the companionship of the Spirit.
Ponder our patriarchal blessings. Our patriarchal blessings are another source of increased strength during our struggles. President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994) gave great insight into one of the purposes of our patriarchal blessings. He said of the Savior: “He knows in advance every strategy the enemy will use against you. … He knows your weaknesses and He knows your strengths. By personal revelation you may discover some of your strengths through a careful and prayerful study of your patriarchal blessing” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson , 214).
President James E. Faust, while serving as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught the principle of power in patriarchal blessings: “God knows our spirits; he knows our strengths and weaknesses. He knows our capabilities and our potential. Our patriarchal blessings indicate what the Lord expects of us and what our potential is. Our blessings can encourage us when we are discouraged, strengthen us when we are fearful, comfort us when we sorrow, give us courage when we are filled with anxiety, lift us up when we are weak in spirit” (“Patriarchal Blessings,” New Era, Nov. 1982, 6).
If our struggles are with sin, we should ponder the passionate plea of Alma:
“And now, my brethren, I wish from the inmost part of my heart, yea, with great anxiety even unto pain, that ye would hearken unto my words, and cast off your sins, and not procrastinate the day of your repentance;
“But that ye would humble yourselves before the Lord, and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit, becoming humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering;
“Having faith on the Lord; having a hope that ye shall receive eternal life; having the love of God always in your hearts” (Alma 13:27–29).
The words of the Savior are appropriate counsel on struggles that are not the result of sin: “Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good, if ye walk uprightly and remember the covenant wherewith ye have covenanted one with another” (D&C 90:24).
All of the counsel in the scriptures and from the Brethren are words of hope. They reflect the love the Savior has for us and His desire that we succeed. There are no other ways to gain strength in our times of need. If we follow His counsel, we will find infinite strength during our struggles.
More on this topic: See Dallin H. Oaks, “Adversity,”Ensign, July 1998, 6–12; Richard G. Scott, “Trust in the Lord,”Ensign, Nov. 1995, 16–18; Ronald E. Poelman, “Adversity and the Divine Purpose of Mortality,”Ensign, May 1989, 23–25.
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Most Ensign articles can be used for family home evening discussions. The following questions are for that purpose or for personal reflection:
How does an eternal perspective help us face our trials?
How can we access the Savior’s help in overcoming our challenges?
What gospel principles can aid in our growth during these times?